pageok
pageok
pageok
"Police Want Bullet in Teen's Forehead":
A bunch of readers have contacted me pointing out this interesting story:
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.
  There is a Supreme Court decision that covers this kind of case: in Winston v. Lee, the Court held that "the reasonableness of surgical intrusions beneath the skin depends on a case-by-case approach, in which the individual's interests in privacy and security are weighed against society's interests in conducting the procedure." This means that the legality of the warrant depends on a pretty context-sensitive balance: on one hand, how much is retrieving the bullet likely to help the government's case, and on the other hand, how much harm is it likely to cause to the young man who will have the bullet extracted?

  For more on this, check out FourthAmendment.com.
Steve:
I don't understand why, say, an X-ray wouldn't be plenty sufficient to determine who is lying.
12.22.2006 12:18am
Lev:
I wonder how well a slug that has "met" what appears to be an extremely hard head can help a gov't case.

Be that as it may, grinding it out of the forehead bone, with the attendant facial scarring seems to me to be a lot more similar to probing an inch into chest muscle than to digging out a splinter.
12.22.2006 12:23am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
This confirms my belief that a 9mm is a .45 "set to stun." When I hear of a person shot square between the eyes, at close range, I'm a bit surprised to hear that he thereafter gave inconsistent answers when questioned and has raised legal issues regarding removal of the bullet. I might have expected that the interogation would have ceased with "Upon being read the Miranda warnings and asked if he waived his rights, the suspect refused to answer."
12.22.2006 12:36am
Maniakes (mail):
According to the article, Bush denies being at the scene and claims he was hit by a stray bullet while at home on his couch.

Based on that, I expect what the prosecuters want to confirm is that the bullet was fired from Olive's gun, and I don't think they could check that by x-ray.

As an aside, I find it an ironic reversal that the prosecutor is trying to prove that the victim shot the perpetrator. A "man bites dog" story, one might say.
12.22.2006 1:09am
Ryan Waxx (mail):

Tammie Bush, the teen's mother, disputed allegations her son is a gang member.

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


... that's some serious, serious derangement (assuming of course that the bullet is what we think it is). All we need is a few more mothers raising 'good kids' like that and we won't need running water any more - we can bathe in the blood running through the streets.

I wouldn't shed any tears if the removal of the bullet went awry, heartless though that may sound...
12.22.2006 1:18am
happy lee (mail):
It appears that the Court will have to rub its belly, belch and prounounce the procedure unconstitutionally excessive/constitutionally sound. That's about how much guidence the precedent gives us.
Upshot: Use larger rounds or good hollow points.
Upshot2: The second amendment saved this auto dealer's life. If it was up to Mrs. Brady he'd be in a pool of blood.
Upshot3: The teen will screw up again. Make a note of his record and send him to live with his pals in prison when he next screws up.

On a more serious note: Could the victim file a civil suit and get an award returning the bullet to him? Of course, no court would order extraction, but a lien could be filed with every hospital in the state stating that if that bullet comes out of the punk's head, it is to be promtply returned to the victim. Haha, that'd be a blast.
12.22.2006 1:51am
Kate1999 (mail):
Happy lee,

Presumably a firearm owner legally abandons his bullet when fired at someone else?
12.22.2006 2:01am
Ryan Waxx (mail):

Upshot2: The second amendment saved this auto dealer's life. If it was up to Mrs. Brady he'd be in a pool of blood.


She really is a blood-soaked wench, isn't she?
12.22.2006 3:54am
PersonFromPorlock:
If the bullet is supposed to harm Bush legally, and does, what's the ethical position of the surgeon who removed it? Can Bush lodge a complaint with the state medical board? I suspect not, but if the law always made sense it'd be a lot less entertaining.
12.22.2006 6:13am
The Drill SGT (mail):

Dave Hardy
This confirms my belief that a 9mm is a .45 "set to stun."


What is that old adage? Never use a pistol that doesn't start with a 4?
12.22.2006 7:31am
The Drill SGT (mail):
I forgot to add,

And community activitists question why the police typically have a policy or practice to keep firing till the suspect goes down? here's a reason why on multiple levels.
12.22.2006 7:33am
Nicole Black (mail) (www):
As I'd mentioned on my blog, my biggest issue on this one is the fact that general anesthesia, and all the risks associated with it, will be required to remove the bullet. At this point, there's a strong circumstantial case that supports the prosector's belief that this kid committed the crime, but I simply don't believe that that a "hunch" outweighs the risks inherent in head surgery. Apparently the court that issued the warrant disagrees with me.

