Mumia In Court: Devastating Cross Examination

Mumia In Court: Devastating Cross Examination

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Right to Healthcare or Can Prisons Deny Care and Watch an Inmate Die?

Submission of False Documents by Department of Corrections Exposed

Day Two of “Abu-Jamal v. Kerestes” had fireworks equal to the opening round on Friday. The arguments for a Preliminary Injunction continued before the U.S. District Court in Scranton Pennyslvania. (Hear Mumia’s interview after Friday’s hearing)

It was a day of dueling doctors, admissions, explosive documents, and first hand testimony, which debated the constitutional right to health care while in prison.  The question: does Mumia Abu-Jamal receive life saving new anti viral drugs that cure Hepatitis C? or will Judge Robert Mariani’s federal court allow the Department of Corrections in Pennsylvania to deny any treatment for chronic Hepatitis C – and maintain (a just revealed protocol) that calls for “denying care” and “monitoring imates” while the virus ravages the body causing irreversible organ damage.

The morning featured vigorous cross examination.  Dr. Joseph Harris, deftly handled Department of Corrections cross, emphasizing this key point: the cure for Hep C is clearly the medical standard of care. And denial of treatment is no treatment for a progressive and infectious disease.

In a last minute addition to the witness list the DOC questioned dermatologist Dr. Schleicher who first treated Mumia’s devasting skin condition in Feb. of 2015.  The Department of Corrections through this expert unconvincingly asserted that Mumia’s skin condition was unrelated to Hepatitis C, and that his low platelet counts, anemia of chronic disease, abnormal liver function tests, are not caused by Hep C.

At 12:10 of the hearing a withering cross exam by Robert Boyle (Attorney for Abu-Jamal) exposed Schleicher’s limited diagnostic acumen, his failure to monitor Mumia’s two hospital ICU admissions and the illuiminating fact that he did not follow up on Geisinger Medical Center’s recommendation in May for an Hep C viral load test.  He got him to admit that “he did not know much about Hep C”. Schleicher has continued to treat Mumia, and it was revealed was unaware that the infectious disease specialist hired by the department of Corrections, Dr. Ramon Gadea, had recommended on September 9th treatment for Hepatitis C in response to Mumia’s ongoing ravaged skin. Notably, Dr. Gadea and the onsite doctors at SCI Mahanoy who see Mumia in the infirmary on a weekly basis were not called to testify.  It can be presumed that  their testimony would have been unfavorable to the DOC.

Standing Up for Mumia

The mid afternoon featured Dr. Suzanne Ross and Dr. Johanna Fernandez.  The value of these two frequent and long term visitors to Mumia was in the compelling details that they provided describing Mumia’s injuries, acute sysmptoms, and deteriorating health.  Some examples from the acute period of symptoms in the spring and summer included Mumia’s slurred words, elephant skin, scales and bloody cracks in his skin on 90% of his body, extreme weakness, swelling of his limbs, and loss of mental acuity.  When cross-exmamined both Ross and Fernandez were unapologetic, as they expounded on Mumia’s innocence, unjust incarceration, and the state’s naked attempts to silence him.

As those who know Mumia personally realize, the man just does not complain, and is frankly unable to describe his own vulnerablity.  As such, this testimony was key.  Present through video streaming throughout the proceedings Mumia was, as Dr. Fernandez testified is part of his character, simply stoic.  Before this devastating health crisis, there were only a handful of occasions that he has gone to sick call during 34 yrs of incarceration.  This might be surprising for a man who is known to the world as a writer and eloquent pubic commentator.

Key Evidence Exposed

In an explosive revelation: Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center, dissected the testimony of DOC defense witness infirmary administrator, Mr. Steinhart – revealing that there is a written Hep C treatment protocol that was developed this year.  Grote appealed to the judge, and he required that the DOC immediately produce a copy of the document.  Laura Neal, DOC counsel quickly tried to surpress the public release of the document, calling for it to remain under seal.  Overheard in the courtroom, DOC associate defense counsel noted that they did not want this document available publically because it would increase the department’s liability in the class action pending for inmate Hep C treatment.  Debate continues Wed morning on whether this document will be sealed.  A Right To Know request  by Prison Radio requesting the document was filed with the state during break requested by the judge so he could read the protocol

On tap: Cross Examination of DOC expert- Dr. Jay Cowan, notoriously head of Riker’s Island Medical Center.  please follow us on twitter, facebook, and tonight on email for updates…

The doctors and lawyers that enforce the PA Department of Corrections policy have got a problem. Health Care is a constitutional right, even for those who are incarcerated.   Proving that the DOC has been “deliberately indifferent”  the required standard for a preliminary injunction and relief in this case clearly has been met by Abu-Jamal’s attorneys.

