National Roundup

Mississippi

Judge: City of Jackson liable in teen's death

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- A Hinds County circuit judge ruled last week that Jackson police failed to protect a teenage runaway who was killed in 2006, so the city is liable for damages.

The Clarion-Ledger reports that Judge Winston Kidd's ruling came more than a year after he heard Robert and Mildred Sandifer's lawsuit against the city.

Kidd ruled the city must pay the Sandifers $500,000, the maximum allowed against a governmental entity. It was not immediately clear whether the city will appeal.

The couple's daughter, 15-year-old Tawana Sandifer, was beaten to death by Toice Wilson, who's now 40. He's serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to murder in 2007.

Tawana Sandifer's body was discovered Jan. 9, 2006, in Presidential Hills Park in northwest Jackson.

"With respect to Tawana's death, the court finds that the physical death was caused by blows from Toice Wilson," Kidd wrote. "However, the employees of the Jackson Police Department put Tawana in a place of danger and (are) also responsible for contributing, if not causing, her death."

Kidd assessed $1 million in damage but said Wilson was 50 percent at fault.

Robert and Mildred Sandifer say Kenneth Talton and Maurice Clark, where were both Jackson police officers at the time, had sex with their daughter before her death.

Kidd assessed $1 million in damage but said Wilson was 50 percent at fault.

Tawana had run away from home 16 times between 2003 and her death.

Kidd said Tawana Sandifer had various psychological problems that caused her to be bipolar, among other things, and to run away from home several times.

The parents' attorney, Precious Martin, said he hopes the city won't appeal.

Jackson City Attorney Pieter Teeuwissen could not be reached Thursday. He has said he empathized with the Sandifers but that no police officer had a role in taking their daughter's life. He argued state law protects the city from such legal claims.

A Jackson Police Department Internal Affairs investigator testified at trial that Talton and Clark admitted having sex with the teenager.

Clark resigned and faced no charges. Talton was fired and charged with sexual battery, but the charge was dropped for lack of evidence. Neither officer was called as a witness in the civil trial.

Clark publicly has denied having sex with Tawana Sandifer. But police documents show Clark admitted having sex with her in 2004.

Kidd also said in his 10-page ruling that both Clark and Talton had sex with the teenager.

Kidd said if the matter had been fully investigated by the police department, then Tawana Sandifer could have received the help she needed. "This failure caused her to succumb to the brutal and fatal actions of Toice Wilson," Kidd wrote.

Neither Clark nor Talton could be reached.

Virginia

AG's office hires wrongly convicted man

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's office has hired a man who served nearly three decades in prison for at least one rape he didn't commit.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that 46-year-old Thomas E. Haynesworth began working last week in the office's mailroom and supply room as an office technician.

Haynesworth was convicted of two rapes and an abduction in 1984. The Virginia Supreme Court exonerated him of one rape in 2009 after DNA tests cleared him. No biological evidence exists in the remaining crimes.

Haynesworth has asked the Virginia Court of Appeals to clear him of the other crimes. Cuccinelli and prosecutors in the two jurisdictions where the crimes occurred support his bid for exoneration.

Wisconsin

Court: No involuntary commitment for Alzheimer's

WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) -- A state appeals court says Alzheimer's patients cannot be involuntarily committed for treatment.

The District II Court of Appeals in Waukesha reversed a lower court ruling and said an 85-year-old Fond du Lac woman with Alzheimer's doesn't suffer from a "qualifying mental condition" under Wisconsin's involuntary commitment law, known as Chapter 51. It allows that someone with a mental illness, drug dependency or developmental disability to be detained on an emergency basis if they could harm themselves or others.

The Fond du Lac woman, identified only as Helen E.F., was detained under Chapter 51 in April 2010.

The Journal Sentinel says there are about 110,000 people with Alzheimer's disease in Wisconsin.

Utah

Investigators suspect Utah doctor killed wife

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah (AP) -- New information has led authorities to reopen an investigation into the death of a Utah woman and a search warrant shows authorities suspect her husband, a once-prominent doctor and lawyer, gave her a lethal combination of drugs days after she underwent surgery.

The search warrant filed in 4th District Court earlier this month indicates authorities believe Martin MacNeill had the motive and opportunity to kill his wife, Michele, in 2007, the Deseret News reported on its website Thursday evening.

An investigation is ongoing and MacNeill has not been charged in his wife's death. If no additional charges are filed, he is scheduled to be released from federal prison in Texas, where he is serving time for identity fraud, the newspaper reported.

An initial autopsy attributed Michele MacNeill's death to natural causes after she was found dead four years ago in a bathtub in her Pleasant Grove home. But a review of the autopsy requested by the Utah County Attorney's office later found that the drugs in her system would have caused her to become unresponsive and "could have stopped her heart because of the additive effect of each of these drugs taken together."

The investigation was reopened after the MacNeill's children and other relatives went to authorities with suspicions about the husband, the Deseret News reported.

According to the warrant, Michele MacNeill told her daughter that the night she came home from surgery her husband "had her take medications throughout the night even though she began throwing up."

The new warrant also states recent information led a medical examiner to question whether Michele MacNeill had willingly taken medications found in her system.

For several years before his wife died, Martin MacNeill had been seeing another woman, with whom he exchanged dozens of text messages in the days after his wife's surgery, the warrant said.

Published: Mon, May 2, 2011

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