This case raises interesting ethical issues--both legal and medical. As a reuslt, it looks like they're having a hard time finding a Dr. that agrees with the court, however. Bummer.
12.22.2006 7:33am
Tom952 (mail):
Wouldn't this violate his protection against self-incrimination?
12.22.2006 8:16am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Wouldn't this violate his protection against self-incrimination?
Only if you think a piece of metal is testimony. The fifth amendment forbids compelled testimony; it doesn't allow people to keep evidence.
12.22.2006 8:20am
Tselin:
As to the degree of evidence, the police can either investigate the bullet for characteristic marks from Olive's gun or may use neutron activation techniques to compare the trace elements in the bullet to other bullets in Olive's gun. Therefore, X-ray or other non-invasive methods are likely not be conclusive.
12.22.2006 8:24am
Aeon J. Skoble (mail):
Unoriginal. This was a key plot point on "Law and Order" 7 or 8 years ago.
12.22.2006 9:10am
Mark Buehner (mail):
We're far enough down the road that your J.Q. Random Cop has the authority to cuff you to a hospital gurney and have blood extracted from your arm with no search warrant. How is this any worse?
12.22.2006 9:40am
Opus:
In reading this story, was anyone else reminded of the quasi-famous exchange?

Jewels: This was Divine Intervention! You know what "divine intervention" is?

Vincent: Yeah, I think so. That means God came down from Heaven and stopped the bullets.

Jules: Yeah, man, that's what it means. That's exactly what it means! God came down from Heaven and stopped the bullets.

Vincent: I think we should be going now.
Jules: Don't do that! Don't you f****** do that! Don't blow this s*** off! What just happened was a f****** miracle!

Vincent: Chill the f*** out, Jules, this s*** happens.

Jules: Wrong! Wrong, this s*** doesn't just happen.

Vincent: Do you wanna continue this theological discussion in the car, or at the jailhouse with the cops?
Jules: We should be f*****' dead now, my friend! We just witnessed a miracle, and I want you to f****** acknowledge it!

Vincent: Okay man, it was a miracle, can we leave now?
12.22.2006 10:24am
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Opus, there is definitely a Tarantino element to a robber being shot in his thick head and walking away with the bullet. I definitely think they should extract the thing, with the surgery carried out By Dr. Michael Madsen.
12.22.2006 10:31am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Unoriginal. This was a key plot point on "Law and Order" 7 or 8 years ago.


Was that the one where the owner of a comedy club was accused of killing his first wife (he latter appeared in a second episode) and she was in a coma and they got the sister to consent to having the bullet removed so they could see if it matched the gun registered to her husband?
12.22.2006 10:37am
Houston Lawyer:
I think they should get "Medieval" on his ass. I'm sure the guys down at Home Depot could get it out without destroying the evidence.
12.22.2006 10:42am
JoelP:
As a doctor, I think the real answer is clear: regardless of what the State might order, no MD I know would perform such an operation against the patient's will.
12.22.2006 10:47am
Captain Holly (mail):

This confirms my belief that a 9mm is a .45 "set to stun."

What is that old adage? Never use a pistol that doesn't start with a 4?


I would generally agree. However, keep in mind the bullet it might be from a .380 (9mm Kurtz) or a Makarov (9x18mm). The story doesn't really say what gun fired it, and CNN routinely reports false facts about guns.
12.22.2006 11:40am
Sigivald (mail):
Captain: Nothing false about calling those "9mm"; they're all reasonably like 9mm in diameter... Now, if they'd said "9mm Parabellum", that'd be false.

Nicole: This is not a "hunch"; from the article: 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 taking part in the robbery but not the shooting, police said..

Bush admitted being present on the scene; the idea that the bullet in his head was fired by the man attacked is rather more than a "hunch", in that being shot in the head by a random stray bullet while at home within "a few days" of the incident is mind-bogglingly improbable.

No mere "hunch", I think.
12.22.2006 12:52pm
Captain Holly (mail):

Captain: Nothing false about calling those "9mm"; they're all reasonably like 9mm in diameter... Now, if they'd said "9mm Parabellum", that'd be false.


It likely was a 9mm Para; I'm probably being too gun-geeky on this.

When I read "9mm bullet", my first thought was "Which 9mm?"
12.22.2006 1:39pm
Mac (mail):
happy lee,


"Upshot3: The teen will screw up again. Make a note of his record and send him to live with his pals in prison when he next screws up. "

Are you volunteering yourself to be his next victim? If not, do you have someone specific in mind or will any decent, honest, random victim do?
12.22.2006 2:08pm
Waldensian (mail):
Interesting. I would have thought that a 9mm (whether x19, x18, whatever) would penetrate a skull at normal "shoot the bad guy" range. I wonder if something else happened here -- ricochet, heavy clothing, etc. The ability of a 9mm para to go through stuff is actually pretty impressive.
12.22.2006 2:35pm
Kelvin McCabe (mail):
Good point made above about the strapping of a suspect to a gurnee to draw blood. However, i think that precedent can be distinguished. The necessity of that situation requires immediate action, given the context. The context is typically a drunk driver who refuses to blow, and the suspect's body is metabolizing away the alcohol content. If they dont do a blood draw, and take time to secure a warrant, the evidence will be or could be lost. Hence its an exigent circumstance that excuses the lack of warrant. (*note - probable cause to think suspect is drunk/impaired must be established.

