MEDICAL EXAMINERS' AND CORONERS' POLICIES AND PROCEDURE IN THE STATE OF TEXAS: DO THEY EXIST?
But do not be misled into believing that your permission is needed to
remove these organs or tissue. The Houston
Chronicle quotes Rose Garcia, an assistant county attorney, as saying,
"The coroner's office can remove body parts without permission. They
are barred, however, from turning those body parts over for donation without
permission." Identified as only Harris County officials, the Chronicle
article further states "that the office can and does remove some tissue
in anticipation of getting permission later". And the law grants them
immunity from damages in civil actions which means: medical examiners are
not liable for damages based on the theory that consent was required before
the body part or tissue was removed.
When the Harris County Medical Examiner's Office performs an autopsy, the organs are removed and are not returned to the body. They maintain that this is their procedure because of "health concerns", AND they are under no obligation to inform the next of kin of this practice. There are other states that do not follow this procedure and DO return the organs to the body. Under Texas law, corneal tissue can be removed and sold without the knowledge or consent from the next of kin. According to a spokesperson for the Lions Eye Bank, corneas are sold locally for $950 per tissue and nationally and abroad for as much as $1,050 per tissue or $2,100 for two. Are the victims' survivors compensated? No way!!!
However, the area that is most disturbing is the manner in which Texas handles the death of children, especially in rural communities. Often the person that must determine the cause of death is an elected official - a justice of the peace or coroner who has no prior medical background or training. They are the ones that determine if an autopsy is even needed and in many cases NONE are performed. It is difficult, especially in small communities, for anyone to believe the a parent or caregiver might be responsible for the death of a child. All too often, these deaths are listed as "undetermined" or due to "natural causes" because of the information the parent or caregiver gives to the investigator.
The Claudette Kibble case in Houston, Texas, is the classic example of this problem. Ms. Kibble was arrested only after she confessed to killing her three children over a period of ten years. No one in the medical examiner's office bothered to look closer at the children's deaths because the mother (and murderer) claimed the children suffered from seizures.
Living in an urban community does not guarantee that the medical examiner's office is going to be any more competent than one in a rural community. Even though some medical examiners require police investigators to fill out an evidentiary request form, if the officer is not aware of this requirement or forgets to request certain evidence, the medical examiner's office does not retain that evidence. It seems that common sense, if not the law, would dictate that if there is blood-soaked clothing riddled with bullet holes, then that piece of clothing might be important to a case. But there have been many cases where this type of evidence was not retained by the ME's office. Furthermore, it would be reasonable to assume that before a cause of death is listed as "undetermined" or "SIDS", that routine toxicology and drug screen testing would be required; but that is NOT what happens - there IS NO uniform code to which coroners must comply on a statewide basis.
We cannot continue to rely on this type of (mis)information or investigation. Missouri has policies and procedures that are truly worthy of Missouri's state motto -"the show-me state". Texas must adopt standard as stringent as those of Missouri, standards that require medical examiners statewide to follow specific guidelines and procedures. We must insure that people who intentionally and willfully cause the death of others will be brought to justice and punished accordingly. The most important element in the investigation of a person's death (the cause) begins with the coroner or medical examiner. Even the most brilliant detective or prosecutor will be unable to obtain a conviction if the autopsy or evidence has been improperly handled. Historically, medical examiners have had absolutely no one to answer to.
How can you help make the necessary changes in this uncontrolled area? Call or fax your county commissioner and request that a representative of Justice For All be appointed to the committee currently meeting to set policies and procedures for the Harris County Medical Examiner's office. It is time for elected officials locally and statewide to recognize that Justice For All is an important and vital part of the community and our voices will be heard.
On November 26, 1994, Lance Corporal Nathan E. Lewis, US Marine Corps,
at Camp Pendleton, California, did willfully and unlawfully kill Anthony
Todd Williamson, a three and on-half year old child who was in his care
and custody. He beat him on the back and buttocks with a closed fist
and on the face by grabbing and squeezing with his hand and on this cheeks
by slapping with an open hand and backhand. The autopsy revealed deep bruising
and that all bruises were inflicted on this date. Lewis testified he picked
Anthony up two separate times by his arms (the bruises on both the upper
arms of the child substantiate this) and forcefully shook him as hard as
he could. He demonstrated this during his testimony. At this point, Lewis'
attention was diverted to his six month old son, who he then fed, diapered
and rocked back to sleep. He then went back to Anthony, his three and one-half
year old stepson, and became very angry because Anthony would not respond
to him. He picked this child up four separate times and shook him as hard
as he could after he beat him! He then lied to medical personnel, telling
them the child fell while jumping on the bed.
