By SCOTT NORTH
It was traumatic injuries to the brain, not a progressive disease such as multiple sclerosis, that put Linda David in a wheelchair, slurred her speech and robbed her of her eyesight, one of the region’s top neurologists testified Tuesday.
Dr. Craig H. Smith, director of the regional Multiple Sclerosis Center at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, told a Snohomish County jury Linda David has a "shrunken brain," and that the medical evidence shows she likely received repeated traumatic injuries, starting as early as the late 1970s.
But the doctor was not allowed to testify about how he believed Linda David was hurt or whether he believed the trauma was somehow intentionally inflicted.
Smith testified as a prosecution witness in the second-degree assault trial of Victor David, 60, of Marysville. He’s charged with hiding his wife, Linda David, 52, away on a filthy sailboat where he allegedly battered her for years at waterfront locations from Tacoma to Everett.
Victor David was paid about $500 a month by the state Department of Social and Health Services to provide in-home care and chore services to his wife. He claimed she suffered from multiple sclerosis, a neurological condition in which the body’s immune system repeatedly attacks parts of the central nervous system, causing progressive damage.
But Smith said a thorough review of medical reports dating back to 1979 show no evidence that Linda David had ever been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, although some doctors included it as a possible explanation for some of her symptoms.
Moreover, he showed jurors brain scans of Linda David and a woman of similar age who has been diagnosed with MS. The woman with MS had distinct dots in her brain, which looked like bullet holes, which Smith explained were places where inflammation had left permanent damage.
Linda David’s brain, by contrast, had none of the dot-shaped damage.
"What I’m showing you now is somebody who has no evidence of MS," Smith testified. Instead, he said the scan showed somebody with "a shrunken brain that has been traumatized and beaten around."
That prompted an angry objection from Victor David’s attorney, Bryan Hershman of Tacoma. Twice on Tuesday he asked Judge Thomas Wynne to declare a mistrial, in part because of an earlier ruling in the day restricting Smith’s testimony regarding trauma.
Wynne had forbidden the doctor from discussing his opinions about how Linda David received the trauma he found. The judge’s ruling came after prosecutors failed to provide Hershman with sufficient documentation about Smith’s anticipated testimony.
Wynne declined to grant a mistrial, but he did instruct jurors to ignore the doctor’s comment about the cause of Linda David’s trauma.
The only exception the judge allowed was when Smith testified about hemorrhages found in Linda David’s eyes after she was removed from the sailboat in 1997. Jurors on Tuesday heard Smith and another doctor say that the injuries were only months old and were consistent with those seen when somebody has been punched in the eye.
Jurors have heard several witnesses describe how Linda David was emaciated, barely able to move and covered with filth and scars when she was removed from the sailboat. She testified Monday that her husband hit her and pushed her down, but that she still loved him.
The trial is expected to last into next week.