DeWine's credibility questioned

Family fears evidence in 2007 jailhouse death is being kept from grand jury
Register
May 22, 2014

 

As he struggled mightily in recent weeks against attacks on his credibility handling a grand jury hearing evidence in a 2007 jailhouse death, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine continued to dodge unresolved questions about a 2013 grand jury.

In April, DeWine's prosecutor Matt Donahue filed a court motion asking visiting Judge Dale Crawford to affirm the findings of a grand jury that determined local officials incorrectly ruled Jacob Limberios committed suicide on March 2, 2012.

Donahue stated in the court filing there was no public notice made that a grand jury would be formed, an apparent violation of the requirements in the Ohio Revised Code. Crawford told the Register he filed a response to Donahue's motion affirming the grand jury as requested, but he and court officials refuse to provide a copy of that response.

Crawford and court officials also have refused to provide a filed copy of the judge's order to form a grand jury. It's likely it would represent another apparent violation if the order was not filed with the court. Crawford did not disagree when it was suggested to him the failure to provide the documents is an indication they do not exist. 

The fair and open statutes governing grand jury selection are designed to assure the public's confidence in the jury system, according to legal experts. DeWine, however, has called the potential violations procedural mistakes, suggesting they don't matter.

Crawford also in recent weeks has contended he never filed a gag order suppressing the records in the case. The Register, however, received an unfiled copy of the order and Crawford's contention it doesn't exist is not supported by the documentary record.

Sandusky County clerk of courts Tracy Overmyer also previously cited the gag order as the reason in denying the Register access to court records. 

"I am unable to forward that order, because it states that it should be included in the documents held under seal," Overmyer told the Register in February.

But Crawford can't recall it.  

“There is no gag order,” Crawford told the Register in early May in a response to an email inquiring about it, and asking about other discrepancies in the information he and court officials have provided. Crawford has repeatedly ignored the other questions he's been asked.

— WUKIE MISTAKE 

Meanwhile, Sandusky County coroner John Wukie simply ignored the grand jury's findings, refusing to correct the suicide ruling he made in Limberios' death, which DeWine said previously “makes no sense.”

Wukie, who never conducted any sort of investigation, is the only public official who's suggested it was a suicide. He's had difficulty providing a coherent explanation for the ruling but continues to thumb his nose at DeWine and the Limberios family.

Wukie does not respond to telephone inquiries and has refused to make his email address public.

The Burdine grand jury formed May 6. Unlike the Limberios grand jury, which was formed in secret in an apparent violation of state law, this one was selected in a public setting.

Jess Burdine, Craig's father, pressed for a criminal investigation for six years before DeWine agreed in August to conduct one, but Jess Burdine has been questioning DeWine's intent since the grand jury was seated.

Jess Burdine told the Register he fears Donahue is misleading grand jurors about the circumstances surrounding his son's death in an effort to protect public officials from potential criminal indictments.

Jess Burdine said he's asked Donahue to call the police officers, sheriff's employees and EMTs who were at the jail the night Craig died to testify in front of the grand jury, but Donahue has refused to say what his intentions are regarding witnesses or whether he is seeking any criminal indictments.

DeWine's investigators ignored a report from Dr. Michael Baden that determined Craig Burdine was the victim of a homicide inside the jail. DeWine called Baden a top-notch expert when he consulted him during the Limberios investigation, but he never contacted him during the Burdine criminal investigation.

DeWine has refused to say why Baden was not contacted. 

Jess Burdine said an AG investigator told him they had an expert in Ohio “who was even better than Baden.” But Jess, 80, said he fears the reason Donahue doesn't want Baden called as a witness is because he doesn't want grand jurors to hear the evidence his son was killed.

Baden determined Craig Burdine died as a result of asphyxiation caused by compression of his airway and the fractured cartilage in his neck that happened when a jail guard used a chokehold on him. The jail guards and Fremont police officers involved all wrote in witness statements that Craig Burdine was being combative before he died. They wrestled with him and used a Taser on him while he was still handcuffed and shackled inside the jail in the moments before he died.

But surveillance video from the police cruisers and the jail doesn't show Burdine being combative and suggest he is barely conscious during the entire struggle. Not a single frame of the video, which has gaps in the picture and audio, show Burdine being combative.

Wukie ruled Burdine's death was self-inflicted caused by alcohol and drug intoxification and a condition called excited delirium, which is often used to explain sudden deaths of individuals in police custody but is rarely used — if ever — to explain sudden deaths that don't involve police.

The scientific basis for excited delirium is highly contested and controversial, and Baden determined the drug and alcohol levels in Craig Burdine's system were far too low to cause his death. Burdine had massive injuries all over his body when he died.

