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Taser Stuns Coroners with Win in Autopsy Reports Case
Court Watch | 2008/05/08 14:37

An Ohio judge has given medical examiners around the country a shock by ordering a coroner to remove any reference to Tasers in her autopsy reports on three men who died after police officers shot them with the stun guns.

Amnesty International estimates that since June 2001, more than 150 people have died in the U.S. following Taser shocks, but the gun's manufacturer has been suing medical examiners who have cited its products in autopsy reports.

That aggressive strategy paid off big time after a four-day bench trial of Taser International's case against Dr. Lisa Kohler, the chief medical examiner of Summit County, Ohio. She had identified the physiological stress of being incapacitated by a 50,000-volt Taser as a contributory cause of the deaths of Dennis Hyde, 30, Richard Holcomb, 18, and Mark McCullaugh, 28.

“There is simply no medical, scientific, or electrical evidence to support the conclusion that the Taser X26 had anything to do with the death[s],” Court of Common Pleas Judge Ted Schneiderman said in a May 2 decision.

Under Ohio law, a judge can direct a coroner “to change his decision as to [the] cause and manner and mode of death.” Schneiderman ordered the county to delete any reference to a “contributing factor of electrical pulse incapacitation” in the Hyde and Holcomb autopsy reports and similar language in the McCullaugh report.



Monopoly Alleged In Crane Certification
Topics | 2008/05/07 14:45
In an antitrust lawsuit, a man who was denied accreditation as a crane operator claims the National Commission for Certification of Crane Operators and the International Assessment Institute conspire to monopolize training schools in California, and that the Institute pays kickbacks to Commission for the tests it administers.

Plaintiff Timothy Maxwell claims he passed all the required courses and tests but the defendants denied him certification anyway, costing him a job.

He demands punitive damages for antitrust violations, breach of contract, unfair competition, false advertising and interference with prospective business.

He is represented in Alameda County Court by James Dombroski of Petaluma.


Texas Judge Sets Execution for Mexican National
Topics | 2008/05/06 14:55

A Texas court Monday set the execution date for Mexican national and Texas prisoner Jose Ernesto Medellin  for August 5, after the US Supreme Court ruled in March that President George W. Bush did not have the authority to direct state courts to comply with a ruling from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) granting new court hearings. The government of Mexico and Medellin's lawyers had requested that the judge hold off on setting an execution date, but Judge Caprice Cosper scheduled the lethal injection after refusing to allow a legal adviser to the Mexican Foreign Secretary to speak before the court.

Medellin, a Mexican national sentenced to death for raping and murdering two teenage girls, had appealed a Texas Court of Criminal Appeals November 2006 ruling that Bush had "exceeded his constitutional authority" by ordering state court rehearings for 51 Mexican nationals, including Medellin, convicted in US courts. The president's February 2005 memorandum instructed the Texas courts to follow a March 2004 ICJ decision that held that Medellin and the other Mexican nationals tried in US courts had been denied their right under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to contact the Mexican consulate for legal assistance and that the US was obligated to grant review and reconsideration of their convictions and sentences.



Forest Service May Redact Identities In Fire Report
Law Firm News | 2008/05/05 14:44
The U.S. Forest Service is not required to disclose the identities of employees who responded to a 2003 wildfire near Idaho's Salmon River that killed two Forest Service workers, a 9th Circuit panel ruled.

The court dismissed a complaint filed by the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, a public watchdog group that sought a copy of the Forest Service's investigation of the deaths of firefighters Shane Heath and Jeff Allen, who died while fighting the Cramer Fire in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

Three other federal agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, conducted similar investigations and criticized the Forest Service's response to the fire. The OSHA issued several citations against the agency for creating dangerous working conditions. By the Forest Service's own account, management failings had contributed to the deaths.

The Forest Service said it disciplined six employees involved in the fire, but withheld their names and identifying information due to privacy concerns.

The appellate court upheld the agency's decision, saying disclosure could cause "embarrassment, shame, stigma and harassment" for anyone associated with the tragedy.

The court also appeared skeptical that the plaintiff needed the information to launch its own investigation. The only new information that the group could exhume after four full investigations was the identities of the Forest Service employees, whom the group said it plans to contact. This stated purpose does not justify disclosure, the court ruled.

It concluded that releasing the information would not "appreciably further the public's interest in monitoring the agency's performance during that tragic event." 


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