As you may have noted by my writing, I am not so much a fan of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program and the "vaccine court". Unjust, unlawful and rigged, that's why.
But when the call went out for people to attend the Cedillo hearing today, I thought, well if I am going to be so critical, at least I can show up for one day and see it with my own eyes.
I had fully expected to come today, watch the bias in action, and write something cynical. But something was different today, that I had not heard before. Allow me to share a bit of what happened, while I will leave the serious examination to the professionals in the coming days.
What was different today? The hearing was run by REAL JUDGES that ask real questions and seem to actually care about justice, fairness and getting to the heart of the science in question.
The Cedillo's lawyer complained to the court that the process was not a fair one, and among the complaints, that the testimony by UK experts, brought in by the DOJ, should not have been allowed in, because the actual data that would be used to check their opinions was not admitted into evidence so that the petitioners could effectively cross examine these government witnesses.
The three member panel of judges (well two of the three) actually put the DOJ in the hot seat and asked about the fairness of going to the UK to find these experts, with out telling the petitioners that they were going or inviting them along, not getting the data needed to back up their experts assertions, and repeated several times that this process was NOT supposed to be an adversarial one, as the DOJ was clearly operating as if it was.
And the DOJ did a lot of stammering, looking down at her notes, trying to change the subject, and finally agreed with one of the judges that there were problems with the way that they carried out the hearing. But claimed that it was justified, because DOJ didn't have enough time to get it right. Only four months. (How long does it take exactly to make a phone call to Theresa Cedillo to say, "hey... we are going to the UK to look for evidence to shoot down your case... wanna come?"?) One judges response... 'too bad'.
Two members of the court (the third seemed to be just taking up space waiting for retirement) were clearly troubled by the process, troubled by the double standard that the DOJ was using in making requests of the Special Master, and troubled by the responses of the DOJ.
And so was the court room. Twice during her testimony, the response to her answers to the judge was met with laughter from the gallery.
Will the case be sent back to the Special Master? Will the UK testimony be thrown out so that the O'Leary Lab results of persistent measles strain infection in Michelle will stand unaccosted? Will the Zimmerman text book which was disallowed into evidence because of a deadline be allowed to be introduced? Will all the new research that has come to light in the last three years be allowed to be included in Michelle's case? One judge was very concerned with the earnest consideration of "monthly/weekly" new understanding in science of brain behavior. Might she send the case back to the special master with instructions to open the case up to new evidence? We can only wait and see my friends. It may take a month or two.
Ultimately, it was good to hear judges that were real judges, and actually concerned about real ethics and real law, make their voices heard in this arena. Which of course confirms my opinion that the sham of the "vaccine court" should be put to bed and vaccine litigation should be heard by real officers of the court who respect the rule of law rather than a band of (poor) cover up artists trying to make it look like they are actually practicing reason and law. Let's hope the Supreme Court agrees in the fall.
The audio of the hearing can be found here: http://oralarguments.cafc.uscourts.gov/mp3/2010-5004.mp3
Following the hearing, members of our community met to have lunch and talk about the issues. Interviews with many of the attendees, and from EBCALA members, were taped following the hearing will be airing on Autism One Radio. I will post a link when it is up.
For now, pray for Michelle. She and her parents did not attend the hearing today because Michelle's health has deteriorated. Among other struggles she has experienced multiple seizures in the last few days.
At the heart of this case that decides do much, let's not forget that this is about the life and health of a beloved girl. Michelle Cedillo.
UPDATE: Here's a question. Why were Merck's lawyers at the Cedillo appeal?