Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mistrial of the Century

It was a bizarre ending. Judge Charles Spurlock, above, declared a mistrial Tuesday in Charlie Weis' malpractice lawsuit against Massachusetts General doctors Charles Ferguson and Richard Hodin after juror Anthony Perry collapsed while listening to testimony.

Perry, 64, began audibly gasping before he collapsed. Four doctors, including Ferguson and Hodin, rushed to his aid and people in the courtroom began to shout, "Call 911!" As doctors tended to Perry, Spurlock ordered the courtroom vacated.

"Luckily, there were medical professionals in the room," juror Leigh Garino told the Boston Herald.

Weis remained seated throughout the ordeal, staring at the jury box.

After Perry was taken by ambulance to a local hospital where he was in stable condition (it remains unclear what happened to him), Weis' attorney, Michael Mone, filed a motion for a mistrial. Mone argued that the jury could have been tainted by what happened to Perry and the treatment he received from Ferguson and Hodin.

"I talked to my client and told him he basically had no choice," Mone told the Boston Globe. "He was very reluctant to have a mistrial, but I told him there was no choice and we had to have a mistrial."

Spurlock then called the remaining jurors to the bench one-by-one and asked if they could remain impartial if the trial continued. Defense attorney William Dailey argued against a mistrial, saying that the case was near conclusion and should continue.

"We thought the case was going very well for the doctors and we were confident," Dailey said. "We thought that the jury was listening intently and we were very optimistic that there was going to be a good result and that there would be no negligence found."

Dailey clearly had reason to be confident. Juror Burnham Bowden was not impressed by Weis' star witness, New England quarterback Tom Brady, who was spared a public relations nightmare by testifying in the case two days before news broke that his ex-girlfriend is pregnant with his child.

"My opinion was Brady was not of any help. He did what a lot of us do, help people who are sick. He did that very nicely, but it had nothing to do with the case."

Juror Mark Pinardi also said he wasn't swayed by Brady's testimony. "Tom was good about expressing the human side of Charlie, and what his wife went through was obviously a trying time on her, not knowing if he was going to make it."

Pinardi also offered insight as to why Brady testified for only 24 minutes, saying that the defense team was fearful of "attacking a local hero" and wanted "to get him off the stand as quick as possible."

So where do we stand? Will the case be heard again, or will the sides do the smart thing and settle out of court? We turn to Gary Gaffney, M.D., University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and founder of the site Steroid Nation, who has been supplying us with analysis throughout the trial:

"Shocking as it was, my legal experts stated that the judge was correct in calling a mistrial after the collapse of the juror and ministrations of the defendant doctors.

"Medically speaking, readers who followed the case learned more about the procedure and the complications. We learned that the Weis team called in an expert witness — Alan Wittgrove — who testified that the Massachusetts General surgeons should have caught the stomach leakage and tissue bleeding earlier. He didn't say why the surgeons should have been more prompt in repairing the original surgery. His testimony that Weis' neuropathy was due to thiamine deficiency was rebutted rather easily by the Massachusetts General surgeon.

"Tom Brady testified that his former coach suffered from stupor and coma in the hospital, and from leg pain while on the practice field.

"We were looking for more information about the critical 30 hours from the end of the original surgery to the revision surgery. However, the mistrial aborted the elucidation of that data and the surgeons' explanations.

"Considering the costs to Weis, the court, the surgeons and the prospective costs and time to repeat the entire episode, I wonder if both parties would be extremely wise in settling this out of court. The Weis team's case was not medically strong. I cannot imagine any new argument or new data that would strengthen their case.

"A new trial will eat up more of Weis' coaching time, likely during the season. Perhaps it is time for Team Weis to move on with life."

Previous coverage:
Day 4: Brady's Hail Mary
Day 3: Weis' hired hand
Day 2: Weis testifies
Day 1: Opening statements
Preview: A legal perspective
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Anonymous said...

Having read a lot on this case, it is very clear that Weis was going to lose...and the follow up with the jurors would have indicated that he had no case whatsoever which would have been a public humiliation for Weis. Weis' attorney quickly seized on the opportunity for mistrial since they knew they would lose and the only hope for any $ is in settlement, not trial. Personally, I hope the doctors hold firm to protect their reputations and refuse to pay Weis one cent. The doctors' attorney knew that they would win and so objected to the mistrial motion by Weis. I seriously doubt Weis understood the public humiliation this trial would cause him...maybe he should sue his attorneys!!! Weis insisted on rushing into the surgery and then insisted on this trial...he ain't that bright regarding medical and legal matters apparently. If Weis learned anything, he should now know to drop the case...and eat less.

Anonymous said...

This is REALLY embarassing for ND...time for a new coach.

Anonymous said...

Weis looks like such an ass now. Here the doctors are just trying to help people and come to the aid of this guy in distress.

No one obviously wanted to have Weis get seriously sick. Even with everyone having the best of intentions, sometimes bad things happen. Weis just looks like a dick now.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever noticed that Charlie Weis and Humpty Dumpty are never seen in the same room together at the same decide. Is Charlie Weis Humpty Dumpty's secret identity???

Anonymous said...

ND fans should sue Charlie Weiss for negligent coaching...did you see The Sugar Bowl meltdown and that fake punt that backfired??? Seriously, ND football died under Weis' watch...