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“I don’t get it, Sam.”
Sarah is sitting in a small downtown café close to the Courthouse with half an egg salad sandwich on spelt bread in front of her and a cup of coffee, talking to her boss on her cell phone.
“What don’t you get, Sarah?”
“Well, I talked to Dr. Fowler after his testimony. I was curious why he would be a witness for the plaintiffs, since it was clear that he, like the rest of the world, believes in the standard AIDS hypothesis, HIV and all....” She pauses to see if any of the mental fog would lift just by verbalizing her problem. It didn’t. Sam’s voice brings her back to the point.
“And he said?”
“He said that he was subpoenaed by Messick to testify for the plaintiffs.”
Sarah waits for Sam to express his surprise as well. But all Sam says is, “So?”
Sarah doesn’t understand why Sam doesn’t see the problem here. “Sam, think about it. Why didn't Messick get his own expert witness who he wouldn't have to force to take the stand? There are plenty of good ones out there. Why would he intentionally call a witness who he knew Crawley had himself previously used as an expert? In fact, Crawley and Fowler might even be good friends for all we know!”
“Does it matter?”
Now Sarah is more confused than ever. Is it just her? Is it Sam? Is it Messick? What’s going on here? Would no one else find this whole situation very strange? She decides to backpedal in case it’s her.
“I don't know. Maybe not. I just wonder what he's up to.”
Sam decides he has better ways to spend his time. “Have you got a column for tomorrow's edition?”
“It was pretty much a high school biology lesson this morning. Not much to write about.”
Sam’s anxious to end this conversation. But he’s more anxious that he made the wrong decision about Sarah’s presence at this trial in the first place. “Maybe it will get more lively this afternoon. Are you okay, kiddo?”
“Yes. I’m fine. And maybe it will. Messick's bringing in Dr. Goddard.”
“Please state your name and spell it for the record.”
“Dr. Mark Goddard. G-o-d-d-a-r-d.”
“Dr. Goddard, what is your profession?”
Messick reminds himself that this is another witness who may not really want to be testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs, and won’t necessarily be willfully forthcoming. Dr. Fowler turned out fine, but he can’t expect that from them all.
“I'm sorry, what was your profession, let's say in 1981?”
“I was assistant professor of immunology at the UCLA School of Medicine.”
“Your specialty was with the immune system of the human body?”
Let’s hope Goddard tells the straight story, Messick thinks, as he asks the next question.
“Can you tell us what happened in the early months of 1981?”
Goddard settles a little in the witness chair, but is still very much on his guard. Normally, he’s glad to tell anyone who will listen about his role in the discovery of AIDS.
“Colleagues of mine were sending me blood samples from patients who had just died.”
“How many patients are we talking about?”
“Dozens, Mr. Messick. Dozens.”
Messick takes in a deep breath. Looks like this is not going to be easy. Okay, one question at a time.
“Were there any patients in particular that come to mind, Dr. Goddard?” You know what I’m talking about.
“Well, what you want to know about originally involved five patients.”
“Did you run some tests on the blood samples from these five patients?”
“Yes, of course.”
Wow. Maybe Goddard wasn’t such a good idea after all.
“And what were the results?”
“Extremely low T-4 cell count.”
“On all five patients?”
“And when you say ‘T4 cells,’ those are also known as the ‘Helper’ T cells – the ones that alert the body to a dangerous invader and start the immune defense system?”
“And you concluded?”
“Their immune systems had obviously been compromised.”
“They had immune deficiency?”
“And why did that surprise you?”
Now Goddard was in a dilemma. He really didn’t want to help Messick all that much, but he also didn’t want to detract from the contribution he had made to the discovery of AIDS.
“Because from the patients’ histories that were sent with the blood, there was no apparent cause for the immune deficiency.”
“Normally you would see a reason for immune deficiency in a patient’s history?”
“Such as malnutrition, or immunosuppressive drugs, mostly.”
Messick relaxes a little. He’s at least getting the information he wants the jury to hear out of this witness.
“You saw immune deficiency a fair amount in other patients, I take it?”
“It’s not uncommon. Mainly, though, in cancer patients who had done chemo, or failed transplant patients.”
“That wasn’t the case with these five patients that we’re talking about?”
“But obviously, they had been very sick and died from some disease.”
“Yes. All of them had an opportunistic disease exactly like we’d expect to see in immune deficiency syndrome.”
“Did they all have the same disease?”
“No. A couple of them had Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in common. But there were different diseases present.”
Although he continues to give only the barest of information, Goddard appears to be warming to his role in this trial. After all, he’s getting close to the good part – his part. And then Messick asks the $64,000 question.
“But how did they get their immune deficiency?”
“That’s what I wanted to know.”
“And did you find out?”
“Eventually we all found out. It’s called HIV, Mr. Messick.” Goddard really enjoyed that jab.
Messick takes a step back and regroups. Try again a little different way. You’re doing okay. Just keep going, he assures himself.
“Okay, Dr. Goddard. Obviously you think that today, but I’m interested in what you knew in 1981 – twenty-five years ago.”
“Frankly, we didn’t know anything back then.”
“Well, did any of these patients have anything else in common other than their immune deficiency?”
Oh, boy. Go ahead, make me work for it. “And what did they have in common, Dr. Goddard?”
“Well, for one thing, they were all homosexual.”
“Did they know each other?”
“How do you know that?
“Because they came from different parts of the country.”
“So they weren’t giving each other these diseases?”
“No, we ruled that out.”
