A Trial In Five Questions


Leonard Zwelling

         To summarize the first week of the Gonzalez-Angulo trial,
one only needs to ask whether or not the prosecution has met the burden of
proving beyond a reasonable doubt its version of the answers to five questions:






         The event needing explanation in this case is the near fatality of Dr. George Blumenschein that began with the events of January 27, 2013 with
his admission to the emergency room at The University of Texas MD Anderson
Cancer Center and subsequently his transfer to the hospital’s intensive care unit
where he was near death due to renal failure.

         So what have we learned so far and to what degree of

Who-The prosecution is
making the case that Dr. Blumenschein’s former lover, work colleague and the
current defendant, Dr. Ana Maria Gonzalez-Angulo, poisoned Dr. Blumenschein by
feeding him coffee laced with ethylene glycol on the morning of January 27.

Thus far, there is nothing
more than circumstantial evidence that this was by the defendant’s hand beyond
the fact that Dr. Blumenschein thinks it did and has so stated in court.

What-The prosecution says
that Dr. Blumenschein’s medical trauma was caused by ingested ethylene glycol.
The expert witnesses made a compelling case that this indeed occurred. I think
we can check off this box, yes. The prosecution chalks up this one thus far.

Where-The prosecution
insists this occurred at the defendant’s home on the morning of January 27 when
she gave the victim the coffee that he testified was “cloyingly sweet.” Thus
far, defense attempts to move the possible locale of the poisoning to other
sites in Houston (like the victim’s own abode that he shares with a live-in
girlfriend), the victim’s office at MD Anderson, or even San Diego on January
25 where Dr. Blumenschein was attending a meeting without the defendant have
not been very convincing to me. While not absolutely solid, another locus of
the crime scenario is very improbable.

When-This is a bone of
contention. The experts insisted that the only time line that fits scientific
understanding of the clinical toxicity of this substance has ingestion
occurring that day, not the day before when the victim flew back from a meeting
he had in San Diego the previous day. Again, I believe it is beyond a
reasonable doubt that the poisoning occurred on January 27. Another check for
the prosecution so far.

How-It’s the coffee,
stupid, but there is no evidence to support this other than the victim’s own
words. This will likely turn on whether or not the defense can convince at
least one juror of some other manner in which the victim was poisoned with

         In the coming days we are likely to hear the prosecution put
on witnesses who will support its theory of the crime and/or exclude all other
theories from the malevolent ghosts of girlfriends past to the scorned live-in
(Evette with an E although previously with a Y, don’t ask). We will probably
not hear about an incriminating coffee cup having been found with the toxin on
its bottom.

the defense will take center stage and undoubtedly try to undermine the
credibility of previous witnesses and paint pictures of alternative theories of
the crime so as to cause doubt in the minds of the jurors. I am anticipating some
cruel character assassination on the part of the defendant’s legal team and I
also think there will be others named among the victim’s sexual partners
including faculty and staff of Anderson and perhaps even drug (legal, not
illegal) industry people who do business with Anderson. Anything is possible
and my guess is that there will be a full frontal attack on the victim’s
rumored prolific sex life with multiple partners any one of whom could be the
jealous source of the antifreeze.

         Stay tuned. More to come after a word from our sponsor, but
not from MD Anderson which is remaining quiet on the matter under the guise
that the trial represents the private lives of people who happen to be employed
at Anderson and that the institution has no role in this court room despite a
host of its faculty serving as witnesses. That too may change if it comes out
in open court that the prodrome of the poisoning (a work environment of
discomfort among co-workers because of the relationship between the victim and
the defendant) was known on campus and no one did anything to prevent the
inevitable car crash despite at least two colleagues having tried. The
Watergate drone of “what did he know and when did he know it” (meaning the
supervisors of these two) may yet surface for both the damage to Dr.
Blumenschein’s kidneys and MD Anderson’s reputation might have been avoided.

         There’s a long way to go before the jury gets this case and
my guess is that the defense will do everything in its power to complicate the
issues to sow confusion in the minds of those jurors.

         That being said, at least at this point in time, the
prosecution has done a reasonable job in establishing its answers to the five

         But this is not the MCATs (although the parade of medical
doctors in this court room might make you wonder what these folks have been up
to) and there can be multiple answers that prove correct to being the Get Out
Of Jail card for the defendant.

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