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Murder charges dropped after medical examiner amends autopsy findings

by Tom Chillemi

Middlesex Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Hurd issued the following statement on October 31, explaining why the first-degree murder charges against three security guards were not prosecuted

“Before the defendants were charged, the detective and I spoke at length with the assistant medical examiner who performed the autopsy. Dr. Whaley (the assistant medical examiner) explained his conclusions, including that the altercation increased Mr. Hughes blood pressure; being held down put pressure on his body; there was a lack of oxygen; the stress of the altercation contributed to the abnormal heart rhythm; the lungs were still working but not enough blood was pumping; and that death resulted,” wrote Hurd.  

“Dr. Whaley said the intoxication and enlarged heart alone would not have caused the death, in that if Hughes had been left alone, he would have lived. The Middlesex Sheriff’s Office and the hospital provided the Medical Examiner’s Office with all relevant information to assist the medical examiner in determining the manner of death of Mr. Hughes. This included the deputies report, the dispatcher’s call sheet, which listed all times of arrival and transmissions by deputies and emergency personnel, and the rescue squad report,” continued Hurd.

“Based on the facts of the case, Dr. Whaley’s opinion was that the altercation caused the death, and after researching case law, indictments were prepared and a grand jury indicted [the three men],” said Hurd.

“Just over two weeks before the trial, Dr. Whaley informed me that he met with the defense attorneys and they discussed that Mr. Hughes was breathing and had a pulse after the altercation, including at least 32 minutes between the arrival of a deputy and the ambulance. The Medical Examiner’s Office reviewed this information, all of which was in the reports they possessed on the day of the autopsy and prior to their first report, and concluded that the span of time was inconsistent with death resulting from the altercation. Thus, the new conclusion was not based on new information, but rather on what they already had. Further, when speaking initially to Dr. Whaley, he was asked about the deceased having a pulse and breathing, and then turning purple once rescue turned him over, as I was concerned about allegations of an intervening cause,” said Hurd.

“The detective and I made an appointment to see the Chief Medical Examiner, and seven days before trial were handed an amended autopsy. Thus, the murder charges were nolle prosequied (not prosecuted),” said Hurd.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 11.06.2013

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