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Jurors See Graphic Tape Of Nussbaum


Jurors See Graphic Tape Of Nussbaum


LEAD: A graphic and dramatic videotape of Hedda Nussbaum, showing a mass of bruises and injuries over her body, was shown to the jury in the murder trial of Joel B. Steinberg yesterday.

A graphic and dramatic videotape of Hedda Nussbaum, showing a mass of bruises and injuries over her body, was shown to the jury in the murder trial of Joel B. Steinberg yesterday.

Viewing the tape on two television monitors placed directly in front of them in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the 12 jurors and six alternates showed signs of shock and disbelief as they viewed the wounds, oozing sores, bruises, broken bones and ulcerations that doctors say almost cost Ms. Nussbaum her right leg.

The prosecution contends the wounds were inflicted by Mr. Steinberg.

Ira D. London, Mr. Steinberg's defense lawyer, had bitterly objected to the showing of the tape, contending it would inflame the jury against the defendant. Mr. Steinberg is charged with beating to death Lisa Steinberg, the 6-year-old child he and Ms. Nussbaum raised together. Made After Arrests

But Acting Justice Harold B. Rothwax ruled that the prosecution could introduce the tape as evidence and ordered it shown to the jury.

''It seems relevant,'' Justice Rothwax said, ''that since Mr. Steinberg and Ms. Nussbaum were the only adults in the apartment when the police arrived, her physical condition and her ability to inflict injury are center to this case.''

The five-minute tape, recorded on Nov. 2, 1987, at the Sixth Precinct station house by a cameraman from the office of the Manhattan District Attorney, was then shown to the jury. The tape was made after Mr. Steinberg and Ms. Nussbaum had been arrested in the beating of Lisa. Cuts, Bruises and Broken Bones

At the direction of a female detective, Ms. Nussbaum, dressed in a dark turtleneck sweater and blue jeans, displayed her injuries to the camera, pulling up her sweater and pulling down her pants in the process.

As one juror winced at the sight and others shook their heads in disbelief, the tape showed massive cuts and bruises and evidence of other injuries all over Ms. Nussbaum's body. For example, a dark bruise the size of a saucer was on her right buttock. Her right wrist was deformed, where a broken bone had healed incorrectly. Deep green ulcerations covered the length of her right leg. The condition of that leg caused one juror to gasp in shock.

After viewing the tape, the jurors seemed emotionally drained. Some slumped in their chairs while others gazed intently at Mr. Steinberg, who could not see the tape from his seat.

Earlier, two prosecution witnesses told the jury that Ms. Nussbaum appeared to have just suffered a savage beating when detectives and a child-abuse caseworker tried to question her and Mr. Steinberg about Lisa's injuries.

''Her nose was caved in; her face was swollen; she was a mass of black- and-blue marks,'' said Joseph Petrizzo, a child-abuse caseworker in the New York City Bureau of Special Services for Children. 'Nervous, Very Nervous'

''She had a broken nose, blackened eyes, a split lip, and big clumps of her hair were missing,'' said Robert Columbia, a police detective assigned to sex crimes and child-abuse cases. ''She was limping and she looked dazed and confused.''

''How did Joel Steinberg look?'' asked John McCusker, an assistant district attorney.

''Nervous, very nervous,'' Detective Columbia replied.

The prosecution witnesses recalled Ms. Nussbaum's appearance on Nov. 2, 1987, when they went to Mr. Steinberg's Greenwich Village apartment at 14 West 10th Street to question the couple about the events that led to Lisa's hospitalization at St. Vincent's Medical Center a few hours earlier. Tethered and Soaked in Urine

Mr. Petrizzo testified that he removed from the Steinberg apartment a 16-month-old boy, who has since been returned to his mother. Both the boy and Lisa were acquired by Mr. Steinberg and Ms. Nussbaum in adoptions that were never legally sanctioned.

''He was a happy, smiling child, outgoing and clinging,'' Mr. Petrizzo said of the boy. But he said the child was also soaked in urine and was tethered to a makeshift playpen on the living-room floor.

Ira D. London, Mr. Steinberg's lawyer, asked if the boy's clinging showed he was not abused or neglected.

''Not really,'' replied Mr. Petrizzo, who explained that such clinging to strangers was regarded by his supervisors in child welfare as a sign of abuse and neglect. No Awards for Housekeeping

Asked about conditions in the Steinberg apartment, Mr. Petrizzo said it was filthy and cluttered.

''Out of the whole apartment, the fish tank was the cleanest thing in it,'' he said, generating laughs.

Later, outside the courtroom, Mr. London said neither the condition of the apartment nor the purported beatings of Ms. Nussbaum were critical issues.

''Hedda and Joel will never win any Good Housekeeping awards,'' he said.

''And for the sake of argument,' he said, ''even if she was beaten up, what has that got to do with the charges against him?''

The prosecution contends that Ms. Nussbaum's extensive injuries were inflicted by Mr. Steinberg and that of the two, he was the only one capable of inflicting the blows that, it contends, killed Lisa.

Charges of murder against Ms. Nussbaum have been dismissed on the ground that she was so beaten she was incapable of saving Lisa from death. Ms. Nussbaum is expected to be the main prosecution witness.

1988 Nov 4