By Samantha Bailey-Loomis
Students at Branford High School recently got a taste of the Connecticut Appellate court. Three judges: F. Herbert Gruendel (former BHS principal), Robert E. Beach, and Richard A. Robinson heard two cases- one which was a civil case and the other, a criminal case.
The cases were held in the school auditorium last week.
The first case, Robin Mulcahy v. Gary E. Hartell, was the civil case about a woman who has had breast cancer, and was in a significant amount of pain from her chemotherapy treatment. To alleviate her pain, she turned to a chiropractor, Dr. Hartell, for acupuncture. She later contracted an infection on her head in between her eyebrows.
Ms.Mulcahy’s lawyer explained how she had cellulitis between her eyes, being caused by improper sterilization before/after the acupuncture procedure. In response to the plaintiff’s appeal, the judges responded with a hypothetical question about a woman who had been in a car accident and then went to play in a soccer game- did the woman break her leg in the car accident, or during her soccer game?
Both lawyers, on their toes, took this hypothetical into consideration, and frantically conducted rebuttals as the case continued. The defense lawyer for Dr.Hartell claimed that Ms.Mulcahy was at fault for her own infection. “The chance that the bacteria was introduced through Dr.Hartell’s procedure is so slight, it’s unreasonable” said the defense lawyer. The court concluded, for now, that, without sufficient proof, the court “cannot just simply assume that someone” on either side of the case, “was negligent.”
The second case, State v. Christopher Doyle, was a criminal case where Doyle was suspected to be under the influence while he struck and critically injured a pedestrian on his lawn. Doyle, the defendant, in his early twenties, has had multiple DUI offenses before this one instance, where police suspected that Doyle was driving under the influence. Doyle’s defense lawyer gave his case that “Mr. Doyle felt as if he was illegally seized by the police” at the scene of the incident.
The plaintiff, representing the state of Connecticut, explained how Doyle gave consent multiple times. “Although this case isn’t about consent”, she said “doesn’t consent imply that the defendant was willing to stick around on the scene?” When asked to sign a consent form, Doyle, being twenty four and college educated, asked no questions concerning the consent form he continued to sign.
The defendant, out of words, stuttering, and apparently nervous pleaded that the judges agree that Doyle was being retained by the police. The judges responded they could not comply with the opinion of the defendant. Running out of time, the defendant sat down, and the court session was soon dismissed.
A well behaved, intrigued, student audience stood up uniformly as the judges exited the premises. The lawyers answered a series of questions from the students.
After a year’s worth of work by staff, administration, and advisors, the Appellate Court left Branford High School leaving a great portion of its student body curious, interested, and even informed.