`Race-trial' doctor guilty of homicide

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The Independent Online
Harare - In a case that fanned racial tensions between well-off whites and poor blacks, a white doctor accused of experimenting on black patients was found guilty yesterday of professional negligence.

Judge Paddington Garwe found Richard McGown guilty on charges of culpable homicide relating to the deaths of two patients, both children. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Demonstrators who had earlier promised to picket the court failed to show up. A student leader, Obey Mudzingwa, said a protest would be staged today, when the Harare High Court hears arguments in mitigation before passing sentence.

McGown became a hated symbol for blacks who claimed he was carrying out experiments. Members of parliament likened him to a Nazi death-camp doctor and students threatened to attack whites in the streets if McGown was acquitted.

The judge cleared McGown in the deaths of three people.

McGown, 57, bowed his head and showed no emotion as the guilty verdict was read. He was allowed to leave the court on bail with his three adult children to reappear today.

The doctor's haughty manner during his trial ending on 5 August angered blacks, who argued he was typical of whites who had not shed racist views 15 years after white rule ended. The 1 per cent white minority still controls much of Zimbabwe's economy.

In his verdict, Judge Garwe criticised McGown for playing with a metal chain, eating sweets and humming during the trial. "We found his general attitude rather disturbing," Judge Garwe said. The judge ruled McGown gave unusually high dosages of morphine when administering anaesthetics to five patients who died in Harare between 1986 and 1992. But the court found his negligence caused the deaths only of a Kenyan girl of 10 and a baby of Asian parents.

A Kenyan lawyer, Charles Khaminwa, father of the girl who was given twice the recommended dose of morphine, immediately attacked the verdict. He said prosecutors failed to explain why they dropped charges that McGown carried out experiments on patients.