The Good Doctor

Page 7 of 8

Five days later, attorney Sharp faxed Glass the questions as well as a set of suggested answers, prepared by Sharp's law partner. "These are not intended to be directive in any way but it is due tomorrow and I am trying to help in any way that I can in facilitating this reply…," read an accompanying note from Sharp. "Thanks for all your help for Dr. Brown."

A day later, the psychiatrist sent a letter to the hospital committee stating he had never observed Dr. Michael Brown exhibiting any behavior that might interfere with his clinical privileges. It was word for word a duplicate of the "draft" he had been sent by Brown's attorney the previous day.

While Brown has been fighting to keep hospital privileges, the wheels of justice in other legal matters have moved on different tracks at different speeds.

Darlina sued for divorce in a Montgomery County court last October. Brown's legal team, headed by flamboyant Houston attorney Rocket Rosen, attacked Darlina's morals -- particularly the extramarital affair early in the couple's marriage.

During a pretrial deposition, Rosen equated Brown's alleged assault with her affair. He suggested that Darlina was guilty of attempted murder of her husband by having unprotected sex with another man. She responded that they had used condoms.

Darlina's attorneys, including Houston lawyers Tommy Fibich and Wendy Burgower, instead focused on the series of Brown's allegedly violent incidents against his wife.

The verdict left no doubt about whom jurors believed. Their verdict awarded Darlina $3.4 million and custody of their daughters, and it found that the doctor had committed violence against his spouse. Under the terms of a legal agreement, Brown can see his children only on supervised visitation in the presence of a social worker. He has appealed the verdict.

Presiding juror Greg Steiner says the entire panel found that Darlina was credible and the doctor wasn't. "My personal opinion is that he needs to be in jail," Steiner says. Jurors found it odd that the doctor had not already been tried for aggravated assault, he says.

Montgomery County District Attorney Mike McDougal put off criminal action against the physician while he awaited the outcome of the civil case -- the reverse of the usual course in such proceedings.

Initially, prosecutors had offered the doctor a plea bargain with deferred adjudication that would expunge the assault from Brown's records and allow him to keep his medical license. Brown at first refused the plea. The civil verdict in Darlina's favor fueled public pressure for McDougal to toughen his stance.

By then, Brown had replaced his legal team headed by Rosen and hired top-ranked Houston defense attorney Jack Zimmerman. The lawyer secured a gag order from state District Judge Suzanne Stovall to keep those involved with the case from talking to the media.

The next criminal court date is in February, although McDougal says he is still mulling over whether to take the case to trial -- he calls it "a complicated situation." Asked if Brown's money and influence had gotten the defendant special treatment, the district attorney replies tersely, "We don't see it that way."

It's the week before Christmas, and Darlina Brown's new Woodlands home is packed with holiday decorations as well as family keepsakes and photos that once adorned her far more spacious Wedgwood residence.

The woman so bruised and battered in police photographs a year ago is now an animated, almost childlike blond guiding visitors to the den of what she calls her "little home." The location and phone number were supposed to be secret to protect Darlina from Brown. But she says the doctor has called the house -- and in September, the physician had a spray of flowers delivered to the door to mark Sophie's second birthday. Darlina took it as an implied warning.

Once a week Brown gets supervised overnight stays with the girls at a safe house. Darlina says she's afraid to let the children play outdoors regularly because Sophie's mosquito bites once prompted Brown to accuse her of child abuse.

Darlina has been in therapy since last January, and says she only now is learning to cry about the experiences of the past few years. Previously, her lawyer Wendy Burgower says, the woman would describe the violence as if it was happening to someone else, and would laugh at odd moments.

She's still a long way from living a normal life.

"I don't trust men. I don't want to be with a man," Darlina said in the civil case. "I don't want a boyfriend. These girls mean everything to me, and without them I would be lost."

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Tim Fleck
Contact: Tim Fleck