Expert Tease

A landmark Arizona court ruling leads a Mesa woman, her former physician and expert witnesses through a continuing controversy over flashbacks of long-ago sexual abuse.

Turley finished by asking Logerquist what she'd done after court the prior Friday night. It had been her dog's 7th birthday, she said, so she bought it a new toy, got some ice cream at Sonic, then drove home and shared the treats with her pet.

Frank Parks was almost gentle with the plaintiff during his cross-examination, but made his points with surgical precision.

Despite strong evidence to the contrary, Logerquist insisted that her therapists never had counseled her to reexamine her childhood for traumatic experiences. But Parks noted that even her lawsuit alleged she'd "recovered" the bad memories with the help of psychotherapy.

Minutes after winning his case, Danforth stood outside the courtroom with attorney Kari Zangerle (right) and legal assistant/nurse Joani Zoltan.
Todd H. Lillard
Minutes after winning his case, Danforth stood outside the courtroom with attorney Kari Zangerle (right) and legal assistant/nurse Joani Zoltan.
Veteran attorney Frank Parks told jurors that the lawsuit against Dr. Danforth led to "a Salem witchcraft trial in 2001."
Todd H. Lillard
Veteran attorney Frank Parks told jurors that the lawsuit against Dr. Danforth led to "a Salem witchcraft trial in 2001."

"In your mind, the perpetrator was Dr. Danforth?" Parks asked.

"Not in my mind," she countered. "He was."

These days, Logerquist testified, she works out of her Mesa apartment as a medical transcriptionist. She said her life remains gloomy, and she's still battling her bulimia and other psycho-medical problems.

But Parks displayed a blown-up photograph published in the Arizona Republic after the final game of the Arizona Diamondbacks' inaugural season in 1998. It showed a joyous Kim Logerquist holding up a sign that said, "THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES."

The irony escaped no one.

"Diamondback games are a different situation," she explained. "I can focus on that. It's given me a focus I can drown myself in, so to speak. It is one of the three of four things that [give me pleasure] . . ."

Logerquist glared at John Danforth as she returned to her seat.

Tucson psychologist Cheryl Karp testified on Logerquist's behalf, "I would say she had a flashback, and was vivid in what she saw. It is my opinion that Kim Logerquist's history, symptoms and presentation do coincide with those of a CSA [childhood sexual abuse] survivor."

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk flew in from Boston to testify for Logerquist, and was an engaging witness. He and Kari Zangerle had been sparring over "flashbacks" and repressed memories for years in the Logerquist case, and each seemed to anticipate the other's next move.

"So your experience has been that people who have flashbacks don't end up having inaccurate recollections of those events later?" Zangerle asked him.

"At this point, that's what I say," van der Kolk replied.

John Kihlstrom countered that the psychiatrist's theories "are quite interesting, but they are just that. They tend to fall short with the science."

Dr. Kihlstrom said the most salient response of someone exposed to trauma isn't to forget, but to remember -- vividly: "Science tells us what will happen to an emotional experience is that the central details of an experience will be remembered well, and always."

The trial's most colorful witness was William Offenkrantz, a cantankerous Scottsdale shrink hired by Danforth's attorneys to interview and evaluate Logerquist. Now in his early 80s, Offenkrantz said it marked the first time in his half-century career that he'd testified in a court case.

He said he suspected Logerquist's 1991 breakdown hadn't been because of a "flashback," but by a delayed reaction to being abandoned by her lover.

"By generating a fantasy of being sexually abused by Dr. Danforth," Offenkrantz explained, "she has been able to remedy the feeling that no one found her interesting, as well as her feeling of being powerless."

A few of Danforth's ex-employees described a safe, friendly clinic, and a wonderful employer. They testified they'd never seen the doctor smoke at the office, that he never kept large syringes in his exam rooms, and that he'd only rarely been alone with patients.

But Danforth's sister-in-law and ex-employee Terry Thorpe allowed Logerquist momentary respite from what had been an onslaught of testimony seemingly adverse to her cause. During cross-examination, attorney David Davis asked Thorpe if she'd ever seen Danforth smoke.

Yes, she said, "One time, I saw him smoking . . ."

Some jurors seemed surprised.

Thorpe explained she'd seen the doctor smoking during a holiday party at his home, probably in the early 1990s.

This presented a bit of a problem, even though it still was light-years from proof that the doctor was a pedophile.

Frank Parks wisely addressed the cigar issue head-on early in his questioning of Danforth. The doctor explained that, on a whim, he'd once tried a cigar with his sons at his home.

"I was wheezing and coughing my head off," Danforth testified, "and I was determined I was gonna do it."

But, he said, it was ludicrous to think he'd ever smoked at his clinic.

The doctor had waited almost a decade to tell his side of the story publicly. At one point, he became so emotional on the stand that Parks urged him to calm himself.

"It's been a cloud, what that lawyer and his client have held over my head for 10 years," Danforth said, his face reddening. "You can't imagine the effect that this has had on my practice, and the way I practice. I'm glad it's gonna come to some end."

"You don't want to call her a liar, do you?" Parks asked him.

"No. She was a patient. . . . And although she's wrong and, down deep I know she's lying, but, being polite, I say I don't know how she's thinking. I know what I am thinking, and I know I didn't do it."

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