Winkler County Nurse Anne Mitchell is not guilty, not guilty, not guilty, not guilty!

Well, that didn't take long, at least not once the trial ended.

It's good to see the jury act with such alacrity to find Anne Mitchell not guilty and send a strong message to the hapless Dr. Rolando Arafiles and his errand boy Sheriff Robert L. Roberts, who spent more effort tracking down a nurse doing her duty than I bet he spends tracking down thieves and murderers, as well as the equally clueless County Attorney Scott Tidwell. It's good to see that justice was finally done in the end, but it's absolutely horrifying that it took so many months for it to happen. This is a prosecution that never should have happened, clearly the result of incestuous relationships among some good ol' boys in business together coupled with the utter lack of oversight and spinelessness of the administration of Winkler County Hospital.

I'm guessing that it was pretty clear that Mitchell would be acquitted after this:

On Wednesday, Anne's attorneys began her defense and called several witnesses to testify. The first was a nurse practitioner who had worked at the Winkler County Rural Health Clinic and left because of her concerns that issues relating to the care provided by Dr. Arafiles had not been addressed. She had also filed a complaint against Dr. Arafiles with the TMB at the same time as Anne and Vicki (all worked together). The NP testified that she has subsequently filed a second complaint. She testified that Anne was motivated only by her concern for patients. The second witness was an LVN, who testified about her concerns regarding Dr. Arafiles' work at the clinic. She also left because of those concerns and the stress they were causing her. The Defense called the Winkler County judge (not the trial judge) testified that she knew Anne and Anne had discussed her concerns about Dr. Arafiles. The judge said Anne's motive was patient concern. Lolly Lockhart, RN, testified as an expert witness on a nurse's duty. Dr. Pham, Chief of Staff at Winkler County Memorial Hospital, testified about concerns about Dr. Arafiles' care. He also testified that Anne was concerned about patient care and that Anne is a good nurse.

Thursday morning, the defense called a medical expert, who testified that he had reviewed the five cases cited in the complaint to TMB and found substandard care. The Defense has rested. Next, the charge will be read to the jury, the Prosecution and Defense will give their closing arguments, and the jury will begin deliberation.

As I said, this was an open-and-shut case that should never have made it to a jury, and the rapidity with which the jury ruled only serves to emphasize that point. I can only hope that the civil lawsuit brought against Winkler County Hospital, Sheriff Roberts, Dr. Arafiles, and County Attorney Tidwell goes forward and teaches these good ol' boys a lesson about abuse of public trust, failure to discipline bad doctors, and trying to punish a nurse for doing her duty in reporting questionable care delivered by the doctors that oversee her. Anne Mitchell and Vickilyn Galle lost their jobs, their livelihood, a whole lot of money, and Mitchell lived for months in fear of going to jail for up to ten years because of Tidwell's malicious, unethical, and possibly illegal prosecution. The hospital and the public officials who so egregiously abused their public trust need to pay.

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While I'm at it blogging about the trial of Anne Mitchell, the nurse who is being maliciously prosecuted for having reported a doctor who hawks serious woo in the form of colloidal silver for H1N1 and who also happens to be buddies with the County Sheriff, I thought it would be worthwhile to post…
About five months ago, I blogged about a true miscarriage of justice, the sort of thing that should never, ever happen. In brief, it was the story of two nurses who, disturbed at how a local doctor was peddling his dubious "herbal" concoctions in the emergency room of the local hospital when he…
Remember the case of the Winkler County nurses? This is the story of two nurses who blew the whistle on a bad doctor, a quack even, in my opinion. As a result they faced the very real possibility of jail time. And not just jail time, but serious jail time, up to ten years. I first wrote about this…
Well, well, well, well. I should have know that sooner or later a certain group would weigh in on the trial of Anne Mitchell, RN, whose malicious prosecution is a result of a doctor who peddles woo using his connection with Boss Hogg Winkler County Sheriff Robert L. Roberts to find out who had…

I just read the article in the NY Times about the acquittal. Finally, commonsense prevails in Texas!