In four days of grand jury hearings since May 6, it appears none of the officers or jail employees have been called as witnesses, and Donahue has refused to say whether Baden will be called to testify. Baden told the Register in late-April that DeWine's investigators never contacted him during their investigation.

He said he stands by his homicide ruling, however, and was ready and willing to testify in front of the grand jury.

— DONAHUE DODGES

Donahue has not returned Jess Burdine's calls since he contacted him last week about what he says is misinformation Donahue is providing about where his son was when he died. Jess Burdine said Donahue suggested Craig Burdine died at Fremont Hospital, but the medical record clearly shows the time of death and that it occurred inside the jail.

Donahue and DeWine — like Crawford — are also ignoring inquiries from the Register.

The Burdine grand jury, which has been erratically scheduled with starts and stops over just four days of hearings, is expected to reconvene Tuesday.

This grand jury is the third one DeWine has led looking into the actions and behavior of local law enforcement officials stemming from complaints made by members of the public. DeWine's two previous grand juries both cleared local officials.  

A grand jury in 2012 determined there was no criminal wrongdoing in the sexual exploitation by jail guards of an inmate who was kept naked inside an observational jail cell for hours and was encouraged by the guards to masturbate and perform other lewd acts. 

The county fired both guards but agreed to give both men job references and paid them $5,000 each in exchange for a promise they would not make disparaging remarks about Sandusky Counrty Sheriff Kyle Overmyer. 

The Limberios grand jury, which determined in November that Jake's death was accidental, also found no criminal wrongdoing in the destruction of evidence and other standard practice violations that occurred during the local investigation of Limberios' death.

The investigation was re-assigned to DeWine in June 2013 — 14 months after Jacob Limberios' death — when it was determined local officials had created conflicting interests during their botched investigation. 

Jess Burdine said he sees a pattern that indicates to him DeWine is protecting local officials.

“They don't call witnesses and they don't present evidence because they don't want to indict anyone,” he said. 

The Limberios family wants DeWine to request Crawford order Wukie to change the death certificate, but a spokesman for DeWine previously said potential litigation resulting from a change precluded DeWine from taking that action. It's not clear who or what agency DeWine might be protecting from a lawsuit by declining to make the request. 

 

Comments

Einfach genug III

Who makes the determination of death? An EMT, Corrections officer, Nurse or MD?

rottnrog

Mike Dewine it seems !!!!

Babo

A Medical Doctor makes the pronouncement of death. If the patient is dead on arrival (DOA) at the hospital it will be noted and the patient will be pronounced dead by the MD but the time of death would be earlier than pronouncement.

Sal Dali

For Dewine being THE big cheese that represents all citizens of the state of Ohio, his best interests seem to lie with law enforcement and members of the "justice" system, which they are making a mockery of. One only has to do a little research to discover prosecutorial misconduct usually gets a slap on the wrist. These folks are seldom dealt the justice they deserve until election time when concerned and informed citizens vote their butts out of office and take away those paychecks. November will be here before he knows it. One would think if the AG valued his position he'd be thinking about that. The families affected should seek the assistance of the federal government to get justice against Sandusky County and investigate the AG's office while they're at it. It seems there were civil rights violations in more than one of these Sandusky County cases, which is the USDOJ's job to investigate. It's almost certain they would find the gaps in the video of the Burdine incident interestingly convenient/suspicious. The behavior exhibited by the deputies when they locked that female up is appalling, as is using excessive force on a guy described close to comatose from drugs and alcohol and missing video to it cover-up. Gotta wonder if they'll dismiss the charges against the pervert ex highway patrolman and give him hush money and good references ta-boot.

Ralph J.

For Dewine being THE big cheese that represents all citizens of the state of Ohio, his best interests seem to lie with law enforcement and members of the "justice" system, which they are making a mockery of. Justice as in Just Us?

Sal Dali

Making a mockery of the entire justice system. Prosecutors are suppose to be seekers of the TRUTH. These matters were taken up by the AG because he had to save face after these cases hit national and social media. Same goes for the rape case in Steubenville, that girl was raped long before the AG got involved. Once it got national attention DeWine shows up. In other words, he was basically forced into investigating these cases to keep the masses off his back--his phone number and email address ARE publicly available. The coroner is keeping his private to prevent that, in my opinion. Once a public official gets caught in conduct that is dishonest, incompetent or whatever, they have two choices, come clean or continue to cover it up. The route sc public officials and the AG's office chose is evident.

Ralph J.

