The Vengeful Heart
She was a very good witness, says prosecutor Stutes. She was genuine, credible. She was honest. She bared her soul, which is not easy for any witness. And she was subjected to brutal cross examination.
Part of Trahans ordeal was the necessity of identifying in court every man with whom shed had sex since 1984. There were seven of them. Stutes then introduced serological evidence that all seven, including Schmidt and Trahans new husband, Jerry Allen, were HIV negative.
Keith Stutes then attacked his second hurdle, excluding every other reasonable hypothesis. The fact that she was a regular blood donor eliminated the possibility that shed contracted HIV during one of her abortions. Shed given blood in April of 1994, long after her last abortion with Schmidt, and had been negative for both HIV and hepatitis C at the time.
Dr. Ernest Wong, a Lafayette pulmonologist who specialized in AIDS treatment, also testified that based upon his long experience with the virus and its symptoms, he believed Trahan was infected during the first week of August 1994.
Schmidt helped out the prosecution, too. By bringing up the fact that Trahan was doubly infected soon after his indictment, he unintentionally drew the noose of circumstance even tighter around his own neck. Where else might Janice have contracted both viruses?
The defense did offer two proactive arguments for Schmidts innocence. One was that hed been home the night of August 4, and in his wifes company. Barbara Schmidt testified that Richard was only out of her presence for the twenty minutes she spent taking a bath. This was insufficient time, the defense argued, for Schmidt to drive the five miles to Janice Trahans apartment, inject her, and return home before his wife completed her bath.
However, a Lafayette police officer made the circuit twice in under 20 minutes, both times observing all traffic laws.
Schmidts attorneys also argued that hed suffered a back strain lifting luggage at a seminar in late July 1994. The pain and stiffness, they said, would have slowed him considerably, making such a 20minute circuit to Trahans apartment from his house a practical impossibility.
Maybe so, but when hed visited his doctor about the condition in early September, 1994, Schmidt specifically mentioned that hed re-aggravated the injury lifting boxes at his office in August. Mrs. Schmidt testified to a similar conversation with her husband.
We note, the appeals judges later wrote, that the lifting of heavy boxes by Defendant in his office in 1994 is consistent with the States theory that he hid the jot book containing the August 4, 1994, notations at the bottom of a stack of file storage boxes in his office.
His trial lasted eight days. At 8:35 PM on Friday, October 23, 1998, after taking 10 votes, the nine-woman, three-man jury came back with a 10-2 guilty verdict.
I believe justice was served, juror Roy Ellis later told reporter Bruce Schultz of The Advocate. I believe hes a very disturbed individual. He destroyed many lives, including his own.
According to news reports, Janice Trahan cried as she heard the verdict and then fainted. She was taken from the courtroom in a wheelchair. Barbara Schmidt broke into tears as well, and stood with her husband as he comforted her long after the jury had departed.
At the close of the hearing, District Judge Durwood Conque sentenced Dr. Schmidt to 50 years at hard labor, the stiffest penalty possible. In the final analysis, the punishment must fit the crime, said the judge.
Janice Trahan again was in court that day, and again had no public comment.