Lewis was charged with Murder, Involuntary Manslaughter, Assault on a Child Under 16 and two charges of False Official Statements. He was tried in a General Courts-Martial on board Camp Pendelton. He was convicted by a Military Judge alone of Involuntary Manslaughter and two charges of False Official Statements. He was sentenced to three years maximum for Involuntary Manslaughter and five years maximum for each charge of False Official Statements. Lewis still receives full pay and benefits and his dependents nothing. Because Lewis has been incarcerated in the Camp Pendleton Brig for nine months, he is eligible for a clemency hearing. It is clear from the record and the testimony of Lewis, nothing he did was involuntary.
He was sentenced to 13 years for murdering a child and lying to officials; he should be made to serve every day of the 13 years! He was sentenced to three years maximum for Involuntary Manslaughter (murdering a child) and five years maximum for each charge of False Official Statements. Yes, the Marine Corps places a higher value on lying than they do a child's life! Lewis has dishonored himself and the United States Marine Corps by his brutal attack upon an innocent, helpless child who had nothing but trust and unconditional love for the man he called "Daddy."
The holidays bring great joy for most; however,
when you have lost a loved one, whether it was this year or twenty years
ago, the holidays are never the same. Justice For All would like
to continue the tradition of remembering those victims of crime by placing
an ornament on a tree to be located in a public location, as we did last
Please start thinking about the type of ornament and the crime victim you would like remembered during the holiday season. The ornament can be glass, paper, wood, ceramic, metal or any creation you desire. It can be purchased and engraved or handmade and representing your religious beliefs. This is your opportunity to be creative while not forgetting the victims of crime.
If you have not lost a family member, friend or co-worker, but have met a person who has lost a family member, please remember them during this time of the year.
Justice For All is deeply disturbed at the ruling by U.S. Magistrate
Stephen Capelle which attempts to restrict the use of protest letters by
victims, surviving family members of homicides, prosecutors and the concerned
public, for fear that protest letters might be prejudicial to inmates.
In essence, Capelle's ruling is an attempt to silence the law-abiding public.
The parole board' motto states, "Parole should only be granted if it is in the best interest of society." hence protest letters were an avenue to let society have a voice before a decision was made to parole or not. Because parole board members are ever-changing, it is vitally important that they hear from the victims or surviving family members prior to making a decision.
Capelle states that protest letters are often vindictive and contain erroneous information. Testimony by Raven Kazen, Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Director of victim services, certainly contradicts Capelle's ruling when she indicated that out of thousands of protest letters by victims, she questioned the accuracy of only ONE letter and never documented a single letter as being vindictive.
Because of the immediate response from Justice For All, members of the Texas State Legislature, victims' advocates and citizens from all over the state, Attorney General Dan Morales requested a "stay" from the ruling. The "stay" has been granted by U.S. Magistrate Stephen Capelle, which prohibits any action by any of the parties involved. Attorney General Dan Morales has assured Justice For All that he will appeal the entire ruling, all the way to the United States Supreme Court if necessary.
In the interim, Justice For All will continue to protest paroles of those convicted felons who, if released, would be a threat to society. Justice For All will not turn away from victims and surviving family members. Justice For All will collect petition signatures, send personal letters and advise anyone protesting parole to keep up the good fight. Justice For All will exercise its constitutional right to petition our government, and Justice For All will demand our constitutional right of equal protection under the law.
Please write or FAX Attorney General Dan Morales and tell him that you strongly support this appeal. Additionally, please write or FAX Senator John Whitmire, Chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee, and tell him that you support legislation that will give victims and citizens the right to have input into parole proceedings.
