Doctors’ and nurses’ testimony at trial contradicted their notes in Darlie’s medical record.
This accusation stems from the mistaken belief that nurses are free to chart opinion in a patient’s medical record. As anyone who has gone through nursing school will tell you, they cannot. If a nurse sees a patient crying, s/he may chart “patient is tearful at times,” but they are not supposed to opine as to whether the tears are genuine or contrived. The truth is, there were no contradictions, because their chart observations and their testimonies were two entirely different things. The medical personnel singled out for these false allegations are as follows:
Dr. Patrick Dillawn
Claim: On the stand, Dr. Dillawn was asked if he saw tears streaming down Darlie’s face. He responded, “At the end of my visit she did cry a little bit. She had a photograph of her children in her hand. And then she cried a little bit.” However, he described Darlie as “tearful” and “frightened” in his report.
Fact: There is no contradiction here, because these are two separate occurrences. The Admitting History and Physical report, below left, in which he described Darlie as tearful/frightened, referred to her arrival in the emergency room at 3:30 AM on 6/6/96. (The actual report was written at 9:10 a.m.) Dr. Dillawn’s testimony about his visit when she “cried a little bit,” below right, occurred eight hours later, at 11:30 AM on 6/6/96.
(Dr. Dillawn, Sec. 866 and nurse’s notes from 6/6 at 11:30 AM – “2 RN/ 1MD in attendance”)
It’s actually not surprising that Darlie was tearful/frightened when she reached the emergency room. Larry Byford, the paramedic who assisted Darlie in the ambulance, testified that she was anxious on the way to the hospital.
Byford: In route she acted anxious…it was, you know “How much further to the hospital? Are we there yet?” Things of that nature.
Davis: Okay. So she’s asking,”How much longer until you get me to the hospital”?
Byford: That’s correct.
(Larry Byford, Sec. 1547)
Since Darlie claims she already knew that Damon was dead and never asked about him in the ambulance, it’s safe to say that the anxiety and fear were for her own injuries. Supporting this argument is her comment on the 911 call, as her boys lay mortally wounded, “I feel really bad…I think I’m dying.” Although her injuries were minor, Darlie may have believed, due to the blood, that she’d inflicted her own cuts deeper than she had intended.
Claim: Christopher Wielgosz, the nurse who tended Darlie from 5 to 7 AM on 6/6, contradicted his own testimony. He said Darlie was awake and alert but, on the other hand, “she wasn’t speaking consistently.”
Fact: Wielgosz’s testimony that Darlie was awake, alert, and oriented is supported by everyone who saw and spoke to her that morning, including Phyllis Jackson, Jim Patterson and Chris Frosch. It is also reflected in Wielgosz’s focus notes. His statement on the stand that “she wasn’t speaking consistently” had nothing to do with her mental alertness. He was simply referring to the fact that she wasn’t talking constantly.
Shook: She was not just droning on and on, in her sleep?
Wielgosz: No, not at all. She’s wasn’t speaking consistently…it wasn’t a continuous dialogue.
Shook: She would just make these comments–
(Christopher Wielgosz, Sec. 917)
The purpose of this bogus contradiction is to imply that Darlie was “out of it,” and therefore her comments about obscuring fingerprints on the knife should not be taken seriously. But Darlie was not out of it. On the contrary, she was alert and very much in her right mind, even after Wielgosz gave her a small dose of pain medication before the police arrived.
Claim: Wielgosz’s testimony that Darlie had a flat affect was influenced by the other nurses, because they all stayed at the Holiday Inn during the trial and sometimes ate meals together.
Fact: Without coming right out and saying it, supporters are implying that the nurses conspired to send an innocent mother to death row. That is absurd. Chris Wielgosz had never even met the other nurses until they were called to testify. Toby Shook met with Wielgosz and the other medical personnel to show them photos of Darlie’s bruises. Understandably, he wanted to know if they had seen the bruises or signs of blunt trauma while Darlie was under their care.
Many people believe that it’s illegal for an attorney to prepare a witness ahead of time for the questions that will be asked in court. It is not. When time is limited, as it almost always is, witnesses may be prepared as a group. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, Doug Mulder commonly held group sessions when he was a prosecutor.
The nurses and doctors stayed at the Holiday Inn in Kerrville. Darlie and Darin’s families also stayed together in motels in Kerrville (the Y.O. Ranch Hotel and Inn of the Hills). In spite of Mulder’s constant reference to “dress rehearsals,” there is no evidence that the nurses were encouraged to be anything but truthful on the stand.
Mulder: Have y’all talked about your testimony?
Wielgosz: Actually, we have been instructed not to.
(Christopher Wielgosz, Sec. 947)
On the other hand, there is abundant evidence that defense witnesses not only discussed prior courtroom testimony, but altered their own testimony to benefit Darlie. Sherry Moses, Darlie’s aunt, testified for the defense.
Davis: You have talked with the family, you all have discussed the testimony, and as a matter of fact, you have talked with Sandy (Darin’s aunt), and she has been in this courtroom taking notes every day, so you know what’s been going on in here, don’t you?
Moses: Pretty much, yeah.
Davis: So you know that there has been a lot of testimony about bruises to the right arm of Darlie Lynn Routier, don’t you?
Moses: Yes, I do.
Davis: They told you what’s going on?
