What does it take to convict an expert witness of perjury? Well, according to the Ninth Circuit (over dissents from O'Scannlain and four others), ruling last week, it's not enough to catch the expert passing himself off in testimony as a specialist in orthopedic surgery when his actual residency was in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Very curiously, the Ninth Circuit judges decided that the misrepresentation was not material to the jury's reception of Dr. Edmund Y. Chien's testimony -- even though he was testifying on a plaintiff's future need for orthopedic surgery -- and thus, on a habeas corpus petition, overturned his California state court perjury conviction. The case is Chein v. Shumsky, No. 01-56320, D.C. No. CV-99-05296-ABC, (Jun. 25 (PDF)); via Peter Nordberg, who comments.
The slip was not exactly an isolated one. To quote the majority opinion in the case, Chien on more than one occasion described his educational background as "'American University School of Medicine, Florida, 1979-1980,' when he in fact was enrolled in the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, which is located in the West Indies but has an office in Florida." (Chien, it should be noted, was not charged with making this particular misrepresentation in the course of rendering expert testimony, though he did make it in an interrogatory in an unrelated legal case.)
So what happens to an expert witness after this kind of embarrassment blows up? At the time of the original incident Dr. Chien was apparently pursuing a practice from several offices around the Los Angeles area. We Googled "Edmund Y. Chien" and found directory listings describing him as a doctor in Palm Springs who "is known internationally for his valued contributions to hormone research and his pioneering work in anti-aging hormone therapy." Googled without the middle initial "Y.", "Edmund Chein" returns more than 1,000 hits, most of them promotional in tone ("One of the most prominent figures in anti-aging research today") and lauding his work in the use of human growth hormone (HGH). There's also this Oct. 5, 2000 clip clip from the Desert Sun on his successful lawsuit to keep the California Medical Board from yanking his license, and this clip on how he's treated the multiple-sclerosis-stricken talk show host Montel Williams. He even gets mentioned in spam (more). Is it the same Edmund Y. Chien, M.D., or are there two Southern California doctors by that name? Someone ring the assignment desk... [see update: Jun. 30].