Stop wasting time and get with your US Government Reps and Senators. Get Kaptur, Latta, Brown, Portman or whoever is your US Rep to bring in the Feds now! The Ohio Attorney General does not represent the people. That is false thinking. The OAG represents the state. The only reason why DeWine got involved in that rape case in southern Ohio is because the evidence was all over the internet thanks to concerned citizens. DeWine had to save face on that one. Stop wasting time on DeWine who is only putting on a show. DeWine represents LE. You are fooling yourself if you think that he represents the people. I have called the OAG's office many times when Dann, Rogers, and Cordray held the office and some of the staff lawyers will tell you to take the matter to your county prosecutor or hire your own lawyer and file a lawsuit. Some will hang up on you if you ask too many questions. Stop wasting time get together as a large group and get the Feds in as soon as possible. Use the telephone to flood calls to their offices and send lots of emails. Forget postal mail because you will wait weeks or months for a reply and end up getting a canned reply or form letter. If that doesn't work, then PROTEST as a group to embarrass them. They don't like to be embarrassed in public.

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lmalley77

I agree Ralph J!!!!!!!!! It's time to forget about Dewine giving any type of justice, it will NEVER happen! Ralph is right, Matt Westerhold, you NEED to forward all information that has been gathered thus far to the correct individuals to handle these cases. Dewine is not fit to provide justice for any of them, matter of factly, when it's all said and done, I'm pretty sure he'll wish he had done his JOB as he was supposed to be doing instead of covering the butts of the conspiring LE in Sandusky County!

Sal Dali

I completely agree on the course of action you've suggested Ralph. However, the AG is considered an elected public servant.

Random Thoughts

In the interests of accurate reporting, I don't think there have ever been any "Gag Orders" issued in the Limberios, Burdine, or other Sandusky County cases.  A "Gag Order" is a judge's order prohibiting the attorneys and the parties to a pending lawsuit or criminal prosecution from talking to the media or to the public about the case.  What the Register keeps referring to as "gag" orders, are merely orders sealing certain documents and prohibiting the release of those documents.  Obviously the families have been talking to the media about the cases, so there are no "gag orders" in place.

Matt Westerhold

Thanks Random Thoughts. If you don't call it a gag order then it doesn't suppress the public record? This particular gag order does not prohibit family members from speaking, but this one is perhaps even more concerning because it suppresses the public record and keeps the public from knowing what decisions were made. It's a gag order; it removes information from the record, sealing it from disclosure. It's also a Padora's Box for potential abuse. The only gag order the Register's reported reference to what you've suggested is the super-secret one Judge Crawford issued last year, which suppressed the documentary record.

Babo

A gag order is a common name for a Suppression Order which can apply to speech and or particular documents. A suppression order must have limits to it, as in it applies to only parties to a lawsuit or to particular documents and the Suppression Order or "Gag Order" itself must be part of the public record as a court can only speak through its journal or public record. Without a public order the Court can not act.

Technically there is no suppression or gag order because the court record does not reflect the order. So it's time to call these actions (and the suppression of Wukie's email address) by their true names: illegal acts of censorship which are contrary to American ideals.

Random Thoughts

Just because a court order is sealed and not public does not make it illegal. I did not practice law in Ohio (I only retired here), but I've been privy to many sealed documents in which the court orders sealing those documents are stamped, handwritten, or attached right to the documents themselves.

Random Thoughts

In the legal profession, from which I retired after more than 40 years, Judge's Crawford's order to which you refer would not be considered a gag order.  So it is somewhat disingenuous to report that he can't recall it when he correctly states there is no gag order.  Also, I note that the Register incorrectly used the term "gag order" numerous times when referring to the order sealing the search warrant in the Huron County search case (the article titled "Gag on it" is an example), but correctly used the term in the Curtis Clinton and Kevin Randleman cases when Judge Tone prohibited anyone associated with those cases from talking publicly about the cases.  It's not a big deal, but I just thought I would point this out for you to consider when composing future articles.

Ralph J.

One of DeWine's duties is to represent the state's officials and employees. Look up ORC 109.36 and ORC 109.361. There was case where two sheriff deputies found a drunk man in his truck. A state trooper later arrived at the scene. The state trooper allowed the two deputies to handle the incident, thinking that the deputies would properly handle the case. The drunk man later died because the deputies did not properly handle the case. The deputies were later charged as was the trooper. The charges against the trooper were thrown out in an appellate court and the trooper got his job back. DeWine did not agree DeWine’s sought to reverse the appellate court decision throwing out Carpenter’s criminal conviction, but the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal. Now, DeWine’s office is refusing to defend Carpenter against the Popoca family’s civil lawsuit. Credibility? I think not. Compare Carpenter's case to the Vitte case.

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