Wed: Mary Elizabeth Ward Takes the Stand

November 4, 2004 1:52 am by Gene Borio

We haven’t had a witness quite like Mary Ward before: she is a bit matronly, maybe 5′3″ and a little thick. Her short blonde hair had a certain style, with a kind of half-pompadour in front which rose, then fell into short bangs over part of her brow. Her yellow hair was accented by a muted black and yellow checked jacket.

She seemed nervous on the stand at first, bur soon perked up and relaxed into giving seemingly candid answers, her face animated and expressive. When asked, “Do you recall . . . ?” she would tilt her head, looking up and off to the side–you could see she was actually trying to recall.

Her adversay from the DOJ was the boyish, soft-spoken Stephen Brody, who resembles a younger, slightly coarser Hugh Grant. Mr. Brody’s deferential tone bespoke a kid trying not to hurt his Grandmother’s feelings — while he was cross-examining her.

And for her part, the kindly grandma was giving him all that he wanted from his questions, and more– bending over backwards to be helpful, as if assisting him on his homework assignment. She often would tell more than was asked for, and only once did she say, “Well, I’d better stop there.”

She dutifully answered his questions on a document listing Theodor Sterling’s Special Projects, and the funding he received for them (from c. $250,000 in ‘81 to $972,000 in ‘88). But when Mr. Brody said, apparently finished with this line of questioning, “And now I’d like to turn to . . .” she interrupted him: “Aren’t you going to ask me if the projects were concerning ETS?”

“Oh, uh, yes.” Mr. Brody said. “Thank you, ” he added, like a good boy minding his manners.

Of course, Ms. Ward is no dummy. She retired as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.’s Senior Counsel, Research and Development. From 1989 on, she had primary responsibility for legal issues on ETS–including the Broin and Butler trials, the 1998 IARC study, the 1990 EPA Risk Assessment draft, and the lawsuit against the 1992 EPA report. In training witnesses, overseeing public releases, guiding the development of research mechanisms, and contributing to multi-company initiatives, she seemed to function as a highly effective and science-oriented PR maven.

Among her activities at RJR, as recounted in her written direct testimony:

1. She was a member, since joining RJR in 1985, of the TI-ETS Working Group aka TI- ETS Advisory Group (ETSAG, later CIAR), which was responsible for monitoring CTR ETS projects.

2. She was largely responsible for sequeing ETSAG to CIAR–an organization meant to have a more professional staff which would seek out, find, fund and supervise ETS-related scientific studies. She apparently was one of the first to identify a need, and to envision the answer as CIAR: “The (RJR) scientists had a lot of complaints about quality and quantity of research being done; so the idea was, let’s set up a mechanism where we can foster good research, and get some.”

3. She served on a workgroup on the International ETS Management Committee (IEMC) to prepare a response to the then-upcoming 1998 IARC report.

4. She provided Dr. Gary Huber with a list of _other_ toxic compounds in ETS besides those unique to tobacco, for Huber’s testimony in the Australian AFCO case.

Intelligent and well-spoken–the first time I’ve heard raison d’etre said in a soft, North Carolina accent–she seemed to be trying to help. She seemed to be giving the government what it needed in establishing dates, places and names associated with various ETS activities, both by RJR and by the defendant companies together. (Yes, Rupp fans, he was all over this testimony, too.)

Though she has no formal scientific training, and seems to have been educated on smoking issues by RJR scientists, plus her own reading, Ms. Ward had a great deal to say about the weaknesses of various ETS studies. About the 1986 National Academy of Sciences study and the 1986 Surgeon General’s Report, she said,

“To my mind, they were not studies, they were reports evaluating other studies. They appeared to be, in certain respects, poor evaluations of the science that reached unwarranted conclusions. For that reason, they were certainly troubling to me, and I heard others at R.J. Reynolds express concerns about them.”

She seemed to have thoroughly incorporated RJR’s positions into herself. There seemed little differentiation. All these studies coming out with unjustified, unwarranted conclusions — this sort of thing just seemed to be so troubling, so personally distressing to Mary Elizabeth Ward.

Mr. Brody made much of an ETSAG document that sought funding for DiNardi’s briefcase/sampling study “to refute the oft-cited paper of Repace and Lowery.” At the end of his cross, Mr. Brody asked Ms. Ward if RJR had ever sought funding to refute any studies by DiNardi, or Jenkins, or Sterling, or the McGill Monograph. . .

Definition: Government-Owned, Contractor-Operated facility.

Use in Court:

Mr. Brody: Do you know that Oak Ridge National Laboratory is what is known as a GOCO?
Ms. Ward: A What?
Mr. Brody: A GOCO: a Government-Owned, Contractor-Operated facility.
Judge Kessler: Well! That’s one I never heard of.
Ms. Ward: I don’t feel so bad saying I never heard of it either!

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