In 2015, Christopher Duntsch, aka “Dr. Death,” was arrested and charged with five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of injury to an elderly person. While Duntsch only practiced as a neurosurgeon for two years before his arrest, 33 of his 37 patients claim to have suffered serious injuries and post-surgery complications while under his care. Duntsch is the first doctor in the United States to be convicted for aggravated assault.
In December 2018, Duntsch’s defense team attempted to appeal the guilty verdict. In their pursuit of a positive case outcome, they objected to any witnesses or evidence that weren’t directly related to Mary Efurd’s case. They challenged the admission of an email Duntsch sent to Kimberly Morgan, his former surgical assistant, in which he referred to himself as a “cold-blooded killer.” They also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury’s guilty verdict.
The case was heard by a three-judge panel in the Fifth District Court of Appeals, with the conviction being affirmed in a 2-1 decision. Justices Douglas Lang and Robert Filmore both ruled in favor of the plaintiff, but Justice David Schenck dissented, believing the evidence showed Duntsch had acted recklessly, but not with intent to harm the patient.
Of course, there are several options available to defendant’s who are handed verdicts they don’t agree with. Shortly after the appeal was denied, Duntsch’s attorney released a statement on behalf of his family, which stated, “We are deeply disappointed by the Fifth Court of Appeals’ ruling. We feel it sets a dangerous precedent for prosecuting professionals in the State of Texas. We will be filing a Petition for Discretionary Review and look forward to presenting this case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.”
Although Duntsch’s legal journey hasn’t reached a conclusion, hopefully the failed appeal brings some comfort to those he’s hurt in the past. While it’s possible that Duntch’s sentence could still be overturned, the verdict, for the moment, stands.
Dr. Death has been sentenced to life in prison, but will be eligible for parole in 2045.
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