Prosecution Cross-Examines David Twitchell on Care Chosen for Son Who Died
Judge refuses to allow the testimony of defense tax expert; says evidence of deduction for spiritual care would mislead. CHRISTIAN SCIENTISTS' TRIAL
THE defense today begins its third week of testimony in the manslaughter trial of Ginger and David Twitchell. The couple are on trial for the 1986 death of their 2-1/2 year-old son, Robyn. The couple turned to Christian Science prayer instead of medicine to treat the child, who died of what was later diagnosed as a bowel obstruction caused by a birth defect.
Special prosecutor John Kiernan cross-examined Mr. Twitchell for almost two days last week. Mr. Kiernan asked him if he wished he had turned to medical care for Robyn. ``I wish my child had lived,'' he said. ``If medical care could have saved him, I wish I had turned to medicine.''
Asked if that meant he had made a mistake, Twitchell replied, ``I did not ... because it is not sure that medical science could have saved him.'' He said the couple never ruled out medical care, but stuck with spiritual treatment because Robyn improved, and they thought it was working.
Twitchell denied telling investigators that the child had been doubled up in pain and thrown up continuously during his five-day illness. He said he did not call a doctor while a Christian Science practitioner was praying for Robyn because his religion teaches that it is counterproductive to combine the two forms of treatment.
``Isn't it true you didn't call a doctor because you wanted to maintain your spiritual purity?'' Kiernan asserted at another point. ``Absolutely not,'' Twitchell replied.
Kiernan hammered at Twitchell over trips to the dentist. He holds that those visits, along with Mrs. Twitchell's glasses and her resort to midwives and doctors during childbirth, show the couple got medical treatment for themselves while denying it to Robyn. Twitchell said that he had gone to the dentist only when he failed to heal his dental problems through prayer after several months, and that his wife accepted treatment from midwives and doctors during childbirth because the couple believed state laws required it.
Also testifying last week was Linda Blaisdell, a former Christian Science nurse who visited Robyn the day before he died. Mrs. Blaisdell said that when she arrived, the child appeared drowsy and ill, but that he perked up when she gave him a bath, and later ran after his mother when she went to answer the telephone.
Blaisdell's testimony contradicts that of prosecution medical experts, who hypothesized that Robyn would have been gravely ill and nearly comatose on Monday.