The Doctors Testify

I thought that attorney Ed Gerber and the rest of the defense team, as well as the county governors and the bosses of the Republican Committee, were all running the show and for all their personal and political reasons they needed certain things to be done, and they were all done in the name of Dick Sheeran.  In his name, but not by his choice.

In the midst of all this—grand jury testimony, a hearing, a trial, the newspapers—I had spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted.  If you took away the courts, the legal system, the attorneys—and the newspapers—what did I, the wronged citizen, want in the way of justice?

What I wanted, mostly, was a moment’s equality between my boss and me—a moment when Sheeran didn’t have the power to fire me—in which I could say “Stop that!”  Don’t shake down your employees for political contributions to the party of your choice.  It’s not right.  That’s all I wanted:  to make him stop.  And what of punishment for what he’d done?

The day Dick Sheeran was arrested, he was handcuffed, taken to the police station, fingerprinted, mug shot, and strip searched—said strip searching probably including a body cavity search.  Some corrections officer stuck his hand up Sheeran’s butt.  As far as punishment went, I figured that was enough.  Sheeran had learned what it felt like to be powerless and humiliated.  We were even now and, as far as I was concerned, the case was closed and we all could go home.

The problem was that neither Dick Sheeran nor I had any control over our lives anymore.  Other men with other agendas were playing both of us.

Speaking of which, Peter Andreoli called me up and asked if I’d made any arrangement with Dr. John Wolf for him to be paid for his testimony.

No, I hadn’t.  Why?

Because Dr. Wolf had submitted a bill. 

Oh, great—just another guy out to profit from the investigation.

There is a difference between an expert witness and a citizen testifying.  An expert witness is someone who has nothing to do with the case in question but who knows a whole lot about some technical aspect of the case.  For example, when Dr. Conrad Murray was tried for killing Michael Jackson with a dose of propofol, doctors testified for both the prosecution and the defense.  The doctors did not know or have any involvement with either Murray or Jackson.  What they knew and testified about was propofol—appropriate dosage, proper administration, how it’s absorbed in the body, what the breakdown process is, how to assess its effect, and so on.  They had no involvement with the case but testified as to their expert knowledge about an element of the case.  For this they should reasonably and justly get paid.

John Wolf was the treating physician of a witness in the case against Richard Sheeran.  He had particular knowledge about the witness.  As such, he was called to testify in the hearing.  He was not testifying about the antidepressants; he was testifying about the condition of his patient and, as such, he was testifying as a citizen, not as an expert.  It is the responsibility of all citizens to testify when they have relevant information in a case called by The People.  I wasn’t getting paid for what I was going through in order to offer my testimony; neither should Dr. Wolf.  It is the work of a citizen.  Wolf said he wanted an “in” with the prosecutor’s; maybe he didn’t get what he wanted. 

Dr. Sidney Orgel didn’t get what he wanted, either—presuming that what he wanted was to get even with me for making him wait as long for payment of his bill as I’d waited for the production of his report.  Although I doubt that the time elapsed is what made Orgel mad; I think it was that I was not under his control.  Most doctors get pretty mad when a patient successfully challenges their authority.

John told me what happened the day Sidney Orgel testified.

Years earlier, when I had been hospitalized on the inpatient psychiatric unit at Upstate Medical Center, my psychiatrist had ordered some psychological testing, which was done by a psychology intern under Orgel’s supervision.  In the hearing, the defense attorney entered into the record the test report, which was signed by Orgel.  In the cross-examination, John entered into the record the exact same test report—signed by the intern.  Orgel had taken credit for the intern’s work.

Then John brought up the matter of payment.  Had there been a problem about the bill?  Yes, there had been, Orgel said.  John led him through that issue.  As John tells it to me, he is smiling and says that judges are used to this—witnesses volunteering to testify because they’re mad about the money.

Then John gets to the really good part.  Supreme Court Justice Lyman Smith is raising the question of my judgment—do I have any and is it any good?  Judge Smith is a sailor; he lives in Penn Yan on Keuka Lake, so he is spinning a sailor’s analogy.  What if Miss Woodlen was first mate on a ship?  It is a dark and stormy night and the ship is being blown toward land, blown into the shallows.  And the captain is asleep below deck.  Now what would Miss Woodlen do?  Would she take the responsibility on herself?  Would she decide in time to pull away from the shallows?  Would she go below deck and wake the captain—.  At this point, Orgel interrupts the judge to snap, “I wouldn’t even have her as first mate on my ship!”

There are a lot of things you can and should do in this life.  Interrupting a Supreme Court Justice speaking from the bench is not one of them.

At this point John gleefully tells me—Willie is off to the side bursting with laughter at what’s to come—he walks over to the prosecution’s table, picks up the copy of Orgel’s report to the FAA and asks Orgel to read aloud the last sentence wherein he recommended me for a pilot’s license—captain of the ship!

All people share the right and the responsibility to make the decisions that affect their lives together.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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