Part 22 in a Series
Murphy declined solely based on his authority. In other words, the conclusion that Murphy reached is in direct contradiction to accrued forensic evidence and expert conclusions of a seasoned medical examiner, the doctor who conducted an autopsy and a forensic toxicologist. All of these professionals rendered an opinion that cause of death for Jason Turner-Shenker was not accidental, so therefore it was homicide.
Murphy wrote on October 28, 2014: “After performing a medico-legal investigation, the Clark County Office of the Coroner/Medical Examiner determined that the cause of death is listed [as] Acute Morphine Intoxication and the manner of death