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Hilton Burns interview

Friday, May 18, 2012 - 1:00 p.m.

Dr. Hilton Burns is a partner in a medical practice with Veronica Smith and James Mendoza. Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed him at the Yoknapatawpha Gastroenterology Center. The interview was recorded with the witness's knowledge and consent.

Participants:

  • Detective T. Armstrong
  • Detective S. Murphy
  • Dr. Hilton Burns

Detective Armstrong: Dr. Burns, would you please state your name and address for the record?

Hilton Burns: My name is Dr. Hilton Burns, and I live at 8011 Lake Cove, in Oxford.

Detective Murphy: The reason we asked to speak with you today was that we had some questions about Dr. Veronica Smith.

Hilton Burns: A very nasty business, I'm sure.

Detective Armstrong: How long did you know Dr. Smith?

Hilton Burns: Several years now. She's the one who asked me to join the practice.

Detective Murphy: That's the Yoknapatawpha Gastroenterology Center?

Hilton Burns: Correct.

Detective Armstrong: Would you describe your relationship as close?

Hilton Burns: We were coworkers and partners, nothing more. I have neither the time nor the patience for personal chit-chat. I'm a busy man.

Detective Murphy: And when was the last time you saw Dr. Smith?

Hilton Burns: That would have been Friday, the 11th. She wanted to reschedule certain appointments, some activity involving her child.

Detective Murphy: How did she seem?

Hilton Burns: Perfectly normal.

Detective Murphy: And when you say perfectly normal, do you mean the way she'd been all week, which may have been different than how she usually was?

Hilton Burns: I don't understand the question.

Detective Murphy: Was Dr. Smith troubled by any personal or professional problems that might lead to her committing suicide?

Hilton Burns: I never saw any indication that Dr. Smith suffered from short or long-term depression. She had her ups and downs – we all do – but I never saw any behavior that indicated she might take her own life.

Detective Armstrong: How was she coping with the malpractice lawsuit?

Hilton Burns: She did her job.

Detective Murphy: If the plaintiff wins the lawsuit, does that place the Yoknapatawpha Gastroenterology Center at risk?

Hilton Burns: I would prefer we be cleared of all wrongdoing, and that's the outcome I expect.

Detective Murphy: How well do you know Dr. Smith's husband?

Hilton Burns: George, I believe. George O'Connor. I've met the man.

Detective Murphy: How about her ex-husband?

Hilton Burns: I didn't realize she'd been previously married.

Detective Armstrong: The night Dr. Smith died, how did you spend your time?

Hilton Burns: I spent the evening at home preparing for a presentation I'm giving at the next meeting of gastroenterologists.

Detective Murphy: Did you have chance to leave your residence that night?

Hilton Burns: No, I did not.

Detective Murphy: Can anyone else verify that?

Hilton Burns: I'm afraid not. I was alone.

Detective Murphy: Did you make or receive any telephone calls? Order food to be delivered?

Hilton Burns: I picked up some Thai food on my way home.

Detective Murphy: And where was that from?

Hilton Burns: Bancoc Tai. And, yes, I paid by charge card. My accountant has the receipt.

Detective Armstrong: Once you were home with your Thai food, you must have gone online. Research for your presentation. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.

Hilton Burns: I focused on the presentation, and I know my subject well enough that I don't have to resort to Wikipedia.

Detective Murphy: How would you say Dr. Smith got along with employees at the hospital?

Hilton Burns: You should ask them. Ruthie Foreman is head surgical nurse, and I'm sure any formal complaints would have been filed with Dwight Kramer. Dwight's an assistant administrator at the hospital.

Detective Murphy: Why do you expect there to be formal complaints?

Hilton Burns: I don't. But Dwight Kramer would be the person who knows if they were. Will there be anything else, detectives?

Detective Murphy: How did Dr. Smith get along with Dr. Mendoza?

Hilton Burns: They had no problems that I know of.

Detective Murphy: And would you know of them if they existed?

Hilton Burns: Probably not.

Detective Armstrong: Were you disappointed in your partners?

Hilton Burns: I don't understand.

Detective Armstrong: The practice of which you're a member has had its reputation smeared by the media coverage of something Dr. Smith allegedly did wrong and yet you don't act as if you're angry at Dr. Smith. We know about the incidents while you were at medical school. So why are you pretending not to be angry now?

Hilton Burns: As you said, something Dr. Smith allegedly did.

Detective Murphy: Do you think the malpractice suit is without grounds?

Hilton Burns: I'm afraid that any questions related to the suit need to be directed to the attorneys involved.

Detective Murphy: Thank you for your time, Doctor. We'll be in touch if we have any further questions.

Interview ended: 1:13 p.m.

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