Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Expert

My favorite part of listening to Lawyers is their constant demand for an "expert." An expert has no singular definition, no required skills or credentials established by standard or law, an expert simply has to have been published, express some knowledge or familiarity about a subject and of course has testified before.  That latter is the definitive expert qualification.  Actual real experts eschew the bullshit as they have better things to do and they are actually repelled at having to choose sides, the determining factor of course being who offers the biggest check.

So in other words the same "expert" in Trial A for the Defense can be a "expert" in Trial B for the Prosecution/Plaintiff - as in civil or criminal. They can be both civil and criminal expert witnesses. It is a full time occupation.

So while Dr. Ben Carson was swilling some product and claiming its virtues he was also cashing the checks they gave him to do so.  And of course Dr. Carson has no problem testifying as an expert when it comes to other civil matters.  He is a Surgeon for hire.

What is tragic is his lack of acceptance and acknowledgement that it was the same governmental programs that he now eschews were partially responsible for his success.  He took the ball and ran with it and now he refuses to accept that as a part of his legacy.

As my mother used to say, "he who accuses, excuses" 

Before the Stump, Ben Carson Took the Stand as an Expert Witness

Horace Muhammad, who was paralyzed from the waist down after being tackled by a Baltimore police officer in 1997, at his home in Greensboro, N.C., last month. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times
Fifteen years before the Baltimore police were accused of causing the death of Freddie Gray, the city was taken to court by another black man, one who had been paralyzed from the waist down after being tackled by an officer.

“What was done in this case is really quite laudatory in the sense that they were able to get this man from the scene of the injury to the place where the appropriate medications and protocols could be carried out very rapidly,” Dr. Carson said in his testimony. “I was actually quite impressed by how fast it happened.”
Dr. Benjamin S. Carson at his Baltimore office in 2013. Dr. Carson testified as an expert witness in 2000, commenting on the actions of the paramedics who treated Mr. Muhammad in 1997. Credit Matt Roth for The New York Times
Dr. Carson’s testimony frustrated Mr. Muhammad’s lawyers, who felt that it strayed from the topic it was supposed to be limited to. But Dr. Carson’s testimony did its job, helping persuade the jury to deny Mr. Muhammad’s claim against the paramedics for millions of dollars.

The political world has been surprised by the rise of Dr. Carson, the soft-spoken neurosurgeon who, as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has surged into first place in Iowa polls. But in that courtroom in 2000, his presence and ability to captivate an audience was clear, so much so that even Mr. Muhammad acknowledged being a little in awe.

The judge in the case, Clifton J. Gordy Jr., said, “As a judge, it was rare to see that kind of gravitas given to an expert witness.”

“When Dr. Carson got off the stand, my impression was that the E.M.T.s had absolutely nothing to worry about,” said Judge Gordy, who is now retired after more than 20 years on the bench.

Dr. Carson’s testimony seems intriguingly resonant now, as he campaigns for president in a country shaken by a series of cases in which black men have died after encounters with the police, including Mr. Gray, who died in April of a spinal cord injury sustained in police custody. It also provides a window into Dr. Carson’s stature in the community at the time, his understated confidence, and the way he was viewed by African-Americans whose lives were markedly less prosperous and accomplished.

The episode involving Mr. Muhammad, a stocky 48-year-old truck driver, began when he showed up near dawn on March 18, 1997, at his fiancée’s two-story rowhouse in a west Baltimore neighborhood. She called the police and asked them to make him leave, which he grudgingly did.

But when he did not move far enough from the house, an officer, who said Mr. Muhammad had made threats, tackled him. Mr. Muhammad never got back up.
Dr. Carson was not a witness for the police, and in his testimony he said Mr. Muhammad’s injuries had most likely resulted from being “forcibly taken down” by a police officer, who, like Mr. Muhammad, was black. Dr. Carson was hired by the city to counter Mr. Muhammad’s claims that the paramedics had treated him callously and aggravated his condition.

While the jury awarded Mr. Muhammad $2 million for the actions of the police officer who tackled him, it did not find that the paramedics made Mr. Muhammad’s injuries any worse.
“We should have gotten a heck of a lot more,” said Allen Eaton, a lawyer for Mr. Muhammad, recalling how Dr. Carson quickly connected with the jury composed largely of black women. “I think he was determinative.”

