In my last post, I provided a background to our calling of one of our last witnesses, Dr. Brad Pollock, an associate professor and the director of the department of epidemiology at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
When I asked Dr. Pollock if the types of studies an epidemiologist conducts would allow him to determine whether benomyl or Benlate causes microphthalmia in children like Johnny Castillo, he said there was very little information that would allow him to draw a conclusion. In other words, there were no adequate epidemiological studies that could show or not show that benomyl was a factor in causing microphthalmia. That makes sense, because of the impossibility of locating random pregnant women around the globe who were conclusively exposed to benomyl and then gave birth to children with microphthalmia.
Epidemiological studies are not conclusive on their own. The various pieces can point to what is going on, but they are not a substitute for laboratory testing because they are observational; they cannot provide the definitive conclusions obtained with animal studies, toxicological testing, or pathological testing to determine whether benomyl causes microphthalmia.
I was completely satisfied that Dr. Pollock put to rest any concerns the defense raised about our case not having epidemiological studies once and for all. Those kinds of studies were clearly not applicable. And with this final declaration, I was able to feel good about the rest of the science we had presented throughout the four-and-a-half weeks of testimony.
Clem Glynn did a brief cross-examination before Greg Gaebe passed on his chance and I followed up with a short redirect. Once we were through, we rested our case.
The court recessed for a one-hour lunch. Judge Donner was very clear that she wanted to start again precisely at 1 p.m., because there were a lot of housekeeping items to take care of upon our return and she wanted to adjourn no later than 5:30 p.m.
As is customary, the attorneys gathered in the courtroom before the jury to go over the matters at hand.
First on Gaebe’s docket were motions on behalf of Pine Island Farms to move the court for a curative instruction (which is when the judge addresses the jury in order to negate the prejudicial effect of an inappropriate argument or improperly offered evidence) and to declare a mistrial on the basis of the testimony of Sonya Sipes.
The reason he gave was that her testimony had “absolutely nothing to do with any definition of rebuttal in any court of law.” Sipes had been asked questions about communications between her and Gaebe and her and Jack Wishart, which she answered truthfully, providing the court with an account of the instructions or requests she received from Gaebe as well as Mr. Wishart to come in, cooperate, and tell the truth.
Gaebe felt her testimony was prejudicial and inflammatory only insofar as she testified that Wishart made a statement the day before her testimony that “Pine Island Farms is winning.”
I was floored.
I explore this surprising statement – and the continuing sneaky defense tactics – more in my next post.
You’ll find a full narrative of the trial, the defense and plaintiff strategies, the people involved and my own background, in my book Blindsided, from which this blog post is adapted.