This is very, very good news!!! The Woos are hoooed!

http://drjshousecalls.blogspot.com/2010/02/whistle-blowing-texas-nurse-…

Medical Boards are notoriously slow in acting to STOP bad doctors. Generally, they slap hands behind the scenes unless patients die . . . or survivors sue:

http://drjshousecalls.blogspot.com/2008/08/well-now-i-guess-i-dont-have…

http://drjshousecalls.blogspot.com/2007/10/maggie-lewis-how-north-carol…

HOORAY!!! I really really really needed some good news today. That helped a lot.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 11 Feb 2010 #permalink

@James Sweet
They are probably going to say something similar.

Regardless, I am happy. For a moment, I was pessimistic, but forgot to take into account how weaksauce the accusation was.

Maybe, since Ms. Mitchell is currently out of work, she should consider moving to Winkler County and running for sheriff.

Seriously, it's great to see the jury get it right, despite major failings in other parts of the legal system.

Did everyone notice that one of the defense witnesses was the Winkler County JUDGE. No wonder they had to have the trial in another county.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 11 Feb 2010 #permalink

@MA #8: And not just a judge, but THE judge, implying there is only one in the county.

I had assumed that the venue was switched because the DA or defense attorney (or both) reasonably believed that they couldn't find an unbiased jury in that county. It's easy to see why most people would be disqualified from the jury when the case involves the only hospital in the county. But when the county judge has to recuse himself because he is a witness for the defense in the case, that really amps up the "what were they thinking" quotient on the sheriff and DA. The old boy network works because it normally (1) includes everybody in a position of power and (2) presents a unified front against anybody who isn't part of the network. Here, either the judge wasn't part of the network to begin with or he was split off at some point.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 11 Feb 2010 #permalink

@9 -- Naturaly the County Judge isnt part of the old boy network. She's not a boy.

Eric @9 The Winkler county judge would have required extensive surgery to qualify as an old "boy". :)

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 11 Feb 2010 #permalink

Adds a tag to this article: suddenoutbreakofcommonsense

I would feel better about the outcome of the presumably upcoming lawsuit if the defendants themselves were required to pay up. But in most cases like this, the city, county or state does the paying. I'd guess that the best we can hope for is that a few of these guys lose their jobs. I think that when a public servant tries to ruin a person's life, the burden should fall first on the guilty parties, and then on their employers.

By John Swindle (not verified) on 11 Feb 2010 #permalink

@10 and 11: It's sad to say so, but that explains a lot... this being West Texas.

Just think! If their Good Ol' Boy network would just discard the misogyny, they might have gotten away with it!

Wonderful news!

I hope she wins whatever suit she has filed against the county as well! I hope the sheriff is recalled or whatever you do to get rid of a corrupt sheriff.

I'm glad this story made the NY Times--at least Anne will have clippings to attach to her resume to show that her "record" was no fault of her own. Hopefully, the whole thing will be expunged.

Now hopefully they will get on with pulling this goober's license once and for all.

You know, while people are complaining (rightfully) about the doctor and the sheriff, shouldn't we also be asking, what was the DA thinking, bringing this to trial? Wouldn't he be more than complicit? I mean, he's a lawyer. Shouldn't he be saying, "This doesn't have a snowball's chance, I'm not wasting my time or the people's money"?

I mean, he couldn't seriously think they were going to convict, did he?

Wow, imagine that, the entire jury was composed of Big Pharma shills...

That just comes to show how big the conspiracy is. It's soooo big that the only people who are not in on it are Mike Adams and the AoA bloggers.

On the matter of the County Judge, in Texas the elected head of a county's Commissioners Court (the county board essentially) is given the title Judge. The job isexecutive/legislative really. The judge technically does have some limited judicial power, but it is very rarely used.

Great news, but at the risk of buzzkilling:

In the grand scheme, things are still worse than they started out.

Dr. Arafilis is still practicing, which means he's still likely doing the same things that started this whole mess (i.e. no change)

Anne Mitchell is now unemployed (change for the worse).

"I can only hope that the civil lawsuit brought against Winkler County Hospital, Sheriff Roberts, Dr. Arafiles, and County Attorney Tidwell goes forward and teaches these good ol' boys a lesson about abuse of public trust, failure to discipline bad doctors, and trying to punish a nurse for doing her duty in reporting questionable care delivered by the doctors that oversee her."

Please keep us up to date.