Jurors who heard the case agree

d that Dr. Carson’s presence in the trial had made a lasting impression. One could not recall anything about Mr. Muhammad, but remembered Dr. Carson’s appearance. Another said Dr. Carson’s testimony had swayed the jury, saying, “They thought he was the cat’s meow.”

Dr. Carson, 49 at the time, was already a best-selling author internationally known for separating twins conjoined at the head. He had been an expert witness in 20 to 30 cases, according to his testimony. Dr. Carson earned $750 an hour for reviewing records, although he testified that he had reduced his rate to $500 to accommodate Baltimore “because this is a city,” adding, “I try to be very reasonable in that situation.” For his testimony, he received $2,500 for half a day, he said.

In an interview last month, Dr. Carson said that the money was “incredibly minor” to him and that he vaguely recalled the case. In general, he said, “I had a very good relationship with anybody who is trying to serve the public,” such as the police and paramedics.

“By the same token,” he said, “I have good relationships with patients and people who have been injured. I have advocated on behalf of whoever is right.”

Baltimore prosecutors charged Mr. Muhammad with assaulting his fiancée and a police officer, as well as resisting arrest. At the criminal trial, the prosecutor, according to transcripts, portrayed Mr. Muhammad as a crack cocaine user who was belligerent with officers, elbowing one.

A jury acquitted him. His lawyers contended that the allegations had been concocted as a cover-up for the brutality that left Mr. Muhammad paralyzed and without full use of his hands.

In the civil case, the paramedics said that contrary to Mr. Muhammad’s claims, they had properly assessed his condition, responded appropriately to his complaints that he could not feel his legs, and transported him safely to the hospital. Judge Gordy said in the recent interview that the claims against the paramedics were always weaker than the case against the police, but that Dr. Carson “put a nail in the plaintiffs’ case against the E.M.T.s.”

“When he walked into the courtroom, all eyes were on him,” Judge Gordy recalled. “And it remained that way throughout his testimony. The jury paid rapt attention to everything he said.”

Mr. Muhammad and his lawyers knew it, too. “They hired him to do just what he did,” recalled Mr. Muhammad, who now lives in North Carolina. Lawyers who represented the city declined to comment on the case.

During the case, even Mr. Muhammad’s lawyers treated Dr. Carson carefully. For the pretrial deposition, Mr. Eaton met Dr. Carson where he worked, questioning him for just 20 minutes in a Johns Hopkins Hospital suite one evening. “I’ll endeavor to be brief and get you out of here,” Mr. Eaton said, according to a transcript. “Then you can cut out half of somebody’s brain tomorrow.”

During the brisk deposition, Dr. Carson offered a drop of sarcasm in answering a question about what could worsen a patient’s spinal injury.

“You could take that patient, twist their head and break them in two,” Dr. Carson said. “You could throw them off the Empire State Building. Or you could give them the same kind of jolt that he had in the first place.”

Three months later, Dr. Carson took the stand in Judge Gordy’s Baltimore City Circuit courtroom, smoothly opining on the performance of the paramedics and offering clear answers to technical medical questions — including explaining the function of a “spinal dura.” (Short for dura mater, which is Latin, Dr. Carson said, it is a “leatherlike covering over the brain and spinal cord.”)
In discussing the spinal cord, Dr. Carson, a Christian who has strong support among evangelicals, mentioned a higher power. “You know, God created that space nice and capacious so that there would be plenty of fluid surrounding the cord so that when you bend your head, turn your head, twist your head, etc.,” he said.

Mr. Eaton objected when Dr. Carson strayed from his medical expertise, saying that “having dealt with police and paramedics for a very long time” he considered them unlikely to throw or drop someone in a way that could make the initial injury worse. The judge struck that comment from the record.

Occasionally, Dr. Carson sounded smug. Asked about whether he had read a particular emergency medical technicians’ book, Dr. Carson responded: “I don’t read technician books. I’m a little bit beyond that.”

Mr. Muhammad, whose lawyers unsuccessfully appealed the verdict for the paramedics, believes that the famous doctor had cost him “a lot of money.” But in the courtroom, even he was impressed.
Afterward in the hall, Mr. Muhammad, in a wheelchair, approached Dr. Carson to thank him for coming.

“I just shook his hand,” Mr. Muhammad recalled, “and told him it was an honor to meet him.”

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