False Documents Offered in Court by DOC

At the beginning of his testimony, as the hearing was closing, Dr. Paul Noel (Chief Medical Officer of PA Department of Corrections) stated on the stand that the affidavit filed in this case with his signature was not his testimony.The Department of Corrections attorney Laura Neal knowingly offered false testimony.  This information, paragraph 21, cited the erroneous information that hepatitus C viral load levels should determine treatment for Mr. Jamal. Laura Neal actually cited this misinformation in the brief she filed in court opposing the preliminary injunction.
Let me be clear. Dr. Noel testified that he informed Laura Neal of the DOC in September, in December, and again in the parking lot next to the courthouse, this morning that the affidavit was incorrect.  The people in the court room and the judge were in shock. It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.  Laura Neal offered feeble excuses stating that the information was factually correct;  to which Dr. Noel replied “but misleading and false in its conclusions”.   Robert Boyle’s expert cross examination, which proceeded for the next hour, was searing.In addition to the false paragraph number 21 inserted by the DOC into the affidavit, Robert Boyle got the good doctor to admit that paragraph 10 was also false.  This paragraph stated that the only infectious disease specialist to examine Mumia, Dr. Ramon Gadea, ruled out Hepatitis C as a cause for Mumia’s extreme skin eruptions.  In fact, the medical records of the September 9th meeting with Mumia and Gadea state that he believed Hepatitis C could be a secondary cause of the skin rash and that Hep C should be treated after ruling out a rheumatoid condition.

The Document they Were Trying to Hide

Dr. Noel’s testimony highlights:  “The Interim Hepatitis C protocol for New Anti Viral Treatment” revealed at the hearing yesterday,  now public, thanks in part to Prison Radio’s and Austin Nolen’s Right to Know Request filed yesterday within minutes of its production in court, was revealing.  Only five patients are being treated for acute Hep C beginning  Fall, 2015.  No one has been treated while the protocol was being developed for the last 22 months.  Ten thousand inmates have active Hep C, and of that number, it can be expected that over a thousand have chronic active Hep c and liver fibrosis or cirrhosis. Dr. Noel testified that Mumia has a 63% chance of having cirrhosis.  He has significant fibrosis (scarring of the liver). He has “anemia of chronic disease”, and low blood platelets in addition to the severe extra hepatic skin condition.
Boyle:” Isn’t it clear that Mumia Abu-Jamal should get treatment?”
Dr. Noel: “It is anything but clear.”
The bottom line, they are only treating a fraction of cases, and those are extreme. People are simply dying as they wait.  For instance, the protocol to get “consideration for treatment for Hep C” is an “EDG,” an endoscopy of the throat. And they are only treating inmates who have the immediate risk of blood vessels bursting in their throats. Esophageal varices with a raised portal pressure, which the DOC considers proof of cirrossis and patients sick enough to treat for Hep C.
Dr. Cowan, DOC expert in the morning court session, was adeptly cross examined by Robert Boyle, Mumia’s co counsel with Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center.
Dr. Cowan had been insisting that the standard of care in the correctional setting was the same as the community setting, with one caveat, “risk stratification”.  The most revealing and determinate fact was the last question posed byBoyle.  “If you were in private practice and you had a patient with significant chance of fibrosis, would you treat that patient with the new anti-viral direct acting drugs?” (The cure).  Dr. Cowan stated, “if they could pay $90 thousand for the treatment”
That statement alone could result in a ruling from Judge Robert Mariani ordering the DOC to provide immediate anti-viral direct acting drugs to Mumia.  There has to be a valid medical reason for denying care.  And it seems that DOC deliberate indifference to inmates’ health and Mumia’s life specifically has been well established.
The court will provide transcripts in three weeks, with final briefs due in six weeks. We will keep you posted.