Thank Cthulu that this woman had some common sense setting in the Juror box, and that they could see through this small town BS. Although not to this extent, I've had to live through small town BS at the start of my career, and was a victim of being outside the good-ol-boy network while trying to change things to be better (and within the guidelines of the Tennessee Legal Code!). I hope Mitchell's civil suit grinds this quack into the ground.

@John Swindle, #14 - Mitchell and her fellow nurses have a lawsuit against both the Sherriff and the Doctor in question for wrongful persecution and abuse of power that was on hold pending the end of the trial - a lawsuit that will now go ahead.

I usually hesitate to speculate on what an American Jury will do once given the case, but I do note that more times than not they have done the right thing and brought in a just verdict.

I will not be happy until Nurse Mitchell is gainfully employed and a big spotlight is turned on Dr. Arafiles.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 11 Feb 2010 #permalink

Anotehr lesson to be learned is don't dis Texas juries. They might have some jerks in official positions but you can't extrapolate that to "all Texans are stupid" obviously the jury was very able.

Don't mess with Texas.

The first was a nurse practitioner who had worked at the Winkler County Rural Health Clinic and left because of her concerns that issues relating to the care provided by Dr. Arafiles had not been addressed. She had also filed a complaint against Dr. Arafiles with the TMB at the same time as Anne and Vicki (all worked together).

Weren't these nurse witnesses afraid that the sheriff might go after them too? Or did they get immunity for testifying?

Or maybe the sheriff going after them too would be so monumentally stupid that there was no chance that he'd do it.

By Matthew Cline (not verified) on 11 Feb 2010 #permalink

This from the New York Times explains why the the county attorney went ahead with the trial.

The case was investigated by Sheriff Robert L. Roberts Jr., a friend and admiring patient of Dr. Arafiles, and tried by the county attorney, Scott M. Tidwell, a political ally of the sheriff and, according to testimony, Dr. Arafilesâs personal lawyer.

Colour me unsurprised if it turns out that Tidmwell is involved in Arifiles' woo juice multi-level marketing scheme as well.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 11 Feb 2010 #permalink

Wow, I knew about the personal link between Dr. Arafiles and the Sheriff but this news about Tidwell is good. It just gets better and better. I wonder if the alties will complain about these conflicts of interest. I keep forgetting they only matter when you disagree with someone.

Jane Orient, queen of medicine's lunatic fringe, was quoted defending Arafiles. Is there a ridiculous position she won't take? This is getting to be self-parody.

An opponent of "Western" medicine with a name like Jane Orient has a head start on self-parody before she opens her mouth.

By Militant Agnostic (not verified) on 11 Feb 2010 #permalink

... and tried by the county attorney, Scott M. Tidwell, ... according to testimony, Dr. Arafilesâs personal lawyer.

Whoa! Wouldn't a conflict of interest like the prevent him from participating?

By Matthew Cline (not verified) on 11 Feb 2010 #permalink

This really strikes me more of an issue about local small-town corruption than anything else.

"egregiously abused their public trust need to pay."

damn right they do.

Excellent news!

I hope that having succeeded in this first step to obtaining justice they continue to pursue the case until they are compensated and those responsible for persecuting them are brought to justice.

At this point, Winker County should be thinking 'settlement' on the civil suit. I doubt they do much thinking generally but hope springs eternal.

If I lived in Winkler County, I'd be pretty unhappy that Arafiles' business partner and Arafiles' personal lawyer used my tax money to pursue Arafiles' vendetta against an innocent person. I hope that both of those people will soon be discharged from their current positions (sheriff and prosecutor).

tried by the county attorney, Scott M. Tidwell, a political ally of the sheriff and, according to testimony, Dr. Arafilesâs personal lawyer

I don't know how things work in Texas, but even a non-lawyer like me knows that in most states lawyers routinely get into trouble for conflicts of interest like this. And by trouble I mean potential disbarment. Somebody should bring this tidbit to the attention of the Texas Bar Association. I'd expect them to take a dim view.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 12 Feb 2010 #permalink

Ben@33:

This really strikes me more of an issue about local small-town corruption than anything else.

There's definitely a lot of that at play here, but this is unfortunately not a unique situation. Small-town politics let the guilty parties take it much farther than they could in a big city, but there are too many doctors who are not held accountable. They get away with substandard care for a variety of reasons. Most folks don't blow the whistle at all (like the nurses who quit rather than continue to put up with this guy's incompetence), and those who do usually see a lackluster or absent reaction -- or, in extreme cases, they get a backlash. Usually the backlash stays within their place of employment, though Dr Arafiles' connections to the local political scene let him take it to quite an extreme.