“Anything else they had in common?”
“They all used amyl nitrite.”
Messick pauses for several reasons. He wants the jury to clearly hear this part of the testimony and be able to remember it for later.
“Dr. Goddard, briefly…” as if Messick had to ask Goddard to be brief, “…what’s amyl nitrite?”
“It’s a vasodilator.”
Oh, come on. Not that brief, please. “And what’s it used for?”
“It’s a drug used mostly in the treatment of heart disease, such as angina.”
“Did any of these five patients have heart disease?”
“Then why were they using amyl nitrite?”
“Because back then there was widespread use of amyl nitrite in the homosexual community.”
That’s as far as Messick wanted Goddard to take it right now. He’d explore this idea in much greater depth later, with a different witness.
“So did you think you were looking at a new sexually transmitted disease?”
“I honestly didn’t know. All I knew was that these five patients had something I had never seen before, something we had no definition for at the time.”
Well, if you’re not going to come right out and say it, I am. “Immune deficiency from an unknown cause, with an unknown transmission, leading to an opportunistic disease and then death, correct?”
“So what did you do in May of 1981?”
“I wrote a paper about these five patients and what I had discovered, in hopes that someone else out there would be able to confirm my findings.”
“Was that paper published, Dr. Goddard?”
“Yes. It appeared in the June 5th, 1981, issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, published by the Center for Disease Control.”
“So you are famous as the one who discovered AIDS?”
There was no need for any false modesty at this point, and Goddard was very proud of this fact.
“Yes, I am.”
Messick goes back to the lectern to decide what he wants to do next. This is actually going very well, he thinks. And Goddard seems less resistant now. Maybe there’s more I should explore with him. It’s worth a try, anyway.
“Dr. Goddard, do you mean to tell us that no one had died prior to May of 1981 from AIDS?”
“No, I'm not saying that. There have been extensive reviews of old medical records, and there were, in fact, deaths due to AIDS prior to that. But the syndrome was not recognized. AIDS was not defined yet. Until 1981, no one had stopped to put all the pieces together to realize that we had a dangerous disease on our hands.”
“No one, until you.”
“Yes. That's right.”
He’s actually enjoying this, Messick realizes. Maybe it’s the TV. Maybe knowing that millions of people all over the world are watching a hero is having its effect. Let’s keep going.
“And do you have first-hand knowledge of what happened in the next year or two, with respect to this new disease called AIDS?”
“I’m asking about you, Dr. Goddard, personally.”
“Obviously, I was particularly interested and involved in the early development of what we had discovered. And I actually did some research before coming here to testify and wrote down a few statistics.” Goddard digs into his pocket and retrieves a piece of paper, then looks at Judge Watts for approval. She nods. “Let's see. 234 died from AIDS in 1981, 853 died in 1982; and by the end of 1983, we were already up to 2304 deaths from AIDS.”
This is still okay for Messick. He’s taking this one question at a time, but this is still okay. “In your opinion, was this dramatic increase due to an actual increase in the incidence of this new disease, or simply that deaths that had occurred prior to your discovery and were called something else, were now being called ‘AIDS’?”
At this point, Crawley stands up as if he’s about to object. Messick can’t imagine why, and turns around to look at him. But apparently Crawley changes his mind and sits back down without saying a word. Goddard answers as if nothing had happened.
“There may have been some of that. But in my opinion we had a new, rapidly spreading disease. We definitely had an epidemic on our hands, as far as I was concerned.”
“And you had no idea back then, in the early ‘80s, what was causing this AIDS epidemic?”
“No, but today it’s obvious….”
Messick breaks in quickly. “I'm not ready to talk about ‘today,’ Dr. Goddard. No further questions. Thank you.”
Crawley stands up again and appears as if he’s actually going to speak this time. Messick wonders whether he’s going to break his vow of silence with only the second witness.
“Dr. Goddard...” Crawley pauses, wanting so much to let Goddard continue the sentence he started about his current beliefs, but realizes that he has no basis in direct examination for that line of questions. When Goddard doesn’t volunteer anything more, Crawley looks at the jury and then the witness. “Dr. Goddard, on behalf of the whole world, I would like to thank you for your brilliant discovery of AIDS. Your insightful perception probably saved many thousands of lives. But I have no questions.”
As Crawley sits back down, Judge Watts springs into life. She wants more than anything to get this trial over with. “Mr. Messick, you may call your next witness.”
“Your Honor, I would prefer to wait until tomorrow morning to start with the next series of witnesses.”
The Judge looks disapprovingly at Messick and waves to both attorneys. “Side bar.”
When they arrive, she doesn’t look very pleased. “Mr. Messick?”
“Your Honor, I frankly expected this case to be proceeding a little more slowly. Since the defense is not cross-examining... well, Your Honor, it would be detrimental to my case to start the next section and then have to break it up in the middle.”
Judge Watts is controlling her temper very well, but she wants to control the tempo of this trial a little better. “I understand that things are already quite unusual. I don't want them to get any worse, do you both understand? I'm going to let this slide one time, but I want you to know that I control when things happen in this courtroom. We work on my schedule, not yours. And I want you to start covering more ground each day. I'm going to allow this because it's so early in the trial and because I don't mind letting the jury ease into their new routines. Mr. Crawley?”
“I have no objection, Your Honor.”
Judge Watts waves the lawyers away from the side bar and announces to the whole courtroom, “Tomorrow morning. 9 o'clock sharp. This court is in recess.”
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