AUTHOR * WRITER * PATIENT ADVOCATE
THE DITHERING JUDGE AND THE SLEEPING JUROR
Having the opportunity to attend one of the bellwether trials ( Sanofi v Plaintiff - permanent alopecia from Taxotere) in New Orleans was too good to miss. I wanted to show my support for the plaintiff, Elizabeth Kahn, who was going through this for the second time.
I booked my six flights in total, a hotel close to the courthouse and packed my bag. Then, after realising it was too late to change my mind I sat down and had a chat with myself. All this traveling on my own was going to push me far out of my comfort zone and I couldn’t quite believe it was all booked! Then I thought about Elizabeth and tried to imagine how she was feeling. If she can do this, I can surely get on six planes!
My middle flight from Paris to Atlanta was delayed which meant I missed my last flight to New Orleans but thankfully there was another one a couple of hours later.
After collapsing into the hotel bed, my alarm was set, and I managed to get about four hours of sleep. Then it was up shower, breakfast, and off to court with jetlag. Part of my plan was to sit in the front row and not cover my head. Normally I don’t go out in public without my head covered so this was a big deal for me but it’s something I really wanted to do.
It was to show solidarity
A nice two-finger salute to Sanofi
I only need to hear the word ‘Sanofi’ to make my blood boil so what I was about to hear during this second week of the trial almost caused me to suffer spontaneous combustion!
You expect a judge will do their job and the jury will pay attention and do the right thing. Aren’t the jury supposed to put away their preconceived ideas? Isn’t that the whole point?
I’ve always believed that to be part of a jury is an honour and a personal test of character to put any judgemental thoughts away, while you focus on the facts and make a decision based on the facts alone. A decision that could affect someone’s life.
As with the first bellwether trial, it was to be the same federal judge in charge. According to Wikipedia Jane Triche Milazzo had been appointed by Barack Obama. How I wish I could erase that bit of info from my mind as it now saddens me. A lot.
As I entered the courtroom the morning of November 15th, 2021, and took a seat on the front row in the public gallery I spotted Elizabeth. How could I miss the signature Taxotere permanent hairstyle that thousands of us have been left abandoned with? Of course, I couldn’t help but notice the looks of surprise from the defense lawyers. I’m sure the fluorescent ceiling lights reflected off my scalp beautifully.
By the afternoon I’d already formed my opinion about judge Milazzo however I did try hard to keep an open mind which didn't change as the week went on! It was easy to see her lack of confidence, she appeared dithery and to be very frank, missing attributes I would imagine a judge should possess.
I couldn’t envisage how Judge Milazzo would handle any drama in her courtroom.
Some of the questioning/subjects included in today's session:
The Bradford Hill causation criteria
The use of the words ‘generally grows back’ in product labeling
Prostate cancer 3501 Study
The defense then started their cross-examination of the witness.
Mr Kahn was the next witness. My stomach churned and I immediately reached for a tissue, just in case. He was such a sweet character and it looked like the jury really warmed to him. At the end of his session, when asked how it had affected his wife, it all became too much for me, and I needed a box of tissues, not just one! I tried not to think about what my husband would say if asked the same question because it’s not just my life it has affected but my whole family and my poor friends who have had to put up with my rantings over the years. Try as I might I couldn’t stop the tidal wave of emotions.
Next up was statistician David Madigan with his warm Irish accent. The jury seemed transfixed to everything he said. He made everything sound fascinating. The cross-examination by the defense was a little embarrassing, to say the least, leaving the lawyer spluttering at times. They had nothing to catch David Madigan out on no matter how hard they tried, with Mr Madigan’s amazingly impressive CV and experience they stood no chance. He was a fantastic witness.
After the jury was dismissed for the day, the defense addressed the judge objecting to a comment made by Mr Kahn and asked for a mistrial! This stank of desperation. The judge said she would speak to them at 8 am the following morning and the trial was set to continue at 8.30.
The following day, Judge Milazzo announced the motion for a mistrial was denied.