Consider the case of a pediatrician who was recently in the news for sexually assaulting his young patients. The abuse had been going on for *years* and there had been plenty of warning signs. That guy's behavior was demonstrably worse than Dr Arafiles, of course, but that only makes it more shocking that it went on for so long. Complaints to his state medical board went largely uninvestigated. It was a criminal case that finally got him put away for the child rapist that he really was. I mean jeez -- if there was a doctor getting away with raping his patients for years, you have to wonder what other doctors are getting away with.

So this isn't just about small-town politics. This is symptomatic of a much larger problem, where doctors get away with substandard care, unethical behavior, and outright fraud for very long periods of time because nobody seems to hold them accountable until forced to do so. The main problem is that we have this social perception that doctors are beyond reproach. They are the ultimate trustworthy source. Right? Wrong. They are humans, same as you and me. The only real difference is that we count on them for matters of life and death, which means we should be watching them *more*, not less.

By Calli Arcale (not verified) on 12 Feb 2010 #permalink

One aspect of this case that concerns me is ease with which the Sheriff was able to get warrants and access the hospital computer records, and that the evidence gained from that was admissible in court at all.

What evidence did they have of a crime ever even being committed that gave them justification to search the hospital's computers?

By Zaher Bey (not verified) on 12 Feb 2010 #permalink

This situation is full of win. Woo - t!

A 1 hour deliberation means Winkler County is going to lose the civil suit if they don't settle.

Civil suits are easier top win than criminal suits. The fallout will be the exact reverse of what they were trying to achieve:
supression of criticism -> spread of same
loss of employment -> different people
reprimands -> different people

A woo-practitioner has been exposed nationally for what he is, maybe readers will take a harder look at other woo practitioners, and insist that medical boards take accusations of substandard care (including woo) more seriously.

By t_p_hamilton (not verified) on 12 Feb 2010 #permalink

At this point, Winker County should be thinking 'settlement' on the civil suit. I doubt they do much thinking generally but hope springs eternal.

Maybe, maybe not. Government officials generally have significant amounts of immunity from being sued for doing government actions.

IANAL, but how this plays out will depend a lot on local laws. You could look at the civil case against Mike Nifong for an example in another state. There are significant differences, of course -- but I want to get across the point that a government official doing something very bad doesn't always make them civilly liable.

I would bet money that the nurse has a very good chance of recovering significant damages, but it's not open and shut.

LET US HOPE for one of those huge damage settlements that occasionally makes headlines...
THe Nurse(s) both lost their jobs, not that working at the MIGHTY WInkler County Memorial seems like much of a career enhancement. Unemployed for a while now, bills for life's expenses as well as her/their legal costs.
A Sheriff (email /website http://www.co.winkler.tx.us/wcso.htm ) that was a BUSINESS Partner with the 'doctor' at the center of this morality play, and the DISTRICT ATTORNEY is the listed private attorney for that same 'doctor'? As I said in earlier post here... MEL BROOKS couldn't write a better parody!!!

Supporting buffoonery was performed by the hospital administration, in terminating the nurses for actions required of them by license and ethical standards.
State board finds there was actually indeed SUBSTANDARD care. The 'doctor' shills for magic grape juice, and so far, I have not read about his license being effected!!!

Well folks, in much of this country, at least several of the medical cases would I am sure contain information meeting the defined standards of SENTINEL EVENTS, and perhaps, the JCAHO Rangers will be riding into town to clean up the streets and hallways.

BUT OH MY GOD. Nurse speaks up, speaks up again, repeatedly expresses safety concerns. Apparently gets told
to 'sit down and shut the hell up,' So she does the right thing, and goes outside the hospital within the healthcare system seeking to address the issue. So she and her partner nurse, get fired. Medical Board... why is 'doctor A' not a formerly licensed physician yet?

AND Mr Attorney General... WTF is up with Sheriff Woody and his pal DA Bonehead? Where is Chuck Norris and the Texas Rangers, about now?
Just wonderin.....

