Because of a typographical error a portion of the testimony of Dr. Norman A. Armstrong at the second degree murder trial of former Washington abortionist Dr. Robert J. Sherman was incorrectly reported in yesterday's editions of The Washington Post. The article should have stated that Armstrong testified that 16-year-old Rita McDowell had not tried to induce an abortion herself.
Defense attorneys in the second-degree murder trial of Dr. Robert J. Sherman tried to establish yesterday that 16-year-old Rita McDowell's pregnancy may have ended as a result of a miscarriage and not an abortion induced by Sherman.
Earlier, however, government prosecutors introduced a record of McDowell's visit to Sherman's clinic, signed by Sherman and later taken from his office, that described the specific steps of an abortion.
It was also disclosed in testimony at D.C. Superior Court yesterday that doctors at D.C. General Hospital spent more than two hours trying to reinsert a needle into McDowell's chest as part of a procedure for monitoring her blood circulation.
Defense attorneys Robert F. Muse and Constance O'Bryant contend they will show it was that treatment in the intensive care unit that caused McDowell's death, not Sherman's conduct.
But Dr. Norman A. Armstrong testified for the government that when McDowell was taken to the intensive care unit on the afternoon of March 7, 1975, he "really did not expect that Rita would survive." Armstrong, then the chief resident in obstetrics and gynecology at D.C. General, told the jury McDowell's condition had worsened during the day. She suffered from kidney failure, shock and "overwhelming infection," he said.
McDowell died at 1:56 a.m. on March 8, 1975, four days after she went to sherman's abortion clinic, then located at 1835 I St. NW.
Armstrong testified that he overheard McDowell tell another doctor she had had an abortion performed three to four days before being admitted to the hospital. She also told that doctor she had tried to induce an abortion herself, Armstrong testified.
When questioned by defense attorney O'Bryant, however, Armstrong testified that hospital records reflect only that McDowell said she had had blood drawn and had received an injection in the hip at Sherman's office.
On Wednesday, another doctor who had treated McDowell at the hospital testified that she said she had experienced bleeding the day before she visited Sherman's office, a disclosure the defense is expected to contend is indication of an abnormal pregnancy.
Beverly Harvey, who was a nurse in D.C. General's intensive care unit, testified that the system used to monitor McDowell's blood circulation stopped functioning at 4:30 p.m. The problem was not corrected until about 10 p.m. with the insertion of a needle into McDowell's jugular vein.
Prosecutors contend that Sherman, 65, deliberately performed incomplete abortions and violated medical standards in an effort to maximize profits. Sherman also is charged with 20 counts of perjury.