2 jurors replaced with alternates in trial of ex-UCLA gynecologist charged with sexual abuse

Sid Garcia Image
Thursday, October 20, 2022
2 jurors replaced in sexual abuse trial of ex-UCLA gynecologist
Two jurors were replaced in the sexual abuse trial of a former UCLA gynecologist. Only one alternate juror is left and there's concern about the possibility of running out of jurors in the case.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- For the second consecutive day, the jury in the trial of a former UCLA gynecologist charged with sexually abusing seven female patients had to start its deliberations all over again due to jurors having to be replaced for different reasons.

Since Monday, the jury in Dr. James Mason Heaps' case has tried to deliberate. There was no verdict Wednesday.

One juror was excused for a medical reason Monday and replaced with an alternate. Another juror was excused Tuesday afternoon because of financial hardship and replaced with an alternate juror.

There is only one alternate juror remaining.

"If we actually run out of jurors in the case then the judge will have no choice but to declare a mistrial and then the proceedings have to start all over from the beginning," said Lou Shapiro, a criminal defense lawyer and legal analyst. "So the judge, all the parties are very reluctant to have to do this all over again."

Heaps, 65, is on trial for nine counts each of sexual battery by fraud and penetration of an unconscious person by fraudulent representation, along with three counts of sexual exploitation of a patient involving alleged crimes between 2009 and 2018.

The crimes allegedly happened while Heaps worked as a gynecologist at UCLA.

If there aren't enough jurors to render a verdict and a mistrial is declared, Shapiro says this could favor the defense because "it puts one other obstacle in front of the prosecution's case in the attempt to convict the defendant."

More than 500 lawsuits were filed against Heaps and UCLA, accusing the school of failing to protect patients after becoming aware of the misconduct.

In May, attorneys for 312 former patients of Heaps announced a $374 million settlement of abuse lawsuits against the University of California.

The settlement came on top of a $243.6 million resolution of lawsuits involving about 200 patients announced in February, and a $73 million settlement of federal lawsuits reached last year involving roughly 5,500 plaintiffs.

The lawsuits alleged that UCLA actively and deliberately concealed Heaps' sexual abuse of patients. UCLA continued to allow Heaps to have unfettered sexual access to female patients -- many of whom were cancer patients -- at the university, plaintiffs' attorneys alleged in the suits.

UCLA issued a statement in May saying, "This agreement, combined with earlier settlements involving other plaintiffs, resolves the vast majority of the claims alleging sexual misconduct by James Heaps, a former UCLA Health physician.

"The conduct alleged to have been committed by Heaps is reprehensible and contrary to our values. We are grateful to all those who came forward, and hope this settlement is one step toward providing some level of healing for the plaintiffs involved.

"We are dedicated to providing the highest quality care that respects the dignity of every patient. We are taking all necessary steps to ensure our patients' well-being in order to maintain the public's confidence and trust," the statement continued.

City News Service contributed to this report.