My understanding is that a lot of multi-level marketing schemes encourage a very high level of confidence on the part of the operators, sometimes verging on magical thinking and hubris. I suspect that a MLM system promoting alternative medicine woo is going to ramp up the enthusiasm and can-do spirit to scary levels. In addition to the Good Ol' Boy mentality of a small town, the "Think It and Win It" MLM mentality probably contributed not a little to the "what the hell were they thinking" aspect of this particular legal case.

This begs the real question: Given a choice, why would any sentient human being ever live in Texas?

Poor nurses; I hope they win their money back and then some. The little dog boy should also be investigated for abusing his position as a law enforcement officer to unlawfully access information. I'm all for tarring and feathering the idiot prosecutor; time to buy some rope.

By MadScientist (not verified) on 12 Feb 2010 #permalink

@blinky: I'm betting you've never been to Texas then. You get idiots anywhere you go so the loony lone star has its share of them (and maybe a little more than their fair share), but for the most part those folks in Texas are friendly and hospitable; there are certainly far worse places to be.

By MadScientist (not verified) on 12 Feb 2010 #permalink

And to add to what MadScientist wrote: Texas is a big state ("The sun is ris' and the sun is set, and I ain't out of Texas yet.").

There is no way to generalize it. My favorite part is the Hill Country, and Austin. Every bit is different. Even though they seem close to each other Dallas and Ft. Worth are different (first boyfriend liked Dallas, but not Fr. Worth... who knows why, though he ended up in Houston!).

By the way, both nurses actually live in New Mexico. That is how far west in Texas they were. Some folks actually like living in certain parts of the country. Perhaps they have family there, or just because they like the area.

That part of the county has its own beauty and attractions.

And still.. Arafiles is not going to jail for being a exploitive witch doctor. Oh well, small blessings.

Scott Tidwell is the County Attorney, personal lawyer of doctor, political ally of Sheriff Roberts. The DA, Mike Fostel, is reputed to be in on selling the miracle grape juice and got the indictment. Said illness prevented him from trying the case so Tidwell stepped in. Believe DA is defendant in the civil case. Check out the Healing Hands Massage Parlor prostitution scandal that was national news out of Odessa few years ago for more stories on Tidwell (as defendant, not prosecutor). Roberts helped get him elected county attorney recently while most claim Tidwell still lived out of county in Odessa. R. Angstrom

By r. angstrom (not verified) on 13 Feb 2010 #permalink

correction--only an unfounded rumor that DA selling the grape juice--have not seen that reported anywhere. Seems like it would have come out at trial if true.

By r angstrom (not verified) on 13 Feb 2010 #permalink

bluemaxx @43: it's a lot worse than just a few months of wages and losing their old job. A felony indictment, convicted or not, is an immediate "do not consider" for many jobs including their chosen careers, for LIFE. Also many countries, e.g. Canada and the UK, will not let them cross their corders. Convicted or not. And an attachment from the NY times will not get looked at. And it will never go away.

By Gray Gaffer (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

A felony indictment, convicted or not, is an immediate "do not consider" for many jobs including their chosen careers, for LIFE. Also many countries, e.g. Canada and the UK, will not let them cross their corders. Convicted or not.

I think you might have gotten some bad information on that subject, so I went looking and I found this from Citizenship and Immigration Canada:

2. I was charged with a crime in the United States and found "not guilty." Am I criminally inadmissible?

No. When a court decides you are not guilty of committing a crime, you will not be considered criminally inadmissible.

I would actually be quite surprised if any country would have a policy that bars individuals on the basis of an indictment regardless of the case's outcome, but I couldn't find corresponding information about the United Kingdom, so I couldn't say that they don't have such a policy.

By Antaeus Feldspar (not verified) on 15 Feb 2010 #permalink

A friend of mine had a "disrespect of cop" incident (twitched when cop started to put on cuffs, charged with assault of a cop). Even though the charges were scrubbed, we were informed by two independent lawyers that Canada does not want you even with a scrubbed misdemeanor, let alone a scrubbed felony. It cost $15K to get that far.

By Gray Gaffer (not verified) on 16 Feb 2010 #permalink

Texas is a country unto itself, still playing by the good 'ol boys rules and too often getting away with scenarios that are outrageous to anyone thinking logically.

I just want to know why the Texas Bar has not taken action against Scott Tidwell.
What he did strikes me as shockingly unethical.