Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Twitchell on Stand in Christian Science Case

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Twitchell on Stand in Christian Science Case

Article excerpt

DAVID TWITCHELL took the stand for three days of often-emotional testimony last week as the defense began presenting its case in the manslaughter trial of Mr. Twitchell and his wife, Ginger.

The couple, both Christian Scientists, are charged in the 1986 death of their 2-1/2 year-old son, Robyn, because they chose to treat him with Christian Science prayer rather than medicine. An autopsy determined the cause of death to be a bowel obstruction derived from a birth defect.

Special prosecutor John Kiernan has presented evidence from medical experts who testified that, although they never saw the child during his illness or talked to the parents about the case, the child must have suffered greatly over the five-day period he was sick and that the seriousness of his illness would have been obvious.

Questioned by defense counsel Rikki Klieman, Twitchell said Robyn awoke Friday morning, April 4, with flu-like symptoms similar to those his brother had a week earlier. The couple called a Christian Science practitioner to pray for Robyn.

After the practitioner came to see the child Saturday, Twitchell said, Robyn appeared "quite good. He interacted with the family normally." That evening the couple went out to celebrate their wedding anniversary and left the children with friends, Barry and Susan Wills. When they returned, Twitchell said, "Robyn appeared fine," although the Wills reported that the child had "spit up" once and not eaten much.

Mr. and Mrs. Wills also took the stand this week to corroborate Saturday's events and Robyn's condition. Under cross-examination, both testified that they had not seen the child after Saturday evening.

Twitchell identified a photo of himself sitting at the kitchen table with the two boys as one taken by Mrs. Twitchell after the family returned home from the Wills's. Robyn does not appear ill in the photo. …

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