THE MICHAEL BURZINSKI MEMORIAL CONCERT
SPONSORED BY JUSTICE FOR ALL
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1995 3:00PM HOUSTON CITY HALL STEPS
Michael Burzinski was a happy, healthy 24-year old who was murdered, brutally, during a robbery/assault of his person. Michael's family is a talented one, with a variety of musicians from different fields, including a college professor, an educator of music, a recording studio artist and musical theater performers. This musically-gifted family will be providing a very versatile performance with different types of music, including classical, jazz, pop, musical theater, film and even some patriotic and religious selections. This is a representation of the wide range of music enjoyed by Michael during his too short life and will also express the concerns of his family that ALL individuals have a fundamental right to justice. There will also be comments by leaders of various support groups. Admission is FREE so please show your support and enjoy, for an afternoon, a part of Michael Burzinski's life that gave him much pleasure..
WHEN JUSTICE FAILS was the name of the rally sponsored by JUSTICE FOR ALL
this past Sunday, November 6, 1995, and those who missed it did indeed
miss one of the best rallies in which we have ever participated.
We had what is called an "open mike", meaning that anyone who wanted to, could get up and talk for a few minutes, and as I stood and listened to the stories of failed justice, I made note of a few things I would like to bring to your attention. At this rally, many non-members came and then came forward to talk. At this rally were blacks, whites, Hispanics and as I looked and listened to each, I wanted to ask if anyone thought that Ruby Tucker, who is black, might have hurt less when her daughter-in-law was murdered that did the Gees, who are oriental, when Tracy was murdered. Did anyone there think that the Padillo family hurt more than Lee Wells because they are Hispanic? No. Crime is no respecter of age or sex. Crime is not geographic. Crime is not a color. And neither is pain.
Some stood up (as did Bob Carriero) to say that because the perpetrator in their case had been given the death penalty that they probably had received justice in their case, but I disagree. Maybe, according to the definition of justice - moral equality, the punishment received was "just", but it wasn't justice. To me the biggest failure was ten, twenty, thirty years ago when our political leaders and society in general should have demanded the changes necessary at that time to stop this wave of violence as it was just beginning to swell, then maybe none of us would had to have been there on that rainy Sunday afternoon telling how justice had failed them. Just maybe Bob could have been taking Kynara to a movie. Maybe Linda Kelly would be Christmas shopping for her whole family. Maybe Sharon Couch would be taking Renee to kindergarten classes.
There are maybes. But these few things I am sure of: until we all band together, no matter what color, what religion, what nationality, then we will continue to meet at victims' rallies; until we all band together and not jockey for position in front of the camera or try to be a "one person show", then we will continue to watch as murder rates soar, and until we all join hands and march united to Austin and demand protection and equality, then we will continue to look into the eyes of new victims and share their pain.
As a parent of a murdered child, I felt compelled to write you this letter after having recently attended a support rally at T.C. Jester Park on October 28, 1995. On August 26, 1992, my only son was violently murdered in a senseless crime. Since his death, I have devoted my time and energy to helping other parents of murdered children such as Vicki Gray, who also lost her son to a needless homicide. Although meeting with these victims and their supporters was a very sad experience, it was also a very necessary one in the healing process for moving forward with our lives. After I returned home from the rally, I realized how strengthening the love and understanding of others really is. So, for those who need the support of a good listener, I am there. And to all victims, you will always be in my thoughts and prayers, as you have a special place in my heart.
With the suffering of a family violence victim as a backdrop, the Houston
Police Department on Wednesday, October 18, tried to shock victims and
perpetrators into seeking help.
The incident highlighted involved a husband and wife. On Sept. 28, at their home, they argued over her going to work. She had a job cleaning offices. He had no job and was irritated that she was supporting them. He shredded her legs with a shotgun.
Julio Ardon Bustillo, (DOB 10-30-69) aka Julian Aguilar Cabrerra, is charged with attempted murder. He is being held without bond in the Harris County Jail. Ana Prieto Canela (DOB 5-24-72) is in Ben Taub, where she has undergone a double amputation -- twice. Her husband is her only close kin in this country.
Lt. Ken Johnson, head of HPD's Family Violence Unit, said, "I have a message for men and I have a message for women."
"For men: In the past few days, a lot of attention has been focused on the crucial need for men to take responsibility for their actions and obligations. Family violence is a serious problem for which men are primarily responsible. Real men don't behave like this. Real men don't assault women. Real men can do a great deal to solve this problem.