I’d decided to sit on the front row on the Sanofi side. Why not!
During the day Elizabeth began to give her testimony. She was so strong and determined. I hope she is immensely proud of herself.
The defense team cross-examined her, trying to convince the jury that her hair had in fact grown back after chemotherapy had finished then had fallen out again due to aging! Bizarre. Really, you couldn’t make this s*** up! Even her own oncologist under cross-examination (on the Thursday) admitted that every year from the end of her chemotherapy her alopecia hadn’t resolved. And I think I’m correct in saying that was one of the defense witnesses! This was a video-recorded deposition.
The defense team bored everyone in the courtroom to death showing us photo after photo of Elizabeth on holiday with her husband smiling and looking happy. If you are reading this Elizabeth your photos weren’t boring but the intention in which they were being used was tiresome. We all know that we smile when we have our photos taken and even depressed people smile and can be ‘happy’ in the moment. A perfect example would have to be the late Robin Williams. Smiling and laughing doesn’t stop the torment constantly in your mind, eating away at your soul, affecting everything you do, taking away the spontaneity of life. But of course, Sanofi and their paid lackeys will stoop to any level, that’s one thing I’ve learned over the years.
At the start of Wednesday’s session, Judge Milazzo announced that she had dismissed one of the jurors! Why? Because they kept going to sleep. So, they were now down to seven jurors.
Some of the topics covered today:
The notebook belonging to Elizabeth
At this point, I had no idea if the trial would finish on Thursday. I had my flight booked for Friday afternoon so desperately wanted it to reach its verdict before I left this fabulous city!
Thursday morning’s session started off with a bit of unexpected and unwanted news. One of the jurors had been in a car accident near the courthouse. The juror wasn’t injured but they had to wait for the police to arrive and nobody seemed to know when this would be. Lawyers from both sides raised issues, dealing with things that didn’t need a jury to put this spare time to good use.
Then it was the video deposition of Elizabeth’s second oncologist after her first one had retired. They discussed Elizabeth’s medical file, diagnoses and treatment, and the chemotherapy trial she took part in. On all her appointment records each one stated her hair was ‘growing’ not ‘grown’ proving the point that her hair had NOT ever fully grown back, as the defense was saying. Really, how do these people sleep at night but there are always people who are willing to sell their souls to the devil.
I don’t want to use the wrong terminology here so basically it reached the part where each side addresses the jury. I overheard someone say the Judge had allowed the defense to go over their allotted time? If that's the case someone might like to buy the judge a stopwatch for the next trial.
The jury was given instructions and several questions by Judge Milazzo. Depending on how they answered the first question decides if they need to go on to answer the other questions.
The jury by now looked tired, fed-up, and bored so I can’t (or maybe I can) believe Judge Milazzo let the defense lawyer keep banging on about all they have to do is tick the ‘no’* box and they could forget the rest of the questions and get off home! How is this even allowed? This defense lawyer, Hildy Sastre from law firm Shook Hardy, Bacon, said this more than once. Shame on her.
If they ticked the other *box on the first question they would then have to carry on with the questions, reaching a unanimous decision for each one. This could have taken all night.
It was a massive disappointment when the jury quickly reached their verdict which went in favour of the unscrupulous defense.
My notes are currently scrambled, but as I’ve been asked by so many people for the details, I wanted to get this blog out as soon as possible. I have masses of notes which will be included in my next book. I wasn’t going to write a follow-up to Naked in the Wind - Chemo, Hair loss and Deceit but so much as happened in the last seven years and it needs to be told.
This battle might have been lost (will there be an appeal?) but the war is not over – by a very long way.
Elizabeth Kahn can hold her head up high, she stood up to the bullies and was victorious in that. Well done.
If Sanofi/lawyers are reading this please NEVER EVER underestimate the strength and determination of a woman. Ever.
*I believe I have the first question written correctly in my notes but it’s a possibility I wrote the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ the wrong way round. It will take me many weeks to get my notes all typed up and verified. The above are all my own observations and taken from my notes as I witnessed week two of this trial.
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