Through the first seven days of the trial, the judge still hadn't learned how to pronounce the defendant's name, and the prosecution still hadn't brought anyone to the witness stand who could substantiate its charge.
But Dr. Kenneth C. Edelin (pronounced Ead-e-lin) was still slouched over the second wooden desk at the front of the Suffolk County Superior Court courtroom, standing trial for manslaughter for an abortion he performed on October 3, 1973.
The prosecution had brought a string of doctors and hospital officials to the stand, but none of them said they had been in the operating room on that fateful October 3.
And when prosecutor Newman A. Flanagan was finished with his witnesses, defense attorney William P. Homans Jr. '41 lit into them with some success.
The prosecution alleges that in the course of the hysterotomy-type abortion, Edelin stood over the exposed womb of the 17-year-old patient with his hand in the uterus for a period of from three to five minutes, allowing the fetus to "suffocate."
Those three to five minutes may become a turning-point in the trial, cross-examination indicated earlier this week. Homans seemed prepared to argue that Edelin took three to five minutes to perform what is usually a shorter operation, not because he was allowing a fetus to breathe and then suffocate, but because the amniotic sac which envelops the fetus had burst, drawing out the operation.