Summit County judge orders Taser references deleted
from medical examiner's rulings
Saturday, May 03,2008
Akron- Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler must
delete any reference that Tasers contributed to the deaths
of three men, a Summit County Common Pleas judge ordered
The deaths of Dennis Hyde and Richard Holcomb, who were on
drugs and in an agitated state when police shot them with
Tasers, should be ruled accidental, visiting Judge Ted
Schneiderman wrote in his ruling. Any reference to homicide
or "electrical pulse stimulation" should be
deleted from death certificates and autopsy reports, he
The order to change the ruling in the death of the third
man, Mark McCullaugh, could be more far-reaching.
McCullaugh, who had a history of psychiatric illness, died
in Summit County Jail on Aug. 20, 2006, during a struggle
with deputies who used Tasers and pepper spray. Five
sheriff's deputies were indicted in his death.
Schneiderman ordered Kohler to rule McCullaugh's death
undetermined and delete any references to homicide and the
death possibly being caused by asphyxia, beatings or other
That pleased Sheriff Drew Alexander. The deputies, three
charged with reckless homicide and two with felonious
assault, are on unpaid leave.
"This supports my initial beliefs that my employees
acted appropriately," Alexander said in a statement.
Schneiderman's order regarding McCullaugh goes far
beyond the focus of the case, said John Manley, of the
prosecutor's office, who represented Kohler.
"The purpose of the hearing represented a singular and
very narrow issue on whether or not the successful
deployment of the Taser Model X26 could contribute in any
way to the cause of death," Manley said. He may appeal.
Kohler's rulings were controversial because few
coroners have said the Taser was a factor in deaths. Other
coroners typically cite other contributing factors, such as
drug use, heart disease and cardiac arrhythmia due to
illegal drug use.
Hyde, 30, died Jan. 5, 2005, during a struggle with Akron
police. Three officers used Tasers. Hyde, of Hartville, had
broken into a house through a window. He was on
methamphetamine and suffered blood loss from cuts from the
Holcomb, 18, of Akron, died May 28, 2005, after he attacked
a Springfield Township officer in a field. She shot him four
times with her Taser. Kohler ruled Holcomb was also in a
psychosis from using methamphetamine and Ecstasy.
Taser International maintains the weapon is not a factor if
police use it and the suspect later dies. Numerous experts
testified on its behalf at the four-day hearing in April.
"Taser International believed from the beginning that
these determinations of cause of death must be supported by
facts, medical research and scientific evidence,"
spokesman Steve Tuttle said in a prepared statement Friday.
As of mid-April, 68 wrongful-death or injury lawsuits have
been dismissed or judgments entered in favor of Taser,
according to the company. The company has not lost any
"It was an interesting case and an uphill
battle," said Manley. "Taser is quite a force to
be reckoned with and does everything to protect their golden
egg, which is the Model X26."
To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
kfarkas @ plaind.com, 216-999-5079
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