(Sherry Moses, Sec. 3815-3817)
David Rogers, who officiated at the boys’ funeral service, also testified for the defense. Not only did he and Darin know each other prior to the murders, but Rogers and Darin’s cousin, Randy Regan, were close friends. Pastor Rogers’ wife worked in Darin’s electronic business prior to the trial, and Rogers himself admitted to developing a very strong relationship with Darlie, having visited her more than fifty times in the Dallas jail.
Wallace: Have you been made privy to the notes the family is taking here or have you just heard about this?
Rogers: I know that it’s being done. I have not seen any of them.
Wallace: They told you what’s going on?
Rogers: Um-hum. Sure.
(David Rogers, Sec. 3864, 3865)
Claim: Jody Cotner downplayed Darlie’s emotional state, suggesting that she was not grieving as a mother normally would.
Fact: Cotner was well aware that individuals experience many emotions during times of trauma. She testified that “people who lose their children have a wide range of emotions and react somewhat differently.” The key word here is “somewhat.” As a nurse/trauma coordinator for 11 years, Jody Cotner had counseled many, many mothers who had lost their children. She’d seen it all, from hysterics to white knuckles. But something about Darlie’s reaction was off. It was like nothing she had ever observed before.
Shook: They react somewhat differently?
Cotner: Everybody is an individual, yes sir.
Shook: Okay. But they are all inconsolable?
Cotner: Mothers. Mothers are. It doesn’t matter if her kid is 3 or 53. You’re still their mother and they are inconsolable.
Shook: Have you ever seen the reaction that you were seeing in the defendant in any of your previous experiences?
Cotner: Not in my experience, no, sir.
(Jody Cotner, Sec. 1042, 1044)
Claim: Diane Hollon minimized Darlie’s expression of emotion during her hospital stay. However, a prior nurse’s brief notes regarding Darlie’s demeanor, approximately a half hour before Hollon received her, reported Darlie was “very emotional” and had “periods of crying/sobbing.”
Fact: Darlie’s supporters are implying that Diane Hollon lied on the stand because she didn’t observe the same reaction the previous nurse, who was with Darlie for only 30 minutes, had observed. But again, there is no contradiction. What the previous nurse observed and what Diane Hollon observed are two different things at two different times of the day. Diane Hollon could not chart or testify to something that she didn’t personally see. In no way did Hollon try to dispute the previous caregiver’s notes. Her testimony was simply that she (Hollon) did not observe sobbing during the 11 hours she spent with Darlie.
(Diane Hollon, Sec. 1093, 1145)
Claim: Campbell claimed that Darlie was not emotional and that she never saw a tear run down Darlie’s face. It was yet another odd claim since her notes indicated Darlie was “very tearful.” She never gave a plausible explanation about the contradiction between her notes and her testimony.
Fact: Much like Jody Cotner, Paige Campbell sensed something ‘off’ in Darlie’s emotions. Something not right. It wasn’t so much that Darlie’s flat affect was atypical. It was that when she did show emotion, it came across as not genuine – a manufactured moment, so to speak. Which is why Campbell testified that Darlie was “whining”; it appeared phony to her. She clarified, on cross exam, why she wrote “very tearful” in her notes rather than “whining”, and it supports the contention that nurses are not supposed to chart opinion.
Mosty: You chose the words ‘very tearful’ didn’t you?
Campbell: The reason why I chose the words “very tearful” is because I saw her whining. And if I say, “whining a lot” [in my notes] that gives a negative connotation to the patient.
(Paige Campbell, Sec. 1173-1174)
Paige Campbell’s testimony was probably also influenced by another factor. As noted in Statement #5, Darlie told nurse Campbell that the three scratches on her left hand came from fighting off the knife. This must have raised a huge red flag for Campbell, because those cuts do not resemble defensive wounds at all, particularly not from a large butcher knife.
Claim: Denise Faulk was another nurse at Baylor. She was with Darlie from the evening of the 6th until 7 AM the following morning. She testified that Darlie’s eyes got wet, but “never really saw tears go down her face.” However, in her notes she wrote, “Pt. tearful @ times.”
Fact: There is no contradiction between Faulk’s notes and her testimony. Describing someone as tearful can mean just what it says: tears in the eyes, but never enough to spill over onto the cheeks.
Shook: Did you see her cry some during the night when you were with her?
Faulk: Her eyes would get a little wet, but I never really saw tears go down her face.
(Denise Faulk, Sec 1210)
Interestingly, Denise Faulk was quite troubled by the discrepancies between Darlie’s story and her wounds. So troubled, in fact, that she made some personal notes, which she kept in a safety box in her apartment. Like so many others, Ms. Faulk sensed that Darlie’s story did not add up, and that her emotions were like nothing she had ever seen before.
It must be remembered that eight witnesses for the defense and one for the prosecution (James Patterson) testified that, in their opinion, Darlie was grieving appropriately. It was up to the jury to decide which witnesses were more credible than others. Their deliberations would have been strongly influenced by the totality of the evidence, as opposed to one isolated piece of evidence. Supporters suggest that if Darlie’s attorneys had called the nurse who noted “tearful/sobbing”, it would have made a difference in the outcome. But would it really? No. Darlie wasn’t convicted because of her behavior in the hospital or at the silly string party. She was convicted because the forensic evidence proved that she murdered her sons. The rest of it was just icing on the cake.