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Dr. Bennet Omalu, who took on the NFL, testifies in San Francisco murder case

Once portrayed on screen by Will Smith, Dr. Bennet Omalu appeared in a San Francisco courtroom as an expert witness on bodily trauma. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

A doctor famous for being the first to publish findings on chronic traumatic encephalopathy—or CTE—in NFL American football players took the stand at the San Francisco Hall of Justice Friday morning to testify for the defense in a 2010 murder trial.

Dr. Bennet Omalu, whose groundbreaking CTE research was immortalized on screen by Will Smith in the 2015 film Concussion, provided expert testimony on head trauma, while leaning on his extensive history of performing autopsies, during the murder trial of Henry Hall.

Hall, 72, was arrested and charged with raping and murdering 37-year-old Amy Mustain in September 2010.

The San Francisco Examiner reported at the time of Hall’s arrest that police received two calls from Hall on the night of Sept. 14 that year, when Mustain was found dead in a room at the Krishna Hotel in San Francisco’s Mission District. In one of those calls, he told police a woman was dead. In the second call, he said he was going to turn himself in to authorities.

He didn’t turn himself in, and police arrested him two days later. He’s been jailed in San Francisco ever since. Hall’s trial is expected to hear closing arguments on Tuesday and is one of the oldest cases on the court’s backlog

Hall’s defense attorney, Paul DeMeester, peppered Omalu with questions on what the San Francisco Chief Medical Examiner’s Office saw while performing Mustain’s autopsy and what he thought about the case.

“Her manner of death was an accident,” Omalu declared, adding that he didn’t believe there was enough evidence to elicit homicide charges.

This isn’t the first time Omalu has been in court as an expert witness.

Since his departure as the San Joaquin County Medical Examiner in 2017, he has maintained his own pathology and independent autopsy practice—offering expert witness consultations—while also working in a part-time capacity as an instructor at the University of California Davis.

Omalu resigned as San Joaquin County’s chief medical examiner after alleging that the then-San Joaquin Sheriff-Coroner Steve Moore used his position to influence the death investigation of people who died while incarcerated or in police custody, the Sacramento Bee reported.

Prior to his time as chief medical examiner, Omalu was best known for his research published in 2005 and featured in the medical journal Neurosurgery on his 2002 autopsy of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famer Mike Webster.

The National Football League didn’t acknowledge CTE until 2009—after Congress grilled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.