Plus, i dont know if you can compare a little needle hole to draw blood to that of removing a bullet from someone's skull. That being said, it wouldnt surprise me in the least if the court orders the bullet removed. The patient tells the doc he doesnt want it done - and the doctor ends up getting grief and a possible lawsuit of his own to settle the dispute. Interesting case indeed.
12.22.2006 2:43pm
Jarhead315 (mail):

Was that the one where the owner of a comedy club was accused of killing his first wife (he latter appeared in a second episode) and she was in a coma and they got the sister to consent to having the bullet removed so they could see if it matched the gun registered to her husband?


Dobson, played by larry Miller. Yeah, that was it.
12.22.2006 4:12pm
Colin (mail):
Great episode---one of their best villains. There was at least one sequel; were there two?
12.22.2006 4:20pm
Jarhead315 (mail):
As I recall there was one sequel. He was convicted of the second murder but walked on the first.

[/can't believe I'm finally talking about L&O]
12.22.2006 4:25pm
markm (mail):
I have trouble believing that it's medically safer to leave a lump of lead embedded in someone's forehead than to do a small operation to remove it.
12.22.2006 5:59pm
Colin (mail):
Bear in mind that the procedure has some nasty side effects - there's a significant chance of minor bleeding, and an even greater chance of major incarceration.
12.22.2006 6:32pm
Wondering...:

As a doctor, I think the real answer is clear: regardless of what the State might order, no MD I know would perform such an operation against the patient's will.


This brings up another question. What would happen if something went wrong, or if the patient assumed something did. If a medical malpractice suit was filed, could the doctor argue the patient lacked standing, since it was the court (and not the patient) who consented in the first place?
12.22.2006 10:02pm
TheNewGuy (mail):
I have a hard time believing this would require general anethesia.

If this is strictly a risks/benefits argument, then let's be honest with ourselves: the risks of a little lidocaine and a small incision with a #10 blade are very very small. I'd bet the odds that this little thug will seriously injure or kill another human being are a good deal higher than the risks of the procedure that will put him behind bars.

Alternatively, if nobody is willing to put the young man under, they could just wait until the young man develops an appendicitis, gets shanked in prison, or otherwise requires surgery. At that point he's already under the anesthetic... go ahead and remove the bullet.

If we want to make this a civil liberties argument, then that's equally fair. However, we already force meds on psychiatric patients, force blood draws, and force DNA samples...
12.23.2006 2:23pm
fishbane (mail):
From the article:

"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.


That looks like a pretty strong argument, to me. As others have noted, we've walked a long way away from what most would consider the "original meaning" of the 4th. Invasive surgery (taking the statements of the article at face value) seems pretty extreme to me. So much for the Lockean sphere of autonomy.
12.23.2006 3:42pm
Jay Myers:
JoelP:

As a doctor, I think the real answer is clear: regardless of what the State might order, no MD I know would perform such an operation against the patient's will.

Even though both sides agree that there is no significant risk to the procedure and the suspect admits to being a part of the robbery? The bullet is only needed to prove if he was the one who tried to murder the victim.

Would you take a court-ordered DNA swab or blood sample without consent? How about giving a vaccination to someone in order to prevent an epidemic? The first two examples happen all the time and the last is enshrined in Jacobson v. Massachusetts (1905). What if you were presented with a drug-resistant TB patient and a court order to treat them whether they will or no? You aren't harming the patient by treating them and would be helping to preserve the lives of others.
12.23.2006 3:57pm
jb9054 (mail):
JoelP-
I'm a doctor too, a surgeon, even, and I have taken bullets out of people under circumstances similar to this one (never against the wishes of the shootee, however). I would be delighted to do so, given proper clearance from the authorities. The risk of doing this operation, assuming typical otherwise good health of the "patient," is minimal, even if general anesthesia is used, and demonstrably less than "sitting on a couch in an apartment," which I have done on numerous occasions without harm.

I would be concerned about the attitude of my state medical board- it has determined that participating in a state administered execution is unethical, and could be grounds for loss of medical license. It might decide that violating this person's bodily integrity against his will is similarly unethical. I find it curious and unfortunate that the medical board, a state-chartered agency, in effect interferes with the state's judicial system in this way. I don't think by any means that any MD should be required to participate in capital punishment, or even involuntary bullet removal, but as a profession we should recognize that we are a creation of the state and give some deference to the needs of the state.

In response to a questioner above, leaving the bullet in place would not be harmful in any way except for possibly local pain, and the cosmetic effect of the bullet.
12.23.2006 4:30pm