Within a week after the death of a 16-year-old patient in March 1975. Dr. Robert J. Sherman told his office manager that the patient's chart had been lost and would have to be "recreated" so it could be turned over to a city medical examiner who was looking into the case, according to testimony in D.C. Superior Court yesterday.
The office manager, Patricia McCarty, 34, also testified that months later, at Sherman's direction, she used different colored pens to write new appointment books that listed for fewer patients, and no information about length of pregnancies and abortion fees that was contained in the clinic's original appointment book. That book "disappeared," McCarty told the jury.
McCarty testified that, also at the direction of Sherman, she lied twice under oath about abortion procedures at the clinic.
McCarty told the jury that she gave false testimony during a deposition in connection with a civil lawsuit brought by the dead girl's family against Sherman, and during a hearing before the D.C. Commission on Licensure to Practice the Healing Art, which eventually revoked Sherman's license to practice medicine in Washington.
Sherman "instructed all the employes" about what they should say if asked about the clinic, said McCarty who spent a full day on witness stand. Yesterday was the fifth day of Sherman's trial on a charge of second-degree murder, 17 counts of perjury and nine charges that he induced three former employes, including McCarthy, to lie for him.
McCarty testified Sherman told her "just that there were certain things in the clinic he would rather not have known how it was handled."
Ever since she was called before a federal grand jury that was investigating the death of the 16-year-old patient, Rita McDowell, McCarty testified she has told the truth.
"It became a matter of conscience," she told the jury. "I couldn't live with myself any longer knowing I had lied sometimes under oath . . ."
The government contends that Sherman regularly performed abortions at his clinic on women past the 12th week of pregnancy in violation of medical standards. The prosecution contends that McDowell was 16 weeks pregnant and that death resulted from an incomplete abortion performed by Sherman.
According to McCarty's testimony, the medical chart recreated for McDowell showed she was about 12 weeks pregnant. She also testified that a copy of that chart was later altered to show McDowell was less than 12 weeks pregnant. McCarty, who worked for Sherman for about two years, testified she did not make the change.
During cross-examination, McCarty denied that she agreed to cooperate with the government because she feared she would be prosecuted for perjury. She also testified that metal instruments were sterilized at the clinic and that she considered plastic instruments at the clinic to be sterilized after they were placed in a "boiler" pan of hot water.