By Dave Andrusko
U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara ruled late Friday afternoon that the drug John Andrew Welden tricked his pregnant girlfriend into taking caused the abortion of Remee Jo Lee’s 6-7-week-old unborn baby.
“There is not a shred of evidence to support the defendant’s suggestion of miscarriage,” he said, after hearing two days of testimony.
Welden’s defense team offered two complementary explanations for why Ms. Lee lost her baby last March, or at least why it could not be attributed to Welden’s actions.
First, they called on experts to testify that was not possible to definitively prove that the one 200 microgram dose of Cytotec (misoprostol) Weldon told Lee was an antibiotic caused her abortion. Lazzara rejected that out of hand. Reporting for the Tampa Tribune, Elaine Silvestrini wrote
“The judge said defense experts merely served as conduits for information they found in scientific literature, which the judge said amounted to no more than case studies with little supporting information. This, he said, was ‘useless to me in determining a relationship of Misoprostol to a particular side effect.’”
On Thursday lawyers for Welden tried another tack, citing “medical records showing Lee was already experiencing bleeding in her seventh week of pregnancy suggesting other factors may have led to the miscarriage,” reported WTSP’s Eric Glasser.
But Lazzara was having none of that either.
“The suggestion that prior to the ingestion of this highly toxic drug, this victim was experiencing a spontaneous abortion is just speculation not supported by the record,” Judge Lazzara said. “The only rational explanation for what caused the demise of the victim’s embryo was her ingestion of one dose of 200 micrograms of Misoprostol.”
Welden’s defense team spared no expense, according to local media reports. “Defense attorneys flew in experts from New York City, one of which was affiliated with the World Health Organization,” according to WFTS’s Jacqueline Ingles.
“Welden’s stepmother said she was disappointed in the ruling because the defense’s experts are ‘world renowned, ‘” Ingles reported. “However, the judge was not impressed with their lofty resumes and discounted their testimony.”
Welden’s father, Dr. Stephen Welden, told Glasser that over the next two weeks he’d be “telling John Welden what a father ‘normally would tell his son. That he loves him. You want a future for him and I’m still praying for a miracle.’”
Lee was not in court Friday and her parents were unwilling to speak on her behalf.
The prosecution said Welden’s motivation was that he wanted to keep his other girlfriend from learning of Lee’s pregnancy.
Last September Welden pleaded guilty to lesser charges of consumer product tampering and conspiracy to commit mail fraud as part of a plea bargain to avoid first-degree murder charges under the NRLC-inspired Unborn Victims of Violence Act. The agreement between prosecutors and Foster recommended a prison term of 13 years and eight months for Welden.
Whether Judge Lazzara sticks with the sentence agreed to by both parties will not be known until January 27.