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July 01, 1977 - Image 6

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1977-07-01

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Page Six



. r t

VA nurses: Murderers or

t ...

THE GUILT or innocence of Filipina
Narciso and Leonora Perez will
soon be decided, but through the
three months of testimony and 100
witnesses, other factors have emerged
that will not be contained in the
jury's verdict. Assistant U.S. attorney
Richard Yanko' referred to those
"other factors" as a defense "smoke-
screen" and an attempt "to throw
sand in your eyes." Still, the issues
will linger on long after the jurors
have all gone home.
One question that will never be laid
to rest is, "What really happened at
the eVterans Administration hospital
during the summer of 1975?" Fifty-
eight patients stopped breathing-11
of them fatally-and the indictment
against the two nurses covered only
seven, a fraction of the actual num-
ber that occurred.
Another issue that has emerged
from the trial has been the conduct of
the FBI during their ten month in-
vestigation. Several witnesses, includ-
ing the defendants, tetsified that the
FBI doggedly pursuing their case, in-
timidated suspects and made outright
threats. The ; e f e n s e lawyers have
asserted since the outset of the trial
that the Bureau focused its investiga-
tion on the two nurses from the start,
and ignored the other suspects along
the way.
ONE NURSE, Julie Porter, said that
during an FBI "interrogation" an
agent held up his hand with his fing-
ers representing the intensive care
unit (ICU) nurses. Porter recalled the
agents saying that there were five
nurses in the ICU and three of them
couldn't have possibly done it. "That
leaves Narciso and Perez," he said.
A nursing assistant, Bonnie Bates
Weston, said that the agents told her
that if she didn't tell them who did
it, "you must have done it yourself."
Weston, who was granted immunity
from prosecution, also said that un-
invited FBI agents showed up at her
wedding and told her fiancee "you
know you're marrying a liar."
Then the defendants took the stand
in their own defense. Narciso told of
a grueling six hour interrogation dur-
ing which she was told to light a
candle because her life would soon be
over with. Perez said that one agent
told her she'd never see her son again.
THE ALLEGATIONS were denied,
albeit in roundabout fashion (what
defense attorney Edward Stein called
"some kind of a game"), but the
threat of the FBI trampling on civil
rights in pursuit of a suspect will con-
tinue long after the case is closed.
Another Issue in the case is the
mysterious man in the green scrub
suit, whose identity may now never be
revealed. One VA v i c t i m, William
Loesch, testified that before-his own
breathing f a i 1 u r e the unidentified
stranger was standing over him tug-
ging his IV lines.
The "man in green" has surfaced
and resurfaced several times during
the long trial. He has been seen dis-
appearing through the doors of the
ICU and lurking the halls of the VA
Story and
drawings by
Keith B. Richburg

at the time of nearly every one o
unexplained respitory arrests,
AND THE VA hospital itsel
swarming with controversyT
money indicated that the hospital
so grossly understaffed that at
point that prosecutors suggeste
poisonings may have been part
protest by overworked employes
the ICU for example, there is norn
ly a one to one nurse'patient r
as the critical condition of most
patients warrants. Yet, at the VA
ing the summer of 1975, there
often only two nurses to care for
ten critically ill patients.
Also to emerge was a picture
mass confusion and disarray
when the alarm sounded for a bre
ing failure (called "codes" .oc
nurses, nurses' assistants, and the
ists would rush from every floor,
vital equipment wa soften left bet
in the chaos.
Security was another problem
plagued the hospital. Since
eventful summer two years ago,
curity has been tightened. At the
of the breathing failures how
employes were not required to
any special identification tags in
various units, visitors had free ru
the hospital, and mention was
to a practice of locking mental
tients out of their rooms during


answers her attorney Thomas O'Brien by proclaiming her

WILLIAM LOESCH, "the only VA victim with a memory," exonerated Narciso and
Perez and told of waking up to see a man in green standing over him.

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