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TMCNet:  Medical examiner who ruled in Derek Williams case resigns

[November 16, 2012]

Medical examiner who ruled in Derek Williams case resigns

Nov 16, 2012 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Christopher Poulos, the assistant medical examiner who ruled the death of Derek Williams natural, has resigned, according to the Milwaukee County executive's office.


The resignation was effective on Halloween, according to Brendan Conway, spokesman for County Executive Chris Abele.

Conway said he did not want to speculate on whether the resignation was connected to the death of Williams in police custody in July 2011.

Poulos could not be reached Friday.

Poulos did not ask for or review any police reports or video during his initial investigation of Williams' death. Instead, he relied on a detective's statement to an on-scene investigator from the medical examiner's office that Williams was arrested "without incident." Poulos initially ruled Williams' death natural. He changed his ruling to homicide after the Journal Sentinel provided him with police reports showing force was used during the arrest. The newspaper also obtained a police video showing Williams gasping for breath in the back of a squad car.

Poulos' boss, Medical Examiner Brian Peterson, did not double check Poulos' original conclusions before they were released.

Earlier this month, the Milwaukee County Board passed an ordinance that requires the medical examiner to review all police reports, video recordings and audio recordings of deaths in police custody before making a ruling.

Peterson objected to the law, saying he worried it could jeopardize the office's accreditation by the National Association of Medical Examiners. Peterson already had made many of the internal changes required by the law.

Abele initially had considered vetoing the legislation, but decided not to after the director of the national association said it would not affect the accreditation, Conway said.

Williams' death also sparked a pending change in the Police Department's use-of-force policy -- proposed by the Fire and Police Commission -- and two policy changes promised by Chief Edward Flynn.

Flynn's first reform requires officers to call for help if someone in custody is having trouble breathing, bleeding profusely or experiencing moderate to severe pain. The second calls for the creation of an internal board to evaluate incidents in which citizens were injured or killed by police officers. Those measures had been put in place decades earlier, only to fall out of use over time, a Journal Sentinel investigation published last month found.

Also last month, the FBI launched a criminal civil rights investigation into Williams' death. In addition, a public inquest led by a special prosecutor will be convened Feb. 11.

In a separate inquiry, federal authorities in Washington, D.C., are investigating whether to sue the Police Department for having a pattern of violating civil rights.

___ (c)2012 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at www.jsonline.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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