You may have arrived here via a direct link to a specific post. To see the most recent posts, click HERE.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Cause of death: delirium with agitation due to schizoaffective disorder

Official cause of death: "delirium with agitation due to schizoaffective disorder." The manner of death was ruled a homicide. Call it whatever you want, but doesn't it simply boil down to: "tasered by police, stopped breathing and died?"


See also Taser keeps attackers, liability lawsuits at bay (St. Petersburg Times, September 19, 2008) - “There is a palpable concern in the medical examiner environment that people don’t want to get sued,” said Jeffrey Jentzen, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners.

See also Judge rules for Taser in cause-of-death decisions(Arizona Republic, May 2, 2008) - "It is dangerously close to intimidation," says Jeff Jentzen, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners. "At this point, we adamantly reject the fact that people can be sued for medical opinions that they make."

February 4, 2009
St. Petersburg Times

TAMPA -- A man who was Tasered by deputies three times died due to "delirium with agitation due to schizoaffective disorder," Hillsborough Associate Medical Examiner Leszek Chrostowski said this morning.

Roney Wilson, 46, died Sept. 11 after his family called on deputies to help them. Wilson had become upset, climbed inside his mother's Nissan Frontier, smashed out the windshield with his fist and refused to budge.

Chrostowski said he can't say whether the use of the Taser itself contributed to Wilson's death. But he did determine that one contributing cause was "physical stress" and he called the manner of death "homicide," citing Wilson's "physical resistence to attempted restraint by police."

Wilson, Chrostowski said, was already in state of delirium when deputies arrived. He had a small amount of alcohol in his blood, as well as prescription anti-depressants Cyclobenzaprine, Doxapine and Mitrazapine. Chrostowski said one of those three medications was found in a slightly higher amount than would be expected in a clinical dose.

"All of these medications can cause agitation themselves," he said. "If you put stress of apprehension on top of this, this . . . causes physiological collapse and people die. There's nothing completely unusual about that."

Chrostowski explained that the word "homicide" when used by the Medical Examiner does nothing to suggest intent to kill, but does indicate that a contributing factor in his death was "the hands of others."

"It doesn't matter how much it is contributory -- 1 percent, 50 percent or 90 percent," Chrostowski said. He said there was a lot of discussion at his office about his decision to call the manner of death a homicide. For example, even in the case in which a person dies by lethal injection under order of law, a medical examiner refers to the manner of death as "homicide."

"I cannot change how the definition works only because it's a police officer," he said. "I think that for the sake of consistency, we have to call it a homicide. It doesn't mean they intended to kill."

Dick Bailey, public information officer for the Medical Examiner, said it would be a while before the actual report is made public. For now, Chrostowski's findings will be sent to the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office for review. Bailey said that's a matter of course any time the manner of death is homicide.

Hillsborough Sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said a preliminary investigation into the use of force found no fault with the deputies' actions. Deputies Mary Angelo, Jessica Guthrie and Dustin Hartline returned to work shortly after the incident, she said. (Angelo, who used the Taser, is married to St. Petersburg Times researcher John Martin.)

The Sheriff's Office has not yet seen the ME's report, but will review it with the State Attorney's Office when it becomes available, Carter said.

No comments: