Doctors split on transient global amnesia diagnosis
Former wife of defendant testifies to medical history.
Published: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 21:10
Day 3 of the murder trial continued Monday reviewing the medical history of the former Northeast Lakeview College librarian who opened fire on his colleague, Donald "Devin" Zimmerman, two years ago tomorrow.
Christine Crowley, Alan Godin's then-wife; Dr. Michael Arambula, pharmacologist; and Dr. Brian Scop, general forensic psychologist, were called to testify. The two doctors have been examining Godin since his arrest.
Godin, 64, entered a plea of not guilty Thursday by reason of insanity caused by transient global amnesia, defined by the Mayo Clinic website as "a sudden, temporary episode of memory loss that can't be attributed to more neurological condition, such as epilepsy or stroke."
Both doctors said the main symptom of transglobal amnesia is its effect on the ability to form new memories.
Arambula, who first interviewed Godin on Dec. 8, 2008, said he believed the shooting was caused by transglobal amnesia, which can be classified as insanity because it is a mental disease.
Arambula said his evaluation of Godin took 3 1/2 hours as he reviewed social, occupational, surgical and current medical history. He conducted a review of Godin's medical records after the interview.
During the interview, Arambula said he studied Godin's emotions, speech, memory and body language. He said he also went over the crime in detail.
Scop disagreed with Arambula's diagnosis, believing Godin may have been depressed, but didn't have transglobal amnesia.
He said he also studied Godin's eye contact and speech and performed an executive exam, which tested Godin's ability to make decisions and change subjects.
Scop said Godin performed perfectly on the exam, saying he was very intelligent.
The doctors also studied an MRI, a magnetic resonance image, of Godin's brain. Scop said he saw white matter changes in some areas of the brain, but that is common in people ages 65 and older.
Godin also has a history of high blood pressure, which the doctors in their examinations tried to connect to the amnesia.
Arambula said he saw a connection between Godin's high blood pressure and headaches to transglobal amnesia.
Scop said the two have been associated, but there is no clear effect. He also said Godin had uncontrollable hypertension, but it didn't hold much significance in transglobal amnesia.
Godin's legal team, John A. Convery and Julie K. Hasdorff of Hasdorff & Convery, P.C., brought Crowley to testify to Godin's history of transglobal amnesia, thought to potentially account for an episode of memory loss in a 2006 incident.
Crowley said she and Godin had been married 25 years and divorced amicably in November 2009.
"We speak about once a week on the phone," Crowley said when asked if she and Godin were still friends. "And I visit occasionally."
Crowley said she met Godin in 1983 in a community theater in Massachusetts where she played a small acting role and Godin was the stage manager. They married in 1984 and remained in Massachusetts until 1990.
She said they moved to Kansas City when she was offered a job at Johnson City Community College.
In 1997, then-Chancellor Robert Ramsay offered Crowley a job at Northwest Vista College to build a high-tech library there.
Crowley said Godin was the "trailing spouse" and "very supportive."
Before leaving Kansas City, Crowley said they searched for a job for Godin at the San Antonio Public Library. She said the library said, "Don't call us, we'll call you," but never called.
She said Godin did some acting and worked for some temporary agencies, including working as an essay reader for state exams.
In spring 2005, she said he worked as a full-time editor but was laid off a week before his 60th birthday in January 2006. "It was quite a blow," she said.
In fall 2006, Godin began working at Northeast Lakeview College library as an adjunct librarian. The same year was Godin's first incident of transglobal amnesia.
Crowley said she and Godin were shopping for a gas barbecue grill at Home Depot, but settled on a grill in Boerne, close to where they lived.
She said the grill was in a big box that wouldn't fit in either of their cars, so they called her friend to take the grill to their home.
Crowley said the couple emptied the box piece by piece, and Godin started putting it together. She described the process as a "comedy of errors" because they had to make four trips back to the store to get missing parts.
Once the parts were all there, she said Godin continued working into the evening to put the grill together.
Crowley said she was in her home office when Godin came in and said he would continue with the grill the next day, then went to his office to pay bills and balance his check book.
She said he came into her office and asked her, ‘Is this your ATM receipt?' from a nearby gas station. She said it was and he returned to his office.
She said Godin came in a second time, asking her the same question about the same receipt.
Crowley said she asked, "What are you talking about?" and told him he'd come in earlier asking the same thing.
She said he came back a third time, and that time, they began to argue.
She said it ended when Godin said, ‘Nevermind. I'm tired. I'm going to bed."
On their way to bed, Crowley said Godin looked into the living room, saw the barbecue grill and said, "What the (expletive) is that? Where did this come from?"
Crowley said she thought he was joking and said he didn't remember the friend helping them bring the grill from the store.
She said she thought he may have had a stroke but ruled it out because his speech and movement were fine.
She said they went to bed and in the morning, she asked him about his confusion the night before.