Monday, October 03, 2005

Often, Good Medical Records Can Make The Difference Between A Guilty And A Dismissal

The special prosecutor in the drunken driving case against Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe announced Friday that he will file a motion to dismiss the charge.
Special Prosecutor, Allan Williams, said Biscoe presented evidence, including medical records, that his diabetes could have caused the symptoms, such as poor coordination and weakness in his legs, that led to his arrest on Manor Road last year.
The prosecution's medical expert reviewed the evidence and agreed with Biscoe's doctor, Williams said.
"Because of the opinion of all of the medical experts, I have serious doubts as to whether Mr. Biscoe was intoxicated," Williams said.
"The system worked as it's supposed to," Biscoe said, "and I'm pleased with the result."
Biscoe, 58, has served on the Commissioners Court since 1988 and was elected county judge, the head of the court, a decade later. He plans to seek one more term in next year's elections.
He was arrested by Austin police at 10:47 p.m. Aug. 11, 2004, and charged with driving while intoxicated after an officer saw drifting within a lane and failing to signal a lane change. An arrest affidavit said Biscoe had a faint odor of alcohol and bloodshot eyes when the officer stopped him.
The affidavit said Biscoe swayed, lost his balance and took the wrong number of steps when asked to walk and turn. Biscoe, who declined to take a blood alcohol test, told the officer that he was on medication for diabetes and high cholesterol, the affidavit says. A police videotape of Biscoe's arrest showed him having difficulty walking heel-to-toe and standing on one leg.
Since his arrest, Biscoe has maintained that he was not intoxicated.
A lawyer for Austin police officer Ryan Herring, who arrested Biscoe, said in a statement that after reviewing the medical information Herring agrees that the "case is not right for prosecution."
After watching the police videotape, Biscoe's doctor, Jeffree James, wrote in a letter that was filed in court that Biscoe's coordination problem was caused by a complication of diabetes called peripheral neuropathy that affects the nerves in the legs.
Williams enlisted another medical expert to review the evidence in the case, including the videotape and Biscoe's medical records. That doctor, James Pohl, noted in his analysis that
Biscoe's behavior was consistent with diabetic complications because it affected his lower extremities and not his mental state or level of consciousness.
Williams was appointed to handle the case because County Attorney David Escamilla's office, which typically prosecutes misdemeanor drunken driving cases, serves as legal counsel for the Commissioners Court, which sets the budget for Escamilla's office.
Escamilla said Friday that it is not unheard of to dismiss charges in a drunken driving case based on a medical condition, including diabetes. He did not have statistics on how many of the approximately 5,000 drunken driving cases his office handles annually are dismissed for medical reasons.
In March 2004, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle's office dismissed a felony drunken driving charge against an Austin school bus driver who had been arrested after stopping at a fast food restaurant because some of the 10 students on the bus wanted something to eat. The driver's husband said she had a condition that made her tremble, and her lawyer said she was having a panic attack after being grabbed by the father of a student at the restaurant.
Biscoe said memories of being hauled to jail, having his car towed and having his arrest covered by the media will not immediately dissipate.