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Mistrial Called in Reggie Lewis Case

June 25, 1999 GMT

BOSTON (AP) _ A jury was unable to decide if the diagnosis of a renowned cardiologist contributed to the death of Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis.

Superior Court Judge Thayer Fremont-Smith declared a mistrial Thursday after the jury deliberated about 35 hours over six days in the malpractice case.

``Everybody is a loser here,″ said the judge. ``We’ve all lost Mr. Lewis. Everybody’s reputation has been attacked on both sides of the case. It’s a sad situation.″

The jury cleared two consulting physicians, Drs. Mark Creager and Peter Friedman, of wrongdoing, but could not agree on whether Dr. Gilbert Mudge was negligent in Lewis’ death. The Celtics captain died of a heart condition while shooting baskets in 1993.

In her suit, widow Donna Harris-Lewis claimed Mudge and the two consultants misdiagnosed and mistreated her husband’s heart condition. A third consultant settled for an undisclosed sum before trial.

Her attorneys sought at least $75 million, saying that was what Lewis would have earned if he hadn’t died.

Robert Harley, a lawyer for Ms. Harris-Lewis, said he would press on against Mudge.

``When you have a deadlock, it’s as if it never happened,″ he said. ``So we’ll try it again.″

Mudge’s lawyer, William Dailey Jr., called the mistrial unfortunate. ``We’re hoping this will be a final resolution on the matter,″ he said.

Lewis collapsed during a playoff game in April 1993 and was diagnosed with a life-threatening, potentially career-ending cardiac condition by doctors from New England Baptist Hospital.

The Lewises then turned to Mudge, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who announced at a news conference that the player instead had a neurological ailment that caused fainting spells. He said Lewis would likely play professional basketball again. Two months later, Lewis died at 27.

Lawyers for Ms. Harris-Lewis had suggested Mudge’s judgment was clouded by a search for glory as the doctor who could prove the original diagnosis wrong.

Mudge’s attorneys called convicted felons to testify to alleged cocaine and marijuana use by Lewis.

At trial, Mudge testified that Lewis admitted shortly before his death that he had used cocaine, making an accurate diagnosis impossible. Ms. Harris-Lewis denied the charge.

Though the drug allegations were a key part of Mudge’s defense, Ms. Harris-Lewis said she felt her husband’s legacy remained untarnished.

``No lies, no rumors and no gossip about my Reggie can ever change the good and kind and caring person he was and the good he did on this earth,″ she said. ``And there’s no telling how much good he could have done if he had been treated properly and lived.″

Mudge’s lawyer had only praise for the Lewises.

``Dr. Mudge and I want to remind everyone that Reggie Lewis was a husband, father and a patient,″ Dailey said. ``Dr. Mudge now, as always, wishes only the best and peace to Mrs. Lewis, her children and all the members of Reggie’s family.″