Suit against Sandusky County over man's death may move to federal court

FREMONT Jess Burdine and his attorneys waited for months to see progress in a civil suit filed again
Sarah Weber
May 24, 2010



Jess Burdine and his attorneys waited for months to see progress in a civil suit filed against Sandusky County.

But they weren't getting anywhere in Sandusky County Common Pleas Court.

The family of Craig Burdine recently dismissed its case against Sandusky County coroner John Wukie and is now exploring legal options in federal court.

Jess Burdine said Friday his attorneys are considering taking the case to U.S. District Court in Toledo.

"We're looking at that very seriously," said Tom Sobecki of Toledo, one of Jess Burdine's attorneys.

They also have one year to re-file the case in the county court.

In the lawsuit, Jess Burdine, father of Craig Burdine, is asking the court to order Wukie to change the cause of death on Craig Burdine's death certificate to homicide.

Craig Burdine was arrested by officers of the Sandusky County Sheriff's office and Fremont police the night of his death, Aug. 11, 2007.

Wukie ruled in November 2007 that Craig Burdine died accidentally from combined drug intoxication.

But Craig Burdine's family thinks the 37-year-old man died at the hands of sheriff's deputies who they believe used excessive force to subdue the intoxicated man. They want the court to order the coroner to change the cause of death so they can press for charges against the officers involved.

"The family does not accept the finding listed on the death certificate," Sobecki said.

The family feels justified in their suit because of an opinion by Michael Baden, director of the Medicolegal Investigation Unit of the New York State Police. Baden, an expert in the field, stated in his opinion Craig Burdine died from asphyxia as the result of a severe neck compression by one of the officers who restrained him.

According to court records, Baden found drug and alcohol levels in Craig Burdine's blood were insufficient to cause death.

In September, Burdine's attorney, Jeffrey Nunnari, asked Judge Roger Hafford to grant separation of witnesses, which would prohibit officers deposed as witnesses by Nunnari from hearing each other's testimony.

Jess Burdine said Hafford never did make a ruling on the motion. Hafford lost his seat in the November election to Judge Barbara Ansted.

Teresa Grigsby, attorney for Wukie and officers from the Sandusky County Sheriff's office, opposed the separation at the time because the officers called as witnesses in the civil suit could be parties in further proceedings.



Let me guess, Wukie didn't send their son for an autopsy?


Sounds like it