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Forensic Lawyer Judith Fordham

Can Heart Attacks Count As Manslaughter? Forensic Lawyer Explains

In 2016, a Perth man was on trial for the manslaughter of his neighbour who died from a heart attack following an altercation about loud music.

Prosecutors alleged the stress of the violent argument caused the heart attack and subsequent death.

Forensic scientist and leading WA criminal lawyer Judith Fordham defended in court that the man was a “walking time bomb,” given his underlying heart condition.

Forensic lawyer Judith Fordham unpacks the case on the Crime Insiders podcast:

“A chap had a loud party at his place and the neighbour got very upset and the two of them, about 7:00 in the morning, […] had a very loud argument and came to a bit of a push and shove both ways.”

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Fordham said the central question of the trial was medical, whether stress on that occasion caused that heart attack. She argued that it was “a death waiting to happen” because the man hadn’t been diagnosed and wasn’t taking precautions.

The man was found not guilty of manslaughter and not guilty of assault causing death.

“Science works generally on experiments,” she said, “But you can’t take like 2000 people with heart conditions and try to scare them all to death and see how many of them die.”

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