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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Judge orders man's body exhumed

December 7, 2010
Jimmie E. Gates, Clarion Ledger

The body of a 21-year-old Jackson man who died in 2007 after a police officer jolted him with a Taser will be exhumed for a new autopsy, a Hinds County judge ordered.

Patricia Forbes, the mother of Rafael Forbes, filed a lawsuit in 2009 against the city of Jackson, Taser International Inc. and others related to her son's death.
The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in January in U.S. District Court in Jackson.
The body will be exhumed for a new autopsy after a medical expert for the family questioned findings in the 2007 autopsy done by Dr. Steven Hayne for the Hinds County coroner's office.

It's uncertain when the body will be exhumed.

Last Thursday, Circuit Judge Malcolm Harrison signed an order allowing exhumation.
The city of Jackson's defense is the Taser didn't cause Forbes' death, based on the autopsy conducted by Hayne.

The motion to exhume the body says Hayne ruled Rafael Forbes' death was a result of hypertensive heart disease, morbid obesity and hyperthermia.

But Dr. Nathaniel Brown of Cleveland, the medical expert hired by Patricia Forbes, said it is impossible to fully analyze the cause of death using Hayne's autopsy report, according to court papers.

In addition to 30 years of medical experience, Brown also is the coroner for Bolivar County.

According to the court document, Brown said Hayne's analysis was general. For instance, he said in the category of pathologic diagnoses: Hayne notes 'post Taser activation x2 on the right chest,' but rendered no further analysis of the taser's effect in the internal report.

The Forbes' family's "expert advised the plaintiff that the bulk of the autopsy report is unreliable," according to the motion granted by Harrison. "And he opined further that the autopsy report is inconsistent with the decedent's previous medical records and the testimony provided by witnesses at the scene."

David Goff, an attorney for Taser International Inc., questioned Brown's expertise.

"Dr. Brown indicates no education, training, experience or skill in forensic pathology or examining exhumed bodies," Goff says in court papers.

Patricia Forbes is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

The city of Jackson argues the lawsuit should be dismissed on several grounds, including immunity and that it does not condone the use of excessive force by officers.

Police reports said Forbes was arrested following a foot chase near Claiborne Street.
After Forbes resisted arrest the Taser was used on him, according to police accounts.
Forbes began showing signs of shortness of breath and was taken to Central Mississippi Medical Center, where he died.

Toxicology reports showed Forbes had no drugs in his system at death, Hinds County Coroner Sharon Grisham-Stewart said in 2007.

The initial chase began when police tried to stop a 1994 Mercury Marquis that was driving erratically, police said. The driver attempted to elude police before finally pulling over and bailing out of the car, along with Rafael Forbes and another passenger.

Timothy Lewis of Jackson, who was suspected of driving the vehicle, was arrested at the scene and also stunned with a Taser, police said.

During a search of the vehicle, police said they discovered a pound of marijuana, a scale and about $1,000.

Lewis was indicted on charges of felony possession of marijuana and felony fleeing from law enforcement. He pleaded guilty this year to felony fleeing and was given a three-year suspended sentence and fined $2,000.

The Jackson Police Department has used Tasers since 2006.

According to Amnesty International, more than 350 people have died after being stunned with a Taser since June 2001, including at least five in Mississippi.

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