Thursday, June 3, 2010

Student Was Not Burned, According To Medical Expert

The following testimony took place between 10:34 a.m.—11:21 a.m. on 6/02/10.

The parents of Zachary Dennis were concerned enough to take pictures of their son’s arm but not concerned enough to take him to the doctor. In the experience of Dr Patrick Johnston, parents who react in that way are looking to sue someone.

It wasn’t until months after the situation occurred, in which Stephen and Jennifer Dennis say their son was burned in science class, that they made a big deal out of the matter. The Dennises followed up with a lawsuit but no doctor ever saw the alleged burn.

Johnston, a family practice physician, was brought as an expert witness for the defense of eighth grade science teacher John Freshwater during Wednesday’s hearing. (The hearing is regarding whether Freshwater will be retained as a teacher and is separate from the lawsuit filed by the Dennises against Freshwater.)

(The John Freshwater hearing is taking place at the Mount Vernon Board of Education offices.)

Second-degree burn

Dr. David Levy, an expert witness brought by the school board’s attorney, previously testified that the photos of Zachary Dennis showed a “superficial second-degree burn.”

Johnston did not find it credible that Dennis had a second-degree burn. A second-degree burn caused by electricity would cause excruciating pain, Johnston said.

A student, Corbin Douglas Heck, previously testified that Dennis laughed when the spark from the Tesla coil was run across Dennis’ arm during the classroom demonstration.

Unless Dennis is a Navy Seal trained in torture techniques, there is no way he would have been able to withstand the “burning” without pulling away, Johnston said.

The fact that no other students reported being burned—Freshwater had done the demonstration throughout the years on hundreds of students as had other teachers—rules out that the mark shown in the photos was a burn, Johnston said.

An electrical burn that happened quickly would not create the skatttered spots that are depicted in the photo in addition to the lines, Johnston said.

Johnston said that Dennis probably had a skin condition.

Medical history

Knowing the medical history of the child is crucial to making a diagnosis, Johnston said. He could not make a proper determination of the cause of the marks by just looking at the photos. Johnston said that there could be a hundred explanations.

Johnston explained that some people get a reaction from friction on their skin—the marks could have even been created by a rash from running a tongue suppressor across the arm.

Johnston said that he would suspect the parents of negligence if the child had a second degree burn but they did not take the child to see a doctor.

Radio interview with Freshwater

Johnston also testified as a fact witness in addition to testifying as an expert witness.

On April 25, 2009, Johnston had interviewed Freshwater on the radio program Right Remedy that at the time Johnston hosted. School board attorney David Millstone previously played a recording of that interview in the hearing and asked Freshwater several questions about it.

Johnston testified that the “LEGO demonstration,” which was discussed in the interview, was something that he learned about before talking with Freshwater. In the research Johnston had done, he thought that Freshwater had used the LEGO bricks in class as a rebuttal to evolution.

Johnston said he found out during the interview that it was a student and not Freshwater who did the demonstration with the LEGO bricks.

Dumping LEGO bricks out on a table, Johnston said, could be evidence for or against a “starship” forming by chance. He said that it might depend on how many billions of times the LEGO bricks were dumped out onto the table.

For more information, see the affidavit of Johnston ( 531.87 KB PDF).

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