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The trial of the sensory

A sexual harassment case that exposed the private lives of UCLA psychiatrists goes to the jury for its analysis.

February 22, 2007|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

For those who suspect that psychiatrists are at least as crazy as the rest of us, the sexual harassment trial that went to a jury Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court has provided no end of material.

Jurors listened to two weeks of testimony, including psychiatrists testifying about their sex lives under code names and accounts of them allegedly attending porn parties and having oral sex in cars. Now the jury must decide who is telling the truth.

Dr. David Martorano, a handsome Columbia University-educated physician and a former psychiatric resident at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute, alleges that he had an affair with his supervisor and that after he broke it off and rumors of it began to circulate, he lost a coveted post as chief resident, and his reputation was ruined. He sued the supervisor, Dr. Heather Krell, and UCLA.

Krell says there was no affair. Her lawyer accused Martorano of making the whole thing up to seduce yet another psychiatrist. Krell countersued Martorano for slander and invasion of privacy. The jury will consider both claims at the same time.

UCLA's lawyer, meanwhile, said it didn't matter from a legal perspective whether Martorano and Krell had an affair -- university administrators acted properly when they revoked the offer for Martorano to become chief resident after rumors began to fly because it was unacceptable for there to be even the perception that he was getting a job based on a sexual affair at the institute, one of the top facilities of its kind in the country.

Testimony was so explicit that Superior Court Judge Judith Chirlin allowed several women to testify under code names, a decision she acknowledged was unusual but necessary to protect their reputations.

At times, the witness box seemed more like a psychoanalytic couch -- and not just because witnesses often faced not only a judge, jury and lawyers but also at least two psychiatrists.

Testimony and court papers included Martorano's depiction of himself zipping around Malibu on dates in a two-seater, as well as an internal UCLA report that said that people who worked with him said he "frequently spent his downtime ... talking about his sexual conduct." Jurors also heard his personal psychiatrist's assessment that he was "addicted" to having women fall in love with him.

Narcissistic traits

At one point, UCLA's lawyer, Alan Zuckerman, asked Martorano, a former opera singer and the son of a psychiatrist, if he thought he had a narcissistic personality disorder. As Zuckerman later told the jury, narcissists have a grandiose sense of self, lack empathy for others and take advantage of them.

Martorano replied that he would never call himself narcissistic but that "there are traits of narcissism that I possess."

In his closing argument, Zuckerman went point by point through the nine attributes of narcissistic personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and explained how each attribute fit Martorano. He then accused the doctor of filing the lawsuit because his narcissistic personality couldn't handle that Krell would not admit that she had slept with him.

In response, Martorano's lawyer, Robert Scott, said that "some lawyers want to become psychiatrists." Later, he referred to Krell's lawyer, Donald Garrard, as Dr. Garrard.

Garrard, meanwhile, enthusiastically endorsed the diagnoses of Martorano as a raging narcissist, offering several examples of his own.

Then he turned to evolutionary psychology in his attempt to impugn Martorano's testimony, saying that it wasn't believable that Martorano couldn't recall details of sex he allegedly had with Krell. "The genes we come with are programmed for little else," he said as the judge and members of the jury and gallery burst into laughter.

He also argued that jurors should not believe Martorano's claim that Krell had performed oral sex on him parked in an Audi in front of her apartment, because a 35-year-old physician would obviously choose to go to her apartment rather than stay in the car.

Garrard urged jurors to punish Martorano for acting like "a 14-year-old boy" by awarding Krell punitive damages.

Martorano's attorney, however, argued that the evidence that Martorano and Krell had an affair was hard to dispute. He pointed to dozens of phone calls, social events they attended together and testimony that they watched a movie about a porn star titled "The Fluffer."

Then, when rumors of the affair emerged, he said, Krell created a hostile work environment for Martorano by criticizing him excessively and by spreading rumors that he was a liar, a misogynist and manic depressive. And he was denied the job of chief resident. Then, Scott said, UCLA tried to "sweep it all under the rug" to protect itself.

Other lawsuits

This is not the only sexual harassment claim facing UCLA's medical school and its psychiatry department.

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