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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Defense experts begin testimony in Taser death trial in Winnfield

Jerry Glas, one of the attorneys defending former Winnfield Police Officer Scott Nugent against manSLAUGHTER, represents Taser International.

"Expert witness" Mark Kroll, Taser shareholder, serves on the corporate board of Taser and has been paid more than $800,000 over the past three years as he has been used as a witness in cases involving Tasers

"Expert witness" Hugh Calkins is a paid consultant for TASER International and sits on one of their Boards.

Taser International is apparently paying for their appearance at the trial.

Renowned New York City medical examiner Michael Baden testified that Pikes, 21, died from cardiac arrest suffered from the repeated Taser shocks. "He was healthy. He was Tasered. He died," Baden testified. "There was no other reason for his death."

October 28, 2010
Bret H. McCormick, The Town Talk

WINNFIELD -- The defense team in the manslaughter trial of former Winnfield Police Officer Scott Nugent rolled out its first two expert witnesses Wednesday in an attempt to convince the jury that Nugent was not responsible for the death of Barron "Scooter" Pikes.

Nugent, 24, is accused by prosecutors of using a Taser on Pikes, also known as Barron Collins, "eight or nine times," which they say led to Pikes' death following his arrest on an outstanding felony drug warrant on Jan. 17, 2008.

The two expert witnesses -- one who took the stand in the Winn Parish Courthouse and the other who appeared via a videotaped deposition -- attempted to poke holes in the testimony of one of the prosecution's key witnesses.

That witness, renowned New York City medical examiner Michael Baden, testified earlier that Pikes, 21, died from cardiac arrest suffered from the repeated Taser shocks. "He was healthy. He was Tasered. He died," Baden testified. "There was no other reason for his death."

Mark Kroll, a biomedical engineering professor at the University of Minnesota whom the defense submitted as an expert in bioelectricity, and Dr. Hugh Calkins, a cardiology professor at Johns Hopkins University, both disputed Baden's theory.
Kroll and Calkins were the first two defense witnesses called by defense attorney Jerry Glas, a New Orleans attorney who also represents Taser International.

Dressed in a long-sleeve white shirt and black dress pants, Nugent sat stoically between his Pineville attorneys, George Higgins and Phillip Terrell, while Glas presented the defense's case.

Calkins particularly took Baden to task, saying his statement "was not consistent with anyone who has any knowledge of the Taser device." Calkins' deposition was recorded Monday night because he was unable to attend the trial.

The defense's two experts testified that research shows Tasers, particularly the TaserX26 model used by Nugent and the "drive stun" method of using the Taser directly against a suspect's body, cause pain but would not lead to the death of a 6-foot, 250-pound, 21-year-old like Pikes.

"It hurts, but there's zero negative effect on the body," Kroll said.

"That's what the drive stun does," Calkins said. "It doesn't cause arrhythmia. It causes discomfort."

Winn Parish chief prosecutor Steve Crews tried to punch holes in the experts' credibility by showing their close relationships with Taser International, which is paying for their appearance at the Nugent trial.

Both Kroll and Calkins have paid positions on Taser International boards, while Kroll has received nearly $800,000 in compensation over the past three years for his role on the board of directors and as a consultant for Taser.

Those relationships, Crews said, show "bias and prejudice" on the experts' part.
The experts said they haven't hidden their relationships with Taser International, but those relationships give them a unique perspective and knowledge on the effects of the devices.

Crews said Pikes' combination of sickle cell trait, an enlarged heart, high blood pressure from trying to escape arrest and being Tased eight or nine times over a 15-minute span formed a lethal combination that could have led to his death.

Calkins, however, said there is "no evidence" that Tasers can lead to someone's death because the electricity only causes blood pressure to rise "a trivial amount," and the electricity charge is "very superficial. "The Taser ECD (Electronic Control Device) played no role, did not cause or contribute to the death of Mr. Collins (Pikes)," Calkins said.

Judge John Joyce, who earlier in the day seated one of the two alternate jurors because one of the jurors was dismissed "due to unusual circumstances," recessed the trial early Wednesday afternoon as the defense's third witness was not in town yet.
The trial will continue at 9 a.m. today with more defense testimony, and the defense could rest its case as early as this afternoon.


Anonymous said...

I am writing in regard to a case currently in trial at the Federal Courthouse in Alexandria Louisiana before Judge Drell. The case is James Gregory Bennett vs Pineville Police Department. Mr Bennett was arrested in Pineville for public intoxication in April 2006. He was brutalized and tasered multiple times by the officers involved. I have heard nothing in the local media about this and it concerns me. As with most things the government does in Louisiana, they are trying to sweep this one under the rug. I am glad that you report about such matters.

Anonymous said...

As if the juvinile cops didn't have enough weapons, now they all have tasers to use at their will! This Pineville case is pathetic. What happened to victems being innocent til proven guilty? These police destroyed all evidence that could have proven this victem guilty. Why? Because it is they who are guilty, and abused him shamefully, scarring him for life. Their equipment would have proven THEIR guilt! For shame. Some day, this will come back to haunt them! Some day......