Hanna’s Counselor – Part 2

Parts of this post were used in Aggravated.

Numbers and Details

The more I looked into Ada Dixon and others associated with Steve’s trial, the more I began to wonder how accurate their testimony was. For example, in the second trial (August 2006), Dixon was asked by the prosecutor, Elmer Ross, how many times (in the twelve years of her practice) she had “testified in the courts in the State of Texas as an expert in child sexual abuse cases.”

She said, “Oh, 30, 40, guessing.”

That would be an average of between 2.5 and 3.3 cases per year. If that was true, and she continued at that same pace, by today she would have testified in as many as eighty cases. Isn’t that a lot for someone who lives in a small town? I was curious about those numbers. It felt like she was trying to oversell her credentials.

In 2015, I asked Nathan Brooks, an attorney who was working on another case involving Ms. Dixon (Texas v. Munsen), to do a LexisNexis search for me. He only found two mentions of her by 2015. One was Steve’s appeal in 2007, and the other was from 2011, in a case we’ll call Gonzo v. State. None of the mentions of Dixon were before Steve’s trial. If Dixon had already testified in thirty to forty cases before Steve’s, why did she only appear twice in the LexisNexis database after twenty-one years of testifying? I mentioned this to Steve, and he wasn’t surprised. He pointed out that inmates would have needed to complain about Dixon in their appeals for her name to show up in the database, and he said that most inmates aren’t even aware that they can challenge expert witnesses in their appeals.

I kept trying, but further investigation still didn’t support Dixon’s claim that she had been used very often as an expert witness. In Texas v. Munsen (2013), Dixon testified against Alan Munsen, who was accused of molesting his two children. As in Steve’s case, Dixon had counseled the children involved, and she appeared in court for the purpose of revealing what she said the children had accused their father of. The defense attorney in that trial asked for Dixon to produce a list of all cases in which she had “testified as an expert on sexual assault of a child at trial or by deposition in the past ten years.”

Dixon said she wouldn’t have a list of cases, “because I wouldn’t want to break HIPPA [sic] laws reporting who I’d seen and stuff like that.” I don’t see how she would have broken any HIPAA regulations because she wouldn’t have been revealing any patient information. She said the same thing to me in 2014 when I asked her if she had ever spoken to Hanna’s brother, Aaron. She said that HIPAA regulations wouldn’t let her even tell me who had been her patient, much less whether she had consulted with a patient’s mother or brother. I thought that was a strange argument for her to make, because she testified openly during Steve’s trial that Hanna had been her patient, and that she had discussed the case with Hanna’s mother.

Unfortunately, unless Dixon provides a list, I can’t think of another way to find out how many cases she had testified in (as opposed to how many she claimed there had been). One person did try, though. In 2016, Maureen Munsen, Alan Munsen’s mother, made a Texas Public Information Act (TPIA) request to Ashwell County (where Steve’s trial was held). She asked for information about payments made to Dixon by the county between 1992 and 2016. Their records revealed that Dixon had been paid a total of $1,775, for “professional services,” on three different dates (which could possibly have been for testifying). Two of the dates were in February and May of 1996 (two years after she opened her counseling business), and a third one was in June of 2001 (five years before Steve’s trial). Did she only testify three times in Ashwell County? Ms. Lynch also made similar requests to the surrounding counties, but none of them had records showing that Dixon had testified in their courts.

In other words, there are only a few records of Dixon being paid to testify on behalf of any of her patients between the time she opened her offices and the 2006 trial. She could have stopped charging a fee for testifying, but that’s unlikely, given that the prosecutor in the 2013 Texas v. Munsen trial said that she was paying Dixon for her testimony in that trial. So, the TPIA requests don’t prove that she did testify 30 to 40 times by 2006, but they don’t prove that she didn’t. I was back to square one again.

Dixon indicated that she saw patients who had suffered all types of abuse and trauma, not just sexual abuse. Logically, every client she took on who wasn’t a victim of sexual abuse would take up some space in her schedule that that could have been filled by a sexual abuse client. A TPIA request to the local CASA revealed that Dixon also trained volunteers who were going to work for CASA, and that she served on CASA’s Board of Directors. How did she have time to serve her patients, give speeches, present at conferences, train volunteers, serve on boards for organizations, presumably testify for some of her other patients, and also testify in two to three sexual abuse cases each year, and all this in a small city? It doesn’t seem likely. If she was also seeing patients for a number of other types of trauma, wouldn’t that further reduce the possibility that she would have seen enough sexual abuse patients, who ended up going to court, to have testified that many times?

Dixon’s role in the Texas v. Lynch trial did reveal some of her character and her attitude regarding the law and her patients, though. I’ll look at that in the next two posts.

 Michael Sirois

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