For women, the primary victims: Do not suffer in silence. You should speak out. The police can't take action on events if those events are never reported to the police. Even if you are afraid to tell us your name, you can call us anonymously and we will give you information and referrals where you can get more help. Our phone number is 533-7900. The phones are staffed 6am to 6pm, Monday through Friday."
These days, Houston Police officers do take action in family violence cases. If a police officer has reason to believe an assault has taken place or there will be violence, the officer will take appropriate action -- including making an arrest and filing charges. Officers also will give victims information on shelters and counseling services.
"Houston Police will do all they can to stop family violence," Johnson said.
The Honduran Consulate has expedited paperwork needed for Canela's mother to get an emergency medical visa so she could see her daughter.
JUSTICE FOR ALL
SAVE OUR COMMUNITIES
7642 CRYSTAL SHORES DR.
RENO, NV 89506 (702) 972-0830
REF: PAROLE BOARD ACTION
As you are aware, Save Our Communities was founded after the murder of Sparks Police Officer, Larry Johnson, by an inmate allowed to go free by a mistake that was blamed on the Nevada Parole Board, and rightfully so.
It is apparent we still have not learned our lesson and once again the public is the last to know that another inmate has been set free with no input from the public. I feel that a public notification should be given in regard to the parole of high profile inmates convicted of serious crimes that are about to be set free.
Once again, the Nevada State Parole Board listened to the family only in the release of Sergio Quadros. It is apparent the family of Quadros had input, but not the District Attorney who was involved in this serious Child Abuse Case. The public only learned of the parole after the article in The Reno Gazette Journal.
Save Our Communities (Justice For All) supports the disgust of D.A. David Stanton, of the Washoe County District Attorney's Office, in the action of the parole board.
I would greatly appreciate, in the future, being notified at the above address, of any future early release, to enable a member of our group to attend the parole meeting.
Very Respectfully Yours,
President of Justice For All
Reno, Nevada Chapter
Sergio Quadras was convicted on a charge he abused his 20-month old
stepson by slamming the baby's head against a bed frame resulting in a
skull fracture. On a videotaped confession, Quadros admitted to the child
abuse. "He wanted to hurt the child and he wanted to hurt it more.
That showed me someone who is really disturbed", stated David Stanton,
chief deputy district attorney.
Quadros was sentenced on December 2, 1994 to a five year sentence on a felony child abuse charge, a felony which is punishable by up to 20 years. Stanton had pushed for at least a 10 year prison term while Quadros' defense pleaded for probation, claiming his former client had paid for his mistake. Ironically, the entire family, including the mother of the victim and other family members, were urging an early release. Quadros is set to be released from Ely State Prison on December 1, 1995 against the wishes of many members of the community.
We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Joe Anderson, Bob
Carreiro, Gene Gaither, Shirley Parish, Madonna Pitrucha, (Pat Mancuso
if Pat Teer hadn't messed up) and Austin County allies who were supportive
to family members as Mark Frederick's murderer again starts through the
court system after two trials, four times through the Court of Criminal
Appeals and two times through the Supreme Court. Anyone that has been in
the court situation knows that words can never express the gratitude and
appreciation you feel for friends that give of themselves at this critical
time. Let's start giving awards of honor! And thanks to all who were there
in spirit but could not be there in person.
On October 27, 1995, Billy George Hughes, Jr., was granted indigent status as we knew he would. From the witness stand, he claimed he had not worked his businesses in two years. Forgive us if we don't believe this con man who has told more untruths than stars in the sky. Too bad for all us taxpayers!
Compliments to Judge Stilley (visiting judge) who asked Pat Teer if she wanted to make any statements. He was one of the first judges to allow victims' impact statements into court record, eulogizing Trooper II Mark Alan Frederick and petitions referencing the hearing as part of the victim's impact. I was allowed to state my beliefs that Hughes had already had seven years of Habeas Corpus while defense attorney Michael Maness loudly protested. Judge Stilley is a no-nonsense judge and runs a strict court though, because he does not want any of his court's cases to be overturned. In my 19-year opinion, this case was not overturned because of court error.
We would like to also give medals to those fine folk who wrote letters of testament and signed petitions. We cannot allow U.S. Magistrate Stephen Capelle to silence the voice of the public protesting unfair justice. The names and addresses must be held in strict confidence, not be limited or given to the inmates!
From: Gerda Arnold, Pat Teer, Ruth Frederick and Mary Lange