Central Islip N.Y. - A forensic pathologist cannot testify that repeated police Tasering contributed to the death of a schizophrenic man, a federal judge ruled.
On Feb. 4, 2004, Southhampton resident David Glowczenski collapsed and died after local and county police stunned him at least four times with a Taser. Authorities claim the so-called "less lethal" weapon fired four to five times. Glowczenski's family found nine marks on his skin.
Pre-existing medical conditions could have played a role in Glowczenski's death, but his estate wants to hold authorities responsible.
A wrongful death case against Southampton, Suffolk County, the officers and Taser International has been crawling through the federal court system in New York's Eastern District for eight years. The parties are now challenging which expert witnesses will be allowed to take the stand.
On Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge William Wall nixed forensic pathologist William Manion who would attribute "up to 40 percent" of Glowczenski's death to the shocks.
Suffolk and Southampton authorities claim that Glowczenski, a schizophrenic, was off his medication and had a psychotic episode that led him to knock Officer Marla Donovan to the ground.
Dr. James Wilson, the Suffolk County deputy medical examiner, called Glowczenski's death "natural" after performing an autopsy, and concluded that the death was caused by "acute exhaustive mania due to schizophrenia."
Wilson, who is named as a defendant in the case, also claimed that four or five shocks could have delivered the nine marks on Glowczenski's skin.
Glowczenski's family, on the other hand, said the data retrieved from the Taser had been corrupted, and the output was much higher than reported. They say that Donovan was not trained in dealing with an emotionally disturbed person.
They say that Taser and Dr. Wilson colluded to hide the true cause of death while advancing the "exhaustive mania and excited delirium" theory.
Manion, the forensic pathologist, says Glowczenski's actual cause of death was "positional asphyxia augmented by repeated TASER [ECD] discharge causing muscle contractions."
Noting that Manion, an assistant medical examiner in New Jersey, does not have experience testifying in Tasers, Wall forbade him from taking the stand here.
"I find that Dr. Manion, while he may be a qualified expert in other cases, is not qualified to testify about the impact of the Taser used on Mr. Glowczenski, and that his proposed testimony is inherently unreliable," Wall wrote. "He has inadequate understanding or knowledge about tasers and how they work, specifically about the differences between probe deployment and drive stun modes and the differing impacts those modes have on the human body."
Court Filing: http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/03/27/EDNY%20-%20Taser.pdf