Defense witness says no PTSD for Johnson accuser

2013-02-28T12:42:00Z 2013-03-19T20:15:50Z Defense witness says no PTSD for Johnson accuserGWEN FLORIO Missoulian The Billings Gazette
February 28, 2013 12:42 pm  • 

MISSOULA — Doctors dueled over a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder Thursday during the final day of testimony in the rape trial of former University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson.

One physician, a paid expert witness for the defense, reviewed the counseling and medical records from UM’s Curry Health Center of the woman who says Johnson raped her on Feb. 4, 2012. Nothing in those records supported the PTSD diagnosis of one of the four people who treated her there, Dr. William Stratford testified.

“While there were some symptoms for sure — she was crying, she felt particularly low — the criteria for PTSD were not met in a way that would match this book,” said Stratford, brandishing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that’s the standard for such diagnoses.

But one of those four who treated the woman at UM, Curry’s Dr. David Bell, testified Thursday afternoon as a rebuttal witness for the prosecution that although he never wrote down PTSD as a diagnosis, the woman met all the criteria for the disorder.

“Viewed in totality,” Bell said, referring to the records of all four people who treated the woman over several months last year, “there’s documentation … that she met all of the criteria for PTSD.”

Both physicians testified that sexual assault is a leading cause of PTSD in women.

Johnson, who testified Monday and again Wednesday, maintains that he and the woman had consensual sex as they watched a movie at her house. He faces a charge of sexual intercourse without consent, which carries a maximum sentence of 100 years to life in prison.

On Friday, after closing arguments and Missoula District Court Judge Karen Townsend’s instructions to jurors, the seven-woman, five-man jury will begin deliberations.

Much of Thursday morning’s testimony focused on the PTSD diagnosis by Drew Colling, a counselor who treated the woman at UM’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center.

Colling, who also testified during the trial, was the third UM counselor to treat the woman. Neither of the other two, nor Bell, diagnosed PTSD. However, the other two counselors saw her within 30 days of the incident. One criterion for PTSD is that its effects linger beyond 30 days.

That said, Colling’s diagnosis did not include enough of the other criteria for PTSD, Stratford testified.

They did, however, point to an anxiety disorder, which is what the other counselors and Bell mentioned in their reports, he said.

Prosecuting attorney Adam Duerk referenced the reports by Bell and the other counselors, asking Stratford on cross-examination whether those other criteria for PTSD were found in the reports.

Yes, said Stratford — although those criteria also applied to other conditions, such as depression.

“If you make me look at the whole record, that (PTSD) criteria is met. But it’s also consistent with sadness,” he said.

Bell had testified that listing the woman’s disorder as unspecified anxiety was more a coding issue. Such codes are largely used for insurance purposes, he said.

Still, Paoli pointed out on cross-examination, “You thought about PTSD, and you thought about PTSD-type things, and you chose not to enter that code.”

When prosecuting attorney Adam Duerk questioned Bell, he posed the following: “Regardless of how we label (the woman’s) problems with emotional distress, was she suffering from emotional distress?”

“Yes.”

“What was the basis?”

“My understanding was that it was sexual assault,” Bell said.

Defense attorney David Paoli raised his voice when cross-examining Bell about that statement, pointing out that Bell was relying on the woman’s own report that she’d been sexually assaulted.

“You don’t know the cause, do you?” he said.

“I don’t know the cause,” Bell said.

Paoli called Stratford back onto the stand as a rebuttal witness after Bell’s testimony. Stratford said he’d watched that testimony, and that it left him “a little fired up.”

“He cannot tell you what caused anything,” Stratford said.

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