Closing Arguments Set to Begin Today in Twitchell Trial Prosecutor Ends Rebuttal by Questioning Christian Science Nurse and a Physician
Lawrence J. Goodrich, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor
AFTER two months of testimony, closing arguments are scheduled for today in the manslaughter trial of David and Ginger Twitchell.
Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Sandra Hamlin will then instruct the jury, which has been sequestered until it reaches a verdict. The judge's instructions on the complex legal issues involved could be crucial to the jury's decision.
The Twitchells, who are Christian Scientists, were charged because they relied on prayer instead of conventional medicine to treat their 2 1/2-year-old son, Robyn, during a five-day illness in 1986. The child died of what was later diagnosed as a bowel obstruction caused by a birth defect.
Special prosecutor John Kiernan spent most of last week finishing his rebuttal case.
A Christian Science nurse, Linda Blaisdell, earlier testified that she visited Robyn on the day before he died, but that he did not appear to be seriously ill. She stated that she kept a "chart" on what she observed or was told of the boy's condition. Mrs. Blaisdell turned the document over to the court two weeks ago.
Mr. Kiernan asserted, however, that more documents existed and that he had evidence a second Christian Science nurse had visited the child, and that this was "common knowledge" amoung Christian Scientists in the area.
Kiernan subpoenaed several people currently or previously associated with the Boston Christian Science Visiting Nurse Service, including Patricia Hughes, the service's chief nurse in 1986. He then questioned those subpoenaed in hearings without the jury present.
Defense counsels Rikki Klieman and Stephen Lyons objected that this constituted an improper attempt to gather new information after the prosecutor had rested his case. They also charged that Kiernan was launching an investigation into matters that had nothing to do with the Twitchells. …