SANTA ANA — The federal trial of ex-Tustin gynecologist Ivan C. Namihas ended in a hung jury Monday after emotionally exhausted jurors announced they could not reach a verdict on any of the 10 mail fraud charges against the doctor.
The jury's announcement, which resulted in a mistrial, came on the seventh day of deliberations that several jurors later described as highly emotional and fraught with shouting and even threats.
"It was so heated, we were yelling at one another," said one juror, who declined to give his name. "I was surprised they (bailiffs) didn't come in to tell us to be quiet."
"It was truly a frustrating experience. You feel like you did a disservice to the community, the judge, the attorneys, the defendant, and especially the victims--the victims placed their trust in us."
U.S. District Judge Linda McLaughlin dismissed the jury after twice earlier ordering the panel to keep trying for a verdict.
Defense attorney Paul Meyer said Namihas was "very disappointed" in the outcome, which leaves open the possibility of a retrial on all 10 counts.
Namihas appeared to tremble as he left the courtroom. He declined comment as he quickly left the courthouse with his wife, Rebecca.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Jonathan Shapiro said his superiors will decide by the end of the week whether to retry the case.
"The jury should be complimented for having done their level best," he said.
Namihas, once the subject of the largest-ever medical sexual abuse investigation in the state, was charged with using the mail to bill six patients and their insurance companies in order to defraud them of more than $9,000 worth of unnecessary, expensive and painful laser surgery.
The doctor denied the charges and maintained that he had never purposefully misdiagnosed illnesses or given inappropriate treatment to patients.
The jury was split 10-2 in favor of convicting Namihas on all 10 counts, according to several jurors, all of whom agreed to be interviewed if their names were not used. The two holdouts, a male postal worker and a female office worker, were adamant that Namihas should be acquitted. Both declined comment.
Other jurors said the two in favor of acquittal could not believe that a doctor would commit the crimes Namihas was charged with, and one of them felt the alleged victims were not credible.
The announcement of the deadlock was the third during the seven days of deliberations. In the first instance, last Monday, the jury came to a not guilty verdict on one count but was deadlocked on the other nine counts. After further deliberations, however, the jurors deadlocked on all 10 counts, they announced midweek. In both instances, the judge ordered them to continue deliberating.
Jurors said that they finally gave up after half a dozen rounds of voting, and several hours of rereading key testimony produced no change in the deadlock.
Namihas, who now lives in Las Vegas, was the subject of more than 160 sexual abuse complaints by former patients in 1992.
The allegations led to the largest medical abuse investigation in California history and to the revocation of his license by the California Medical Board. Prosecutors, however, did not press sexual assault charges against the doctor, saying that the statute of limitations had expired in most of the cases and that they lacked corroborating evidence.
McLaughlin ruled just before the two-week trial began that allegations of any prior sexual misconduct would not be allowed into evidence in the interests of a fair trial.
When informed of the past allegations outside the courthouse Monday, jurors reacted strongly.
"I feel frustrated, but he'll have to answer by himself someday when he goes to the pearly gates," one juror said.
Shirley Corbin, 66, of Santa Ana, a Namihas patient in the early 1970s who complained to the medical board that Namihas had sexually harassed her, sat through much of the trial with her husband, James, and waited outside the courtroom for several days for the verdict.
"I'm very, very, very disappointed because I feel like he needs to be in jail for what all he's done," she said.
Meyer, the defense attorney, responded: "This case could be retried 200 times and we're ready every time."
The trial was marked by sometimes emotional testimony from the six former patients who testified that Namihas told them they had cancer, AIDS or venereal diseases, which other doctors and tests later disputed.
One woman testified that on her first visit to Namihas, he abruptly told her she had AIDS without testing her. She said he later falsely told her she had cancer, that she might never have children and could die if she did not allow him to treat her with laser surgery.
Namihas took the stand and contradicted his former patients. He said he told them they had precancerous conditions, not cancer, and that they must have misunderstood him.
Several doctors testified that although laser surgery was not appropriate treatment for cancer, it was recommended treatment for precancerous conditions in the late 1980s, when Namihas was treating the patients in question.