Chris Cook defense: Red neck marks may have been from hickey, not strangulation

When police arrived at the home of Vikings cornerback Chris Cook last October 22, they found his girlfriend sitting on the living room floor, crying and holding the right side of her head as her nose bled. Chantel Baker told police she was beaten and strangled by Cook, and he was eventually charged with felony strangulation.

The red marks on her neck attested to the strangulation account. But Baker has since changed her tune and now says she lied to police and told them Cook strangled her because she wanted to make sure he spent that night in jail. Prosecutors, on the other hand, contend she's flip-flopped because she still has feelings for Cook and feels bad about putting his once-promising NFL career in jeopardy.

Today, during Cook's trial, his defense brought forth an a forensic pathologist and medical examiner who testified Baker's neck marks were consistent with abrasions made by her earrings and a hickey, not Cook's hands.

From the Star Tribune:

Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist and medical examiner, testified on behalf of Cook's defense after reviewing photos from the night of the assault. He said that the marks on Chantel Baker's neck -- scrapes that seem to surround a circular pattern -- are about the size and shape consistent with the earrings she was wearing the night prosecutors contend Cook choked her. A photograph of Baker showed that her left earring was missing, the same side where the marks were.

"I think it's consistent with impact with a round, circular earring into that part of her skin," Thomas testified, adding that the injury occurred when Baker was slapped in the side of the head.

Thomas also testified that marks on the right side of Baker's neck were consistent with Cook (or maybe some other guy -- Cook was reportedly upset because Baker had been in touch with an ex-boyfriend) giving her a hickey. Under cross-examination, however, Thomas acknowledged she couldn't conclusively say Baker's marks weren't the result of strangulation.

Cook's defense is also making a case that Baker's injuries -- including an injury to her eardrum in addition to a bloody nose, broken blood vessel in an eye, and the aforementioned neck abrasions -- didn't meet the level of severity necessary to justify a felony assault conviction. His attorney's argue Cook got violent in self-defense only after Baker threw a shoe at him.

Closing arguments are scheduled for tomorrow morning, after which a jury will decide Cook's fate.

Previous coverage:
-- Chris Cook trial begins today
-- Chris Cook charged with domestic assault; Vikings cut Bernard Berrian

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