Minutes after a jury found him not guilty of battery against a health-care provider, Kanawha County Family Court Judge Mark Snyder said Thursday he felt vindicated and hopes hospital staff will use his case as a learning experience.
“I think this case shows a real need to get some sort of patient-advocacy system set up so people can deal with problems at any time of day when it comes up in a hospital,” Snyder said. “I think we ought to try to learn a lesson from it and go forward.
“My conscience is clear from the whole event. I was just trying get help for my friend, that’s all,” said Snyder, who has served as a judge 14 years.
Six jurors in Kanawha Magistrate Court took about 30 minutes to decide the case after Snyder testified that he doesn’t believe he even accidentally touched CAMC General Hospital nurse Stephanie King last November.
King testified Wednesday that Snyder yelled in her face and grabbed her arm in an attempt to guide her to his friend’s hospital room. Snyder testified that he never yelled at the nurse.
Elizabeth Nida, another CAMC nurse, told jurors Wednesday she didn’t see Snyder touch King but heard King say, “Don’t touch me.”
Jim Cagle, Snyder’s attorney, said his client was simply trying to get pain medication for his friend, Tony Serreno. Serreno, a former Charleston attorney, told jurors he had requested help to no avail and was in so much pain that he felt like he was dying.
Serreno was scheduled to have his leg amputated the morning after the incident, his third or fourth operation that week.
The day after the incident, West Virginia Supreme Court administrator Steve Canterbury filed a complaint against Snyder with the Judicial Disciplinary Counsel. Supreme Court justices put the matter on hold, pending the outcome of Snyder’s trial.
Cagle told jurors their decision might decide Snyder’s future as a judge and could affect his pension.
“This may seem like a small case in a lower court, but this means everything in the world for my client,” Cagle said during closing arguments. “It means his job, it means his future, it means his good name,”
Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Keith Randolph said King didn’t have to have physical injuries in order for Snyder to be found guilty of battery. There just had to be physical contact, said Randolph, who was appointed to prosecute the case because Cagle is defending Kanawha Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants against two misdemeanor criminal charges.
Randolph tried to point out inconsistent statements made by witnesses for Snyder about how events unfolded, but Cagle said the differences helped prove Snyder is an honest man.
“He was the last guy to testify — a man who sat here and heard everybody testify before; he’s already seen there were some recollections that differed — but he goes ahead and testifies as he recalls it,” Cagle told jurors. “If you’re an honorable and decent person, you tell it like you remember it.”
Cagle also argued that Snyder has a neurological disorder that would have prevented the judge from dragging King down the hallway. If he touched her in any way, Cagle told jurors, it would have been only because he’s unsteady and walks with a cane.
“Can you imagine somebody in that condition trying to pull somebody down the hall?” he asked.
Karen Glazier, a family friend and manager of a senior living home in Malden, described Snyder to the jury as a “gentle giant.”
After the verdict, Snyder’s wife, Mary, was crying.
“He’s a good man,” she said.
Before being appointed a family court judge by then-Gov. Bob Wise in 2000, Snyder served as a public defender in Fayette and Kanawha counties and, in 1994, was appointed as a juvenile referee for Kanawha County Circuit Court. His term on the family court bench ends in January 2017.
“It’s been life on pause” since he was accused of battery, Snyder said after Thursday’s acquittal. “My family has needed my support and I’ve been kind of unavailable, trying to deal with this.
“What a relief,” he said with a laugh. “What a relief it is.”
Reach Kate White at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-1723 or follow @katelwhite on Twitter.