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Taser references deleted from medical examination

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    Summit County judge orders Taser references deleted from medical examiner s rulings Karen Farkas Saturday, May 03,2008 Plain Dealer
    Message 1 of 1 , May 6, 2008
      Summit County judge orders Taser references deleted
      from medical examiner's rulings
      Karen Farkas
      Saturday, May 03,2008
      Plain Dealer

      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
      product-liability lawsuits.

      "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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