Today in the morning, Anthony Atwell, MD took the stand.
Atwell is a prosecution witness to rebut the testimony of yesterday’s defense weasel Gil Kliman. Due to scheduling complications for Atwell, he was actually taken a bit out of order; normally prosecution rebuttal witnesses go after the defense witnesses finish, but everyone was polite about it.
Atwell and McKowan dealt a crushing blow to the defense today. Here are some words that I would use to describe him: Personable, professional, experienced, kind, patient, intelligent, dryly funny, calm, calming. There are probably more…. All of them very much along this same line I suppose.
Atwell is listed as Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor at the Stanford School of Medicine, and has his own practice in Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatry, and Forensic Psychiatry, on the days that he is not teaching. Hopefully at some point we will dig up his resume.
He has been practicing and teaching for 34 years, in some combination or other. The purpose of his testimony was to provide the counterpoint opinion that Psychiatrists should do no intrusive physical exam. He stated that he has done physical exams, ONLY as they relate to the prescription of medication… Check of height and weight, have patient hold out hands to check for tremors, for example. When asked if he has patents disrobe for these exams, he said he asks them to take off their shoes for the height/weight measurement.
His overall testimony was that he has ALWAYS taught and been taught that you are not only NOT encouraged to do medical exams beyond this scope, but you are encouraged NOT to do such exams.
All told, his testimony and cross lasted until the lunch break. He was not boring, he was very direct, and occasionally caused the crowd to chuckle, most frequently when he had funny responses to Weinberg’s questioning. It was very obvious that the jury appreciated his testimony, all the more so, after yesterday’s train wreck.
When he was being cross examined by Weinberg, there were a few moments when it appeared that he was becoming flustered, and I started to worry, but based on the responses that we got, I think his concern was how to answer the questions in without belittling Weinberg, and yet without giving an inch. At one point when Weinberg was pestering him about "all of the literature out there" that says that you SHOULD do exams, Atwell made a comment about there being some “fringe” publications, He elicited a chuckle from the crowd, I think mostly because he was obviously trying to downplay his statement a bit, but finally gave up and just called it fringe.
When Weinberg then badgered him more: “surely, you’re not saying that the publications listed here are fringe…” Atwell said something along the line of: Well I didn’t read those, so I don’t know about ALL of those, but yes, there’s definitely some fringe stuff out there…” which elicited an even bigger laugh from the crowd. Atwell actually looked concerned that people thought he was making fun of Weinberg. Atwell was the definition of a class act.
Weinberg repeatedly nagged him about: Have you read this book, have you read that book, have you read the other book, to which the doctor calmly replied “no, no, no, no... no” Didn’t even flinch… no visible searching for weasel words like Kliman the day before.
Weinberg repeatedly asked him if he had done ANY research to prepare for today, to which he always calmly replied that other than his 34 years of clinical experience and teaching at Stanford, and reading a few articles given to him… no, not really…. Other than journals and books and continuing education that he keeps up with routinely. It was a very matter-of-fact, non-pompous answer. And it bugged Weinberg to no end.
After lunch, Weinberg moved to have Atwell’s entire testimony removed, as he didn’t like that Atwell didn’t research enough about literature that states that you should do medical exams, and that he doesn’t have SPECIFIC experience in this area.
Judge said no.
A personal note:
This has been the most painful testimony for me to take so far. (Including ayres on the stand in the afternoon.) At one point Weinberg asked Atwell some question to try to get him to say that it would be ok to do an exam in some hypothetical circumstance. Atwell was clearly horrified, but calmly described what a Psychiatrist has the obligation to do to provide a safe and helpful environment in which to heal a patient. I was simply stunned. What if I had gone to a normal, qualified, kind, human being like this, instead of ayres?
The thing about stuff that rips your heart out is that it always sneaks up on you like this.