"When I was in high school, we walked around buck nakedin the showers,snapping towels at each other."
- Testimony of Dr. William Ayres, July 8. 2009.
This was a very, very, very good day for the prosecution.
How smart was it of the prosecution to squeeze in their rebuttal witness smack in the middle of the defense case? Very, as it turns out.
Dr. Anthony Atwell, a child psychiatrist who has been teaching at Stanford Medical School for decades, took the stand this morning and he was everything that the weasely Dr. Gil Kliman who testified for the defense, was not. Dr. Atwell- an avuncular. balding guy who looks as if he could be cast in the role of a youthful grandfather in a Disney movie - was noncombative and softspoken but at the same time very confident and forceful. Unlike Kliman, he was unaffected and was not hostile when he was being interrogated by the opposing team . Atwell stated unequivocally that he had never been trained to give genital exams during psychiatric training and that never in all of his years at Stanford had he taught any med student to give physicals in the therapeutic setting either. He talked about how inappropriate and intrusive it would be for the srhink to examine their genitalia ( no kidding.) Atwell exhibited just plain common sense, and from what we could see, the jury was riveted by his plain spoken, but on the mark testimony.
In cross examination, Weinberg - in his most belligerent and accusatory voice, asked Dr. Atwell why he hadn't consulted the medical textbooks that Dr. Kliman had toted to the witness stand the day before. Weinberg made it seem that it was a mortal sin for Atwell to have not read these books that mention physical exams in therapy.(As Weinberg was grandstanding and trying to make Atwell seem like a doofus who hadn't done his homework, we noticed that our current favorite juror- the burly guy in the front row - put his notebook on a shelf in front of him and stopped taking notes. ) Atwell may be a small and unassuming looking guy but he wasn't taking any guff from tough guy Weinberg. Atwell pointed out that there are hundreds of textbooks about child psychiatry out there, and that some of them are "fringey" and extreme. He characterized the textbooks that Kliman had cited as "somewhat fringey." His direct quote was
"There are textbooks out there that are pretty fringey" that made everyone in the courtroom laugh except for Solveing. Robert and their four measly supporters. In fact, whenever Dr. Atwell made the most sense that seemed to be a cue for Robert to squint theatrically and do some dramatic eye rolling and tsk-tsking and much shaking of the head.
The buzz in the halls after Atwell testified was that he was a GREAT witness. Child psychiatrist Dr. David Schwartz, who used to treat boys at Hillcrest and who drove down from Grass Valley to attend the trial today, congratulated the prosecutor on her witness. We just wish Dr. Atwell could keep testifying every day until the end of the trial. Some parents of victims had the chance to thank him at the end of his testimony and we thank him too.
Afternoon Testimony: to the surprise of many, Dr. Ayres took he stand. . We somehow think that Weinberg did not think it was a good idea. Given that Ayres' lawyer in his 2005 civil suit told a victim's lawyer that he was having "client control issues" with Ayres, we think Ayres just bulldozed Weinberg and said that he was going to testify. Whatever...having Ayres testify was the worst mistake ever.
Who advised Weinberg to have Ayres start off by saying that because of his physical ailments and treatment for prostate cancer his testosterone level has been cancelled out. He told us that it affected his memory. This seemed totally ill-advised, because Ayres then proceeded to display a perfect memory - except when he conveniently failed to remember any of the victims in this case.
His memory totally intact, Ayres then proceeded to reel off every last itty bitty office he has ever held .
Ayres' unconscious seems to have been unleashed as he spoke. As he was recounting his days as a psychiatric resident at Yale, we couldn't help but smirk when he said he had to deal with patients who were considered "unmanly." When he talked about them getting unruly, he said that sometimes he carried them back to their room." I'm not a weightlifter like the governor of California, but I got them back into their rooms." Ok, Dr. Ayres, whatever you say. The weight lifting comment was the first hint that the doctor was gonna get loopy on us and boy were we right.
Right after this, it bugged us when Weinberg said that Ayres taught at Harvard, because when our correspondents checked with both Harvard Medical School: Harvard University and Boston Childrens' Hospital no one could verify that he had ever been on staff there.
