Dr. Geffner was a likable but ineffective witness for the defense. He spilled his water twice while on the witness stand, and apologized for burping out loud. He also was a bit disingenuous, which is another way of saying he engaged in deception. I’ll go into that deception later in this article.
Jennifer Willmott spent hours going over the minutia of Dr. Geffner’s achievements. She literally spent hours building up this witness. It was apparently her intention to show the jury that Dr. Geffner, his opinions and testimony, would be above reproach. However, prosecutor Martinez, when it was his turn, quickly showed that Dr. Geffner’s testimony in previous trials was not above reproach. In fact it had been reproached and discredited in several cases.
One judge, in a case in which Dr. Geffner had testified previously, said that Dr. Geffner was no more than a hired gun.
In another dramatic moment in the courtroom, prosecutor Martinez stated that a previous judge in yet a different case, had said that Dr. Geffner’s testimony was “completely without merit.” This is a nice way of saying that Dr. Geffner’s testimony was worthless. When asked by prosecutor Martinez if it were true that the judge had said his testimony was completely without merit, Dr. Geffner did not give in immediately. He responded that the judge had said that only part of his testimony was of no merit.
Juan Martinez was not satisfied with that answer and immediately brought a copy of the judge’s opinion up to the witness stand to refresh Dr. Geffner’s memory. Dr. Geffner read it, handed it back, prosecutor Martinez re-asks the question and Dr. Geffner now replies that the judge did say it was without merit.
The original question was if the judge had said that Dr. Geffner’s testimony was “completely” without merit. So when Dr. Geffner answers the last question by saying that the judge said it was without merit, he left out the “completely.” After a bit of bickering, prosecutor Martinez returned the court document to Dr. Geffner, pointed out the section that he wanted Dr. Geffner to reread and re-asked the question.
Dr. Geffner, now agrees, that indeed the judge did say that his testimony was “completely without merit.” The prosecutor then pointed out several other instances where previous judges, in written opinions, had reprimanded Dr. Geffner.
Now let’s return, to the disingenuous aspect of Dr. Geffner’s testimony. Dr. Geffner is a clinical psychologist. His doctorate is not in neuropsychology. Later in his career, he did receive some training in neuropsychology. He refers to himself as a clinical psychologist, a research psychologist, an expert in domestic violence, and a neuropsychologist.
There is a major difference between a neuropsychologist and a neurologist. A neurologist studies, treats and often operates on the brain. He or she is a medical doctor. He or she can and does prescribe medications.
The neuropsychologist studies the brain as much as is necessary to understand the psychological functioning of the brain. You can probably remember from the testimony of Dr. Samuels, it’s all about what part of the brain does what. If you want to know what part of the brain is important to enable a quarterback to throw a pass to a spot on the field where a wide receiver will be in a second or two (spatial relations), you can ask a neuropsychologist, they study those things.
If you want to know the impact that a high velocity bullet would have upon a living human brain, you ask a neurologist or a medical examiner, both of whom are medical doctors.
This is where the disingenuous part of Dr. Geffner’s testimony comes into play. He testified, that Travis, or for that matter anyone else who was shot in the frontal lobe, would not be incapacitated. Now don’t forget, the medical examiner had already testified that Travis would have been incapacitated within a second or two of having been shot– if he had been alive.
It all comes down to how “incapacitated” is defined. How would you define it? Probably the same way most people would but most certainly not the way the Dr. Geffner defined it.
It was almost ludicrous to hear Dr. Geffner talk about the effect of being shot in the head. He honestly made it sound as if, if you were shot in the head, if you wanted to, you could finish the movie you were watching on TV, and eat a quick sandwich before driving yourself to the hospital. After all that is exactly what the defense team needed. They needed the jury to believe that after Jodi shot Travis in the head, he could shout profanities at her, wrestle with her and thus make it necessary for her to stab him 29 times and also necessary for her to slit his throat from ear to ear.
However, that’s not what the medical examiner said. The M.E. said repeatedly, that Travis would be incapacitated, laying on the floor, in a state where he would be incapable of defending himself, incapable of getting up, incapable of walking.
This is where Dr. Geffner’s deception comes into play. Dr. Geffner is defining “incapacitated” in a different way, and he stated his definition in his testimony. He said that he was defining incapacitated as an inability to move your arms or legs. He also said that this inability would only occur if the motor centers of the brain, located in the rear of the brain, were destroyed.
If the motor centers are not destroyed, then one is not incapacitated. Thus he would not call someone in a deep coma, incapacitated. Now, someone in a deep coma cannot feed themselves, cannot threaten a nurse, cannot get up, cannot walk, cannot control their arms but Dr. Geffner would still not referred to them as incapacitated; after all, the motor centers of their brain are not destroyed.
He stated this very clearly in his testimony. He said, “this is how I am defining incapacitated.”
It is ludicrous to you, I, and the jury, to accept the definition of Dr. Geffner. He made it sound as if being shot in the front of the head was… really not too big a deal.
If you buy his testimony and you hear two gunshots in the backyard where your children are playing, look out the open window and see two bullet holes, one in each forehead of each child, you’d probably holler to the children “you two play nice now before somebody gets hurt.”
In a more perfect world, where humans like cats have nine lives, perhaps Dr. Geffner would have been willing to demonstrate to the jury the lack of incapacitation caused by a 25 caliber bullet, fired at close range. Demonstrations are allowed and frequently do occur in trials.
I am not suggesting that Dr. Geffner should shoot himself in the head with a 25 caliber bullet, because I know better. I would never want Dr. Geffner to demonstrate his theory by shooting himself because I think Dr. Geffner is wrong and I wouldn’t want him to be “dead” wrong. I don’t want him to demonstrate his theory and I don’t think he would do so, because I think I am right. Being shot in the head, is a big deal. It is most certainly “incapacitating” and very possibly deadly and at the very least crippling.
However, in the fictional courtroom of fantasy, if Dr. Geffner, in an attempt to prove that he is a man of strong conviction, dramatically pulls a 25 caliber pistol from his pocket, points it at his head and then pulls the trigger, I would sincerely hope that Dr. Geffner is right and I am wrong,
I would want no harm to come to this likeable man, even in the fictitious world of fantasy. But if the above fantasy were to occur, I would expect that to be the end of Dr. Geffner’s testimony for the day and perhaps forever.
Dr. Geffner in his attempt to please the defense team, did more harm to Jodi and no possible good for Jodi. To quote a previous judge “his testimony was completely without merit.”