Sunday, December 24, 2006

Question Of The Week, 12/24/06

Good Morning, and Merry Christmas to all! This weeks Question Of The Week comes from an article I found in the Austin American-Statesman/statesman.com.


Texas teen fighting efforts by police to remove bullet from head
Prosecutors say slug is evidence that he tried to shoot businessman after robbery.
By Juan A. Lozano

ASSOCIATED PRESS


Friday, December 22, 2006

PORT ARTHUR — In the middle of Joshua Bush's forehead, two inches above his eyes, lies the evidence that prosecutors say could send the teenager to prison for attempted murder: a 9 mm bullet, lodged just under the skin.

Prosecutors say it will prove that Bush, 17, tried to kill the owner of a used car lot after a robbery in July. And they have obtained a search warrant to extract the slug.

But Bush and his lawyer are fighting the removal, in a legal and medical oddity that raises questions about patient privacy and how far the government can go to solve crimes without running afoul of the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

"It's unfortunate this arguably important piece of evidence is in a place where it can't be easily retrieved," said Seth Chandler, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center. "You have to balance our desire to convict the guilty against the government not poking around our bodies on a supposition."

Investigators say that Bush was part of a group of gang members who broke into a used car lot and tried to steal vehicles. According to police, Bush tried to shoot lot owner Alan Olive. When Olive returned fire, police said, a bullet struck the teenager and burrowed into the soft tissue of his forehead.

Prosecutor Ramon Rodriguez said gang members who took part in the robbery identified Bush as one of those involved. When he was questioned about a week later, Bush admitted to taking part in the robbery but not to the shooting, police said.

"The officers noticed the guy looks like hell. One of his eyes is black, and he has a big old knot on his forehead," Rodriguez said. "He tells police he got hurt playing basketball."

A few days later, Bush went to the hospital and told doctors he had been hit by a stray bullet as he sat on a couch in an apartment.

"Officers started putting events together," Rodriguez said.

A judge took the unusual step of issuing a search warrant to retrieve the bullet from Bush's head in October. But a Beaumont doctor determined that small pieces of bone were growing around the slug, and he did not have the proper tools in the emergency room to extract it. The doctor said that removal would require surgery under general anesthesia and that no operating rooms were available.

Police then obtained a second search warrant and scheduled the operation for last week at the University of Texas Medical Branch hospital in Galveston. It was postponed again, however, after the hospital decided not to participate for reasons it would not discuss.

Prosecutors said they continue to look for a doctor or hospital willing to remove the bullet.

All sides agree that removing the bullet would not be life-threatening. But Bush's family and attorney say it would be a violation of the teenager's civil rights and would set a dangerous precedent.

"When the medical profession divorces itself from its own responsibility and makes itself an arm of the state, it's a dangerous path," said Rife Kimler, Bush's lawyer.

Olive told police that after officers had left the scene of the robbery and he began cleaning up, a man appeared in a nearby alley and threatened to kill him if he helped authorities in their investigation. The man fired at Olive, he said, and a shootout followed.

"I just can't believe I missed him at that distance," Olive, a competitive pistol shooter, said in court papers. Olive told authorities he never saw the man's face in the dark alley.

Bush is in jail on charges related to the robbery but not the shooting.

His mother, Tammie Bush, disputed allegations that her son is in a gang.

"We know he's not a criminal," she said. "He's a good kid."

Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, predicted that Bush's rights as a patient will trump the state's desire to get the bullet and said authorities might have a hard time finding someone willing to extract the slug.

"It truly is a moral quandary," Caplan said. "Doctors are caught between wanting to help solve crimes and their responsibility to patients' rights to refuse a procedure."


This weeks Question Of The Week is. Would removing the slug from Joshua Bush's forehead violate his Fourth Amendment rights?

I'll post my answer in the Comment Section Monday night.

Thanks go to the Austin American-Statesman.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

4 Comments:

Blogger The Sovereign Editor said...

It's an interesting question. On the one hand, there is a right against self-incrimination. On the other hand, warrants for DNA samples are not prohibited under this rule. If they have enough evidence for a warrant, I don't have a problem with it on those grounds.

The real question is whether or not the court should be allowed to compel invasive surgery to get evidence. The possibility makes me uncomfortable.

Merry Christmas.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

"This weeks Question Of The Week is. Would removing the slug from Joshua Bush's forehead violate his Fourth Amendment rights?"

It's a strange situation all the way around. Considering that DNA evidence can be used, I don't see how a bullet can be any different. The surgery is not dangerous, and the guy wanted out until it became evidence (he did go to the emergency room). So, no, I don't think his rights are being violated by this. I think the suspicion that he's the shooter is spot on, and he's trying to avoid giving up the evidence that would prove it.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Praguetwin said...

This is definately an interesting question and case. Personally, I don't think the government should have the right to order invasive surgery to get evidence. General anesthesia has a very low risk, but should the surgery alter the body permanently, there would have to be extenuating circumstances to warrant such a procedure.

In this case, the kid's face is already pretty messed up, so I suppose he wouldn't be losing anything.

Also, as a precident, the police can take your blood for suspicion of drunk driving without a warrant, so it seems like they probably should be able to do this, based on that point

However, in my opinion, surgery amounts to an unreasonable search and should be prohibited because of a person's 4th ammendment rights protecting citizens from such searches.

4:23 PM  
Blogger David Schantz said...

First I want to thank you for stopping by to answer this weeks question and to tell you I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. "Would removing the slug from Joshua Bush's forehead violate his Fourth Amendment rights?" I'm afraid I'm going to have to say Mr. Bush might have a case. Removing the slug might be a violation of his rights. There are some things about the case that leave me with questions.

"The officers noticed the guy looks like hell. One of his eyes is black, and he has a big old knot on his forehead," Rodriguez said. "He tells police he got hurt playing basketball."

A few days later, Bush went to the hospital and told doctors he had been hit by a stray bullet as he sat on a couch in an apartment."

I'm sorry, but to me it sounds like this guy has something to hide. It sounds like at one time he wanted the slug removed and then he changed his mind. I'm thinking that if I was setting in an apartment and got hit by a "stray bullet" I'd want to know who might have fired that shot. I know I shouldn't convict Mr. Bush with just the information contained in the article but it makes me feel he is guilty.

"Bush is in jail on charges related to the robbery but not the shooting." I'm thinking that if the time comes that they have to release him they should pick him up and charge him with concealing evidence.

God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

8:50 PM  

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