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  • Jim Ferraro

Cross-Examining an Anxious Mother

Donna’s testimony in the Castillo-DuPont trial was difficult for her but necessary. And there was no doubt the entire courtroom was moved by her plight.

When I finished with my questions, the DuPont counsel Clem Glynn was ready to cross-examine Donna. I was hopeful he would be refined, though I knew he, too, had a job to do. I wasn’t sure Donna had it in her to meet him eye-to-eye. I hoped she did.

Glynn offered to give Donna a moment to compose herself before getting started. She refused, saying, “That’s okay. I’m fine.”

Glynn did his best to take Donna through her story of that November day and discredit every detail of her account of what had happened, from the path she walked to the blowing wind.

While she had been rock solid when I asked about the events of the day, she wavered a bit when Glynn questioned her. He was trying to confuse her or the jury.

Glynn drew his version of Donna’s route on a map for the jury to see, which didn’t quite match our map. It was close but not exact, which left some room for debate. In a courtroom, debate equals doubt.

In his cross-examination, Glynn got Donna to say she stood on the shoulder of the driveway for a couple of minutes watching the tractor as it continued to spray, and then specifically asked if she was there for two or three minutes, which is how she testified earlier.

Glynn persisted, asking Donna the same questions five or six times, repeating himself over and over until the judge finally called for a sidebar.

She was clearly annoyed with his tactic of trying to get the witness to misspeak. She laid down the law there and then, telling Glynn that he had the right to ask each question one time and then he had to move on to the next.

Admittedly, it had been a long day, and it was getting late. In fairness to the court and the jury, she was right; Glynn’s line of questioning was obnoxious at best, yet I didn’t object. I let the judge handle it on my behalf, which only looked better in the eyes of the jury.

Unable to fluster Donna to the point of breaking down, Glynn moved on from her story of what happened to her personal medical history.

While I realized this was a necessary evil, I felt it was hitting below the belt, so to speak. He had no tact when talking about her previous pregnancies, miscarriages and fertility issues, or even her husband’s sperm count.

The one blow Glynn did deliver was when he asked Donna if any doctor had told her, based on the chromosome testing that she and Juan had undergone, that they could rule out a genetic cause for John’s condition. I objected to the question but was overruled, and Donna was forced to answer.

“I have never asked a doctor that,” she said.

While we knew Johnny’s condition was not genetically based, this single question and answer certainly left an indelible mark on the jury. But how would Donna have known to ask such a question anyway?

It was up to my team to show the jury that Glynn and his team were wrong. Dead wrong.

In my next post, I recount my efforts to put into evidence about how the fungicide Benlate was used at Pine Island Farms.

You’ll find more details, as well as a full narrative of the preparations for the case and the trial itself, in my book, Blindsided, from which this post is adapted.


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