Ayres told the courtroom that he moved from Boston to California in 1963- the year he married Solveig and when his son Robert was "in utero." We noticed that he said very little about his his daughter Barbara - who's been a no-show for this entire trial.. Something's not right between Barbara Ayres and her parents - something we can't put our finger on.. We wonder if Barbara is not on speaking terms with her parents.
By 2:00 pm Ayres was really, really starting to ramble in his answers. He's making a kind of goofy laugh that made many people uneasy.He's loosening up and letting it rip. He is acting as if he's had a couple of drinks and is just regaling a crowd at a cocktail party. He started to talk about how unlike other doctors he always made emergency calls in the middle of the night... "I always make school visits" he says What struck us as odd was that Ayres spoke of his treatment of kids in the present tense.
When Ayres started to talk about treating kids in wheelchairs and on crutches, we noticed that no one in the jury was taking any notes. Ayres goes on about how unlike other doctors he was- in essence how more saintly he was. Unlike other child psychiatrists he said "I kept up with my skills " ( in giving physical exams).. Judge Freeman. we noticed at this point was starting to look very, very puzzled.
When Ayres had the audacity to declare" I have never done a physical without a child's permission. "the parents of victims in the courtroom were so vocal in their derision that our favorite bailiff, D. B. Hennessy took a little stroll over to them to keep them in line.
On to Ayres' infamous sex ed series on KQED in the 60s. Did he really tell the jury that a parent who hated his sex ed series actually left a "homosexual magazine" in his waiting room ? Yes, he did.
Did Ayres actually tell the jury that another woman who protested his sex ed series actully said to him, " I thought you were going to unzip your pants and take your penis out?" Umm.... yes he did.. Gross. We can only imagine that Weinberg was dying inside as Ayres set out this disturbing visual image for the packed courtroom....
As if that weren't bad enough.. Ayres went on to talk about women passing gas. Don't ask us what this had to do with anything because we were too mortified by this point. We weren't overwhelmed enough though to note that none of the women on the jury were taking notes during this passing gas soliloquy.
Right after this, Ayres talked again about giving physicals to children in wheelchairs( we can't help thinking that he preferred these patients because they couldn't run away from him when he started in on them)
When Ayres started talking about examining boys' testicles for "cysts and other malformations" we started feeling ill. And when he said that many of his patients had "asked to be examined" we felt like leaving the the courtroom. Did Ayres really say that boys with acne on their back who had refused to take their shirts off for their pediatricians actually deigned to take their shirts off for him? Yes, he did.. And not only that: he said " I could take a course in acne."
And did Ayres actually say that in so many ways that he could do physicals better that pediatricians? Yes he did. He said that pediatriacians' exams are "very quick and not very thorough. Pediatricians are very busy." So, he's saying that he is less busy and therefore that he could give a better physical to a boy than a doctor who is board certified in pediatrics? Geesh, no wonder the jury wasn't taking any notes when he spoke !
What are we to make of Ayres' remark. " I know a lot about a lot of things"? That he knows more about pediatric exams than pediatricians? That he knows more than the jury knows? Frankly, we don't think that he is nearly as smart as he thinks he is.
Ayres' memory failed when he couldn't remember the name for AIDS or the word
" chromosomes." As expected, he also insisted he couldn't remember any of his accusers at all. How then does he explain that he remembered a phone call from a teacher of Orion B - a teacher who was married to a friend of his? We are hoping the prosecutor jumps on this.
As Ayres went on, he rambled more and more. He said he didn't examine his girl patients because they would need a chaperone ( and boys don't?) and then he said there was always a danger that a girl would expose her large breasts to him during the session. It was all we could do not to laugh, and we noticed many spectators felt the same way.
There was also a very long soliloquy about enlarged nipples on boys which somehow ended with Ayres saying "When I was in high school we walked buck naked in the showers, snapping towels at each other." Somehow Weinberg managed to keep a straight face, but most of the courtroom spectators were not.
Tomorrow Weinberg will finish up with Ayres, and then it's the prosecutor's go at him. We can't wait.
We got the impression that Ayres was having the time of his life on the witness stand - his last stand. It appeared that he thought he did a great job. But for almost everyone else, his performance was bizarre and cringe inducing.