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Trial set for medical examiner accused of staging his own attack

By Jessica Su
Court TV

(Court TV) -- A bizarre attack in 2002 left a medical examiner in Shelby County, Tennessee, handcuffed to a window guard, wrapped in barbed wire and with a motion-sensitive bomb strapped to his chest.

"Twist it, shake it or move it, you're dead," the assailant said, according to the alleged victim, Dr. O.C. Smith. "Welcome to death row."

A security guard discovered Smith, 52, at Memphis' Regional Forensic Medical Center in the early morning of June 2, 2002. Smith was treated for cuts, bruises and a chemical burn to his face.

In an even stranger development, detectives concluded that the highly respected doctor faked his attack. He was arrested on charges of lying to federal authorities and illegally possessing a bomb.

Openings were set to begin Tuesday at the U.S. District Court in Memphis. Smith faces up to 20 years in prison.

"Investigators went around and beat the bushes trying to solve this case," said U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins of Arkansas. "But they concluded that he did it to himself."

A Tennessee prosecutor will not try Smith because of a conflict of interest. Smith worked with Tennessee law enforcement agencies for more than 20 years.

Authorities initially believed an attacker blinded Smith with lye solution, then stuffed his mouth with barbed wire so he could not move or shout for help for three hours.

However, Smith only suffered minor injuries, which cast doubt on his claims, Cummins said.

"Agents have been able to recreate [the attack] on their own," he said.

Psychiatrist Park Dietz, who has worked on the cases of Jeffrey Dahmer, the D.C.-area snipers and "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, is expected to testify that Smith's behavior characterized "factitious victimization disorder," a term Dietz coined for the case.

Sufferers of factitious disorder fake illness to gain attention and sympathy, according to the medical handbook "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders."

Defense attorney Jerry Easter, however, contends Smith did not fake the attack, and describes the true assailant as a "deranged person" who sought to punish the medical examiner.

"Before the event, there was one other bomb found at the medical center that had Biblical references to it. In April 2001, there were letters sent to a newspaper reporter and the DA's office, vilifying Dr. Smith because of his testimony in a capital murder hearing," Easter said. "It appears that all three events are related."

The letter called Smith a "Pawn of the Devil" and the convicted murderer, Philip Workman, an innocent "Lamb of God."

The writer signed the letters, "Steel in the hand of the King of Kings," according to the Associated Press. The writer was not caught.

Moreover, Easter challenges Dietz's credibility.

"There's no science to his report," Easter said, according to local newspaper The Commercial Appeal. "This is all psychobabble gobbledygook."

Not only has Dietz never examined Smith, but the psychiatrist's false testimony caused the Texas Supreme Court to overturn the conviction of child killer Andrea Yates in January.

During Yates' 2002 trial, Dietz said that Yates drowned her five children after seeing a similar crime on the television show "Law and Order." However, no such episode existed.

On Monday, lawyers selected 12 jurors and four alternates. The trial is expected to last two or three weeks.


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