(Looking Back and Moving Forward – continued)
She said that she was so sorry, and felt bad even walking into our room. She knew that we were a loving couple with a beautiful baby and that we hadn’t abused her. I could have lost it at that moment, but I felt grateful for her. She was gentle and kind with us. But, honestly, I was still confused why she was even there. We were discharged immediately after she left.
We followed up with Dr. Key a few days later and this is where he dropped the bomb. When we had seen him for her well-baby checkup, he measured her head. Finding that it had grown very little since birth, he was concerned. He called her neurologist and discussed her latest CAT scan. Her neurologist assumed that she was being abused. Dr. Key told him he knows that that was not true but as a physician, he was legally responsible to report it. I was in tears at this point. Damon’s jaw had dropped open about two seconds into Dr. Key opening his mouth. Dr. Key was just heartbroken he had to do this. I can’t lie: it still hurt. He apologized then went on to explain the “bleeding on the brain” cat scans. Lizzy had a scan at birth. There were no issues and her brain look normal. Her late December 1999 scans showed a different brain; one that had shrunk and pulled blood vessels. Her brain at birth was swollen from the trauma. When the swelling had gone down, it caused bleeding from the pulling of the blood vessels. That was when she was diagnosed with microcephaly: a rare neurological condition in which the head is smaller than other normal heads.
April 12, 2005: The Day We Took the Stand
This was our day. The day the jury would be able to hear us. Hear our voice. I was terrified. Damon was too, but never showed it. Our attorney had specific instructions for when we were on the stand.
Speak clearly and speak to the people on the jury. Look into their eyes when we speak.
Sounded easy enough.
Damon was first. “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?” This was real. Hand on the Bible. He was asked many questions about Lizzy. Many questions about the night I was in labor. Questions about how life has been with a child like Lizzy. I looked at the jury at one point and saw the men crying. You could hear the sniffling, whimpering, and pulling tissue from the boxes. Damon broke a few times and that was hard to see. It wasn’t often that I saw this man cry. I saw his hurt. He was sad about Lizzy.
Summer 1999: That Would Be Great Too
We decided not to find out the sex of the baby. This was our first and we wanted to be surprised. We went to a new parent class at our local hospital and we were the only couple that didn’t know. Damon “just knew” it was going to be a boy. So much that he painted the baby room blue! At one point, I said, “There is a chance we are having a girl, D.” That was when he said, “I will do everything with a little girl that I can do with a little boy, so that would be great too.”
April 12, 2005: My Turn on the Stand
After our attorney finished with Damon, the defense just pounced. We had our depositions maybe two years before this. So for us to remember what we said and have the exact same answer was a bit difficult. They would ask him a question and then give him a copy of his deposition and ask for clarification. Then our attorney would object, and we would wait for the judge to discuss the answers with both attorneys at her bench. This kind of stuff ate up a lot of time. Over all, Damon was strong and I was proud of him. Being on the stand was difficult. I was about to learn that on my own.
I remember asking our attorney if I should bring the “book.” He said yes, take it up with you discretely. I walked up to the stand and was told to raise my right hand and place my left on the Bible. I set the “book” in my lap and looked at Damon. I started to weep a little. I felt alone up there. He saw that and shot me those warm eyes with a nod of “you got this babe.” I immediately felt less tense.
The very first thing was to show a video of Lizzy to the jurors. This was the first time they would put a face with a name. Lots of smiling through tears. Apparently, I was the witness they were really waiting for. I was her mom. I experienced everything. I carried her and gave birth to her. My testimony would be crucial.
After the video, my attorney started with some simple questions to get me warmed up and comfortable. I had a very hard time looking at the jurors. I couldn’t because of the crying. They were crying for us. For Lizzy. They were parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, sisters, and brothers. It was hard for them to sit and listen to this. Not being able to look at them, my attorney moved right in front of them so I was forced to “look” that way. I remember being up there for some time. His questions were easy to answer.
During the defenses’ opening statements, they immediately put abuse at the forefront. Calling our lawsuit a frivolous one. They wanted the jurors to know that my doctor that delivered Lizzy was well-respected in the community. She had a successful 25 years as an obstetrician/gynecologist with many healthy babies delivered. She sat with her attorneys every day and never looked at us. It’s not every day you get accused of abusing your precious baby girl. I know what abuse is and have experienced it first hand. We tried for years to have a baby and she was wanted and planned for. So I was ready for everyone in that courtroom to see the “book.”
April 2000: One Incident
I was playing a game of scrabble with my mother-in-law and had Lizzy in her car seat on the floor next to me. She was sleeping and I was going to wait until she woke up to take her out of it. While playing, I knocked off a pocket dictionary off the table and it fell on Lizzy.
This was the “book” I brought up to the stand.
She woke up and cried for 30 seconds and I rocked her back to sleep. I put her in her crib and that was the end of it. This book is part of a desk reference set that had 75 pages in it. It was a hardbound book. It was the smallest book in the set. Lizzy had no markings on her from it. I was honest about everything and made sure it was in my deposition.
April 12, 2005: The Book
Knowing that incident could not cause the kind of disability we were experiencing, I was not worried. However, I was worried about the jurors thinking this is what caused her to be the way she was. This was the reason for having it with me. When the defense attorney made his opening statement, he said that I purposely dropped a huge dictionary on her. I immediately strongly disliked him and the two women he had with him.
My attorney finally gets to the “book” and I get butterflies. He said “Lisa, you have been accused of dropping a huge and heavy dictionary on Lizzy. Do you have this huge book with you today?” I said, “Yes, sir.” He then asks me to hold up the book for everyone to see. So I hold it up and look at the jury. Lots of smiles, which made me feel good.
The defense had their time also. They scared me. They asked questions about her Medicaid and expected me to know all about it. All I know about Medicaid is that they were paying for all her medicines, doctor visits and therapies. They tried to trip me up, but the judge wouldn’t have it. My experience on that stand was like no other. I felt so many emotions while there. Anger, sadness, bitterness, hate, love, compassion, loneliness, and fear.
Then suddenly…we were finished. I was the last witness. It was their turn. The next day would be painful. It was the day they tried to convince the jury we abused Lizzy.
April 13, 2005: Day Four of the Trial
This day was going to be difficult to get through. My heart was beating out of my chest when I took my seat at the front. Damon was quiet that morning. The defense was going to make it look like we slapped her, banged her head against the wall, shook her, and all the other horror stories that I had heard before of abuse. I hate that they had the last “ups.” Whatever they said last, I felt, is what the jurors would remember. I was helpless.
They called an expert from a genetic center. I was familiar with this particular place because it was strongly suggested for me to receive counseling and testing from there. So for them to call someone from there was confusing. They have no records on us.