Defense attorney Don Carlson, who represents Entercom Sacramento and Entercom Communications Inc., called his first witness to the stand this morning. Stephany Fiore, Forensic Pathologist for the Sacramento County Coroner's office had conducted the autopsy on Jennifer Strange.
Fiore testified that while she had done a couple of autopsies with cases of hyponatremia, she had never done a case of acute water intoxication.
She testified that in her research, she discovered 18 cases of people who died from water intoxication, and that 15 of those cases involved people who were severe psychotics; the other three were either marathon runners or military trainees.
Under questioning from Plaintiff attorney Roger Dreyer, Fiore said it would be "pretty easy to find information on water intoxication, you can google it." When asked if water intoxication can produce euphoria, she said she had not read that, but that it could cause confusion, coma, seizure, and death. She also said that more than one and a half liters of water could be very bad. Dreyer established that 6 eight ounce bottles of water were about equivalent to 1 1/2 liters, and that 6 16 ounce bottles would have equaled 3 liters per hour.
In his questioning, Dreyer referenced the criminal investigation which had been launched, but then dropped, in the matter. Defense attorney Carlson, outside the jury's presence, told the judge that motions had been made and approved that no mention be made of "criminal investigation, and that saying that in the presence of the jury was very prejudicial. Carlson made a motion for mistrial. Judge Phillips denied that motion, but agreed to give an admonition to the jury to disregard that statement.
Carlson next called Entercom Director of Engineering and IT manager Rick Rapalee. Rapalee was instructed by Entercom immediately after the water drinking death to save all archives of the contest, including the Morning Rave shows the week before which promoted the Wii contest.
Carlson played several clips of the promotion:
1-08-07, 6:44 AM "All of you will be drinking the same amount of water every fifteen minutes; the last person standing wins the Wii."
1-08-07 7:45 AM "We're going to give them water every fifteen minutes."
1-09-07 7:33 AM "If you qualify, every fifteen minutes, contestants
will have to drink 8 ounce or 16 ounce glass of water, and keep drinking until the last person standing."
1-09-07 7:47 AM Jennifer Strange calls the station to try to qualify for the contest.
1-10-07 7:10 AM "Going to be drinking water every fifteen minutes, the last person standing without going wee wins."
Dreyer asked Rapalee whether he had listened to the entire broadcasts, he said no, he had been directed by the defense team to find out at what times those clips had played during the broadcasts. He had not listened to what was said before or after each clip, nor had he been asked to go through the entire broadcasts to find every reference to the Wii contest.
Carlson next called Wii contestant Ronald Mendoza. Mendoza was a regular listener of the Morning Rave, and had been in Entercom contests before.
Carlson asked Mendoza what he'd heard about the contest on the radio. He said that the Wii would be the prize, that they'd be outside in light clothing, they'd be drinking water, and that the last person standing would win. Carlson: Quantities of water? Mendoza : Yes.
He told Carlson that when he'd been qualified for the contest, a woman who he thought was Liz Diaz told him the rules over the phone: they'd be standing in the cold weather, wearing something thin, if you vomited, something like that, you're put of the contest. Carlson: So you knew before you got to the radio station if you urinated yourself or vomited you're out? Mendoza: Correct.
Carlson asked whether before this contest, Mendoza was aware of the Chico incident; Mendoza said yes, but that he did not draw any similarites, because in Chico it was against his will, it was not voluntary. Carlson asked whether he understood he could leave the Wii contest at any time; Mendoza said he did.
Carlson asked whether he's heard the radio playing during the contest; Mendoza said he had, but he had not heard any calls warning of problems with the contest.
Mendoza also said that there was a general consensus amongst thecontestants to move to larger bottles to get the contest over quicker.
He also said he'd dropped out because other contestants seemed more determined to win the Wii, and he took movie tickets instead.
Plantiff attorney Dreyer asked him about the Chico incident; Mendoza said he had heard of that death, but didn't know the details.
Dreyer: You trusted Entercom? You never thought this radio station would ever run a contest that could have results like Chico? Mendoza: True. Dreyer: You trusted they would never expose you to danger? Mendoza: Yes. Dreyer: You believed they would research this? Mendoza: True.
Carlson called one more contestant, then rested his case. More on that testimony tomorrow.
Sue Wilson is a media analyst for SueWilsonReports.com and a community contributor to The Sacramento Press.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times