THE prosecution in the manslaughter trial of Ginger and David Twitchell is expected to rest its case today after three weeks of testimony. The Twitchells, both Christian Scientists, were charged after their 2-1/2-year-old son, Robyn, died in 1986 of what was later diagnosed as a bowel obstruction caused by a birth defect. The Twitchells had relied on Christian Science prayer, rather than medical treatment, during the child's illness.
In testimony last week, Michael Dery of the state Department of Social Services said that when he visited the Twitchells a few days after Robyn died, he told them that any information they gave him would be confidential and would not be used in criminal proceedings. Mr. Dery told defense lawyer Rikki Klieman, however, that in serious cases the file is sent to the district attorney's office and that this was done in the Twitchells' case.
William Powers, an investigator for the Suffolk County district attorney, testified that the Twitchells were asked to visit the district attorney's office in June 1986. There, he said, they stated that after falling ill with flu-like symptoms on Thursday night April 3, Robyn appeared to improve Saturday, and his condition fluctuated Sunday and Monday. He appeared better on Tuesday, but that evening took a sudden turn for the worse and died.
Under cross-examination, Mr. Powers said that his notes from the meeting were created the following day by him, special prosecutor John Kiernan, and assistant district attorney Marcy Cass. Ms. Klieman says that Mr. Kiernan took notes at the meeting but has refused to let the defense see them. Klieman says Judge Sandra Hamlin compared these notes to Powers's report and found several ``discrepancies,'' but the judge refused to order Kiernan to show the notes to the defense.
Instead, Judge Hamlin gave Klieman photocopied excerpts from the notes, which Klieman used in questioning Powers. Klieman moved for a mistrial on grounds of the prosecutor's refusal to turn over the notes, but Hamlin denied the motion.
Nancy Calkins, the Christian Science practitioner who prayed for Robyn, returned to the stand and testified that out of ``hundreds'' of children she has treated, Robyn was the only one who had died. She also noted that Christian Science treatment is covered by most of the large health-insurance companies.
The most controversial testimony of the week was that of surprise witnesses Judi and Robert Delaney, who lived next door to the Twitchells when Robyn died. The couple claimed that ``moaning and screaming'' coming from the Twitchell residence the weekend before the death was so loud they had to close their window to sleep. They also alleged that Ginger Twitchell had mistreated her sons on several occasions.
Klieman later called the allegation ``ridiculous.'' In her cross-examination, Klieman noted that the couple waited until May 4, 1990, when they saw the opening arguments on TV news reports, to call the district attorney with these allegations. When asked why she did not make the allegations during a 1988 Washington Post interview, Mrs. Delaney said she did not remember what she had told the Post reporter. Klieman also challenged Mr. Delaney's claim to be aware of every single person who passed by his house all day long, which he said was proof of his recollection of the Twitchells' movements. Delaney said that Mr. Twitchell did not have a beard in 1986, but the jury has seen a photo of Twitchell and the two boys, taken a few days before Robyn died, which shows Twitchell with a beard.
The jury heard from Dr. Maurice Keenan, a Chestnut Hill, Mass., pediatrician, who said that based on his review of autopsy photos and other information, ``this child could have been saved with medical intervention.'' Dr. Keenan, who said Robyn must have been ``desperately ill,'' admitted under cross-examiniation, however, that he had not spoken to the Twitchells about Robyn's symptoms. He also said that while he had treated 125,000 children in 25 years, he had never seen a bowel obstruction caused by the birth defect diagnosed in the Twitchell child.