Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Turmoil at Lubbock ME, Texas' failing state jails, implications of youth-prison riot for raise-the-age bill, and other stories

Here are a few browser-clearing odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention:

Lubbock ME's office a Grade A clusterf#@k
The interim medical examiner at the Lubbock medical examiner's office has alleged that the previous ME, Dr. Sridhar Natarajan, was frequently drunk at work, used county facilities for his private practice, and, most seriously, took bribes to change the results of autopsies. But the main source for the allegations came out and vehemently disputed his account. In the meantime, weird allegations have arisen regarding use of body parts from autopsies for research/experimentation by the current, private vendor, who denies the charge categorically. What a messy collage of allegations, denials, and counter-allegations!

Gainesville youth prison out of control
The Houston Chronicle's Keri Blakinger published a story on rioting and widespread disturbances at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department's Gainesville unit last fall. On Twitter, Grits explained why this news may put the kabosh on raise-the-age legislation in 2019. My prediction: Texas will eventually be the last state in the union prosecuting 17-year olds as adults. Right now, we're one of four.

'False and misleading' forensic evidence led to death sentence
The El Paso DA relied on "false and misleading" forensic evidence about infant trauma to secure the conviction of Rigoberto Avila, the trial court found, recommending his conviction be overturned. Avila was scheduled to be executed in 2013 when Texas' junk-science writ took effect, but he immediately filed a writ under it and now it appears his case could be overturned entirely.

TDCJ disputes heat-death diagnosis
An autopsy found that a TDCJ inmate died of hypothermia. TDCJ officials are disputing the finding, demonstrating how they intervene to curate causes-of-death in the wake of federal heat litigation.

Failing state jails
Texas state jail system is widely regarded as a failed experiment, reported the Texas Tribune's Catherine Marfin. Their treatment mission never really materialized and recidivism rates from the facilities are far higher than other inmates leaving TDCJ.

Critiquing carceral mental-health care
The largest mental hospitals in Texas are all jails and prisons. The Dallas News published an editorial decrying that situation and calling for substantial, additional investments in mental health outside the justice system.

Austin warrants online?
How did Grits only just discover that Austin PD made all of its active warrants searchable online? Useful. Overwhelmingly, most of them are petty, Class C misdemeanors, but that database represents thousands of people living with the threat of incarceration looming over them.


Anonymous said...

RE: 'False and misleading' forensic evidence led to death sentence

“the State presented false and misleading evidence and argument” that likely affected the jury’s judgment.
The State = Prosecutors George R. Locke and Gerald Cichon

As a physician at Memorial Hospital, Dr. Harry Wilson prepared a pathology report regarding the victim's injuries around the time of the victim's death.  The State (Locke and Cichon) designated Dr. Wilson as an expert witness based on this involvement in the victim's medical care.   During the investigation of the instant offense, the State (Locke and Cichon) contacted Dr. Wilson and met with him to discuss the case.

However, the State (Locke and Cichon) apparently did not like the opinions of Dr. they went shopping for a Medical Examiner (or two) that would support a conviction.

The State called Dr. Juan Contin, the medical examiner in El Paso County.   Dr. Contin testified that he performed an autopsy on the victim and that the victim had several bruises, with the largest one on the right side of the abdomen.
The State also called Dr. George Raschbaum, a board certified pediatric surgeon...Dr. Raschbaum, like Dr. Contin, testified that this type of injury is not uncommon in “high speed accidents."...He further opined that “[t]he magnitude of impact is so dramatic that I can't imagine that this could be any kind of accident.”  “It would be a strong force, like a stomping force.”

Obviously, Dr. Wilson had a differing opinion for Locke and Cichon -- an opinion that might be favorable to the Defense. To prevent this differing opinion from reaching the defense, the prosecution (Locke and Cichon) went to great lengths to ensure the defense would not (or could not) contact Dr. Wilson prior to trial, repeatedly listing Dr. Wilson as both a potential fact and expert witness, furnishing petitioner's trial counsel with a copy of Dr. Wilson's surgical report (which contained no mitigating or exculpatory information), advising the trial court on the record it could not appoint Dr. Wilson to assist petitioner's trial counsel because such an action would create a conflict of interest, and designating Dr. Wilson as the prosecution's representative at the victim's second autopsy.

Inasmuch as the State was wrong and accountable, it is more correct to state that Prosecutors George Locke and Gerald Cichon were wrong and accountable.

Anonymous said...

More details of George Locke and Gerald Cichon's misdconduct:

David Fisher said...


As I'm sure you are aware I filed the complaint against the so-called Lubbock CO Medical Examimner's office back in 2008 that resulted in it being shut down and reorganized. It was that reorganization that led to this current scandal, only this time people are going to jail. What NAAG was setup for was the harvesting of organs for sale to medical schools and research companies.

The Lubbock CO scheme focuses on a loophole in the TX Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 49.25, sec. 6a,(7) and the TX Family Code, Chapter 264, sub-chapter (f). These 2 codes require an autopsy on all children under the age of 6yrs. who die by any means other than an auto accident. (For now this body part operation wants to stay away from autopsies under the code of Criminal procedure, where the death could be rules a homicide, but in time it will includes those as well.)

I have been opening my files to the local media, so expect the story to get worse.

I provided documents to TX Ranger Major Downs,who politely told me to butt-out, which was no surprise as I have never seen the TX Ranger conduct an honest investigation.
Anonymous 2/27/2019 06:43:00 PM

Juan Contin was never a statutory TX Medical Examiner in El Paso or anywhere else. In 1991 Juan Contin plead guilty to Insurance Fraud, which is a crime of Moral turpitude. Anyone in TX who pleads guilt to or is convicted of Moral Turpitude cannot be appointed or elected to a government office. Additionally, Contin has been holding office in El Paso as a medical examiner, but has actually been an independent contractor since 2007 not an appointed officer under CCP 49.25, sec. 2. I have all those records should you need them.