At Least I Am Not as Bad
As He Is: The Despicable Him Defense

By

Leonard Zwelling

         As if there hadn’t been sufficient numbers of attorneys in
the room on Friday. Bright and early Monday morning, September 22, 2014, the
248th Court was overflowing with them. The prosecution seemed like
it had not called for reinforcements, but the defense had a ‘surge’ going. I
also met a few who were simply observing or perhaps even trolling for business
if either side needed help with an appeal.

         Dr. George Blumenschein returned to the witness stand. On
Friday he pointed an accusatory finger at the defendant, Dr. Ana Maria
Gonzalez-Angulo, a medical breast oncologist who had been his close research
collaborator, frequent cancer conference travel companion (and roommate), close
friend and sometime lover. She is on trial for having poisoned Dr. Blumenschein
by spiking his coffee with ethylene glycol on the morning of January 27, 2013
during a pre-work Sunday morning visit the victim made to the defendant’s home.
This was not simply for breakfast. It included not only putatively sub-lethal
ethylene glycol in the coffee but also Dr. Blumenschein carrying the defendant
upstairs to her bedroom and engaging in sexual activities followed by a joint
shower and vodka shots to “clear their mouths.” No, I couldn’t make this stuff
up and neither could you. It’s in the court record.

The
prosecution played the last of a series of purported tape recordings of calls with the defendant made by
the victim and his live-in girlfriend once they suspected the poisoning had
been at the hands of the defendant. The one played was recorded just two days
prior to the defendant’s arrest. It was less helpful than I had imagined it
would be as it basically reinforced the stereotypes of each of the principals established
to date. At least, at first… 

Dr. B is being portrayed (and has portrayed himself) as a typical man whose genitals
seem to shunt blood away from his brain and who is unable to commit to a woman. He likes
his sex and his science when he wants them and may have created a new fad—sex
plus vodka. Let’s call it a Moon Shot (not my name for it, but a great one
nonetheless).

The
defendant was an emotional wreck on the phone trying to reconcile her deep
feelings for the victim with the fact that her rival in love, Evette (with an
E), Dr. Blumenschein’s live-in girlfriend with whom he was trying to have
children using in vitro fertilization, had succeeded in capturing his heart
when Dr. Gonzalez only had his scientific mind and, well, you know…his vodka.
Please pass the soap.

Then,
like a quiet leopard pouncing out of the jungle, the defense struck. On
cross-examination, the strategy of the huge legal team representing the
defendant became clear. In a form of jury nullification that was breath-taking
in its daring, but in every way logical, the defense team made sure that no
matter how bad their client will look during the rest of the trial, the victim
will look worse. In other words, Dr. Blumenschein was so deceptive and such a
liar to his girl friend, his supervisors and his colleagues, that even if their
client did it, he had it coming. 

I
am sure that we will hear a great deal more, but it may no longer matter. As a
wily appeals attorney whispered in my ear, “there are seven women on the jury
and none would want their daughters to date that guy (Blumenschein). The
defense has made their client less despicable than someone else in the
courtroom. In this case, the victim.” My first lesson in how to win with
defense since I took Basketball as a Duke undergrad in 1967.

The
afternoon session started with a discussion surrounding an accusation of
conflict of interest between Dr. Blumenschein, a lead investigator on several
Glaxo Smith-Kline protocols, and his live-in Evette Toney who worked for GSK. There
were multiple incidents of letters and emails being sent to the MD Anderson
Conflict of Interest Committee, its former chairman, to GSK itself and even to the
Cancer Letter on February 24, 2013.  This
seemed superfluous at first until the prosecution noted that notification to
both MD Anderson and GSK authorities overseeing conflicts of interest appeared
to have come from the same person as both the defendant’s first name and Dr.
Blumenschein’s last name were similarly misspelled throughout. It appeared as
if these emails and letters were misrepresentations of who was really writing
them. The investigator from GSK believes it was the defendant herself writing
these notes for the voice making the call on GSK’s anonymous telephone hot line
was the same voice heard on the tape made by Dr. Blumenschein on May 27,
2013—that of the defendant. The GSK investigator recognized her distinctive
accent from the tapes Dr. Blumenschein had recorded and that were introduced
into evidence this morning. The circle was closing.

It
looked like today will end with a conniving, wily, lying defendant having had a
secret and illicit sexual relationship with a philandering, untrustworthy
victim of ethylene glycol poisoning.

Then
at ten minutes after 4, this trial changed. Evette Toney took the stand. She is
the live-in significant other of the victim, George Blumenschein.

When
I returned from the break at 4:10, a slim, dark complexioned, dark haired woman
in a cream-colored wool suit quivering with anticipation was sitting on the
bench I had just vacated, She was conversing with Dr. Blumenschein’s attorney.
I figured out who she was and away the testimony went.

Dr.
Toney was a sweet, scared compelling witness who was either duped by everyone
around her because she wanted to be or is ready to replace Meryl Streep in the
pantheon of American actresses. The defense will start with her tomorrow and I
suspect their goal will be to paint her as a likelier suspect for the poisoning
than their client.

But
now we have seen the personas of at least two of the main players—Drs.
Blumenschein and Toney, the not so happy couple. I am not sure whether or not
the defense strategy to vilify Dr. Blumenschein was effective enough to
convince at least one juror that he was just so evil he had this coming. Of
course, who knows what strategy the defense will use when it is its turn
to present evidence. Surely, not I.

But
like all good police procedurals, this one ended with a bang today as Evette
related a conversation that she, George and Ana had after Ana had to stay with
them overnight in December of 2012 after an alleged attack on the defendant
outside her condominium by a “Black man and woman.”  By then Evette had received threatening
anonymous notes. Ana had been beaten up and had called in help from Colombia to
catch her assailants rather than go to the police immediately. (Evette noted no bruises on the defendant during that overnight stay.)

As
they discussed who could be doing this to “them,” Ana offered up a name of a
colleague she claimed was jealous of her success. Stay tuned.

 

            

Leonard Zwelling