The attorney for the Galaxy Chemical Co. told a jury today that Dr. Pietro U. Capurro was "determined to pin something on Galaxy" when he wrote a 1974 study showing that an abnormally high number of the people who lived near the plant had died of cancer.
"Dr. Capurro, in his studies, did'nt check for any (possible) causes" unrealted to the chemical recycling firm, continued Paul Madden, who was making his final arguements to the Carodige County jury. "If you're going to do a study, do it right. You just can't be careless about this. The stakes are too high."
Capurro's attorney said in his own closing arguments that the Elkton pathologist had merely reported truthfully and accurately" what he saw happening around him in the Lottle Elk Valley in the northwastern corner of Maryland during the early 1970s.
"He reported two things," Wilbur D. Preston Jr. told the jury. "One, that there was an excess of solvent vapors" containing cancer-causing agents, and two, that there was an excess rate of cancer . . ." The Galaxy firm emitted solvent vapors as a byproduct of its chemical reprocessing operation.
"Pietro Capurro never said that Galaxy's causing cancer,? Preston added.
When both attorney had finished making their final arguments in the case, the jurors retired to sift through 12 days of testimoney and more than a dozen different articles and scientific papers.
These 12 residents of this rural Eastern Shore county, none of whom has a college degree, must decide if Caputto defamed the Galaxy firm by falsely linking its emissions to cancer deaths in tn its area.
The trial, which began almost three weeks ago, is believed to be the first in the country in which an industrial firm embroiled in an enviornmental battle has turned the tablets and sued one of its accusers.
Defense attorney Preston alluded to this when, just before he ended his remarks, he told the jurors to think about the effect of a verdict in Galaxy's favor. "Think of what it will do to anyone else who seems true facts and wants to publicize them," he said.
Capurro's 1974 study on cancer mortality in the Little Elk Valley, where the chemical reprocessing plant is located, was never formally published, but his results were published in several national newspapers and magazines.
The Galaxy firm and its owner Paul J. Mraz, sued Capurro for defamation, seeking $2.1 million in damages from the Italian-born physician. In court today, however, president Judge K. Thomas Everngam directed the jury that Mraz should no longer be considered a plaintiff in the case and that they could not award the Galaxy firm any punitive (punishing) damages.
As a result, the total amount of damages that could be assessed against Capurro is now reduced to about $500,000. CAPTION: Picture, DR. PIETRO U. CAPURRO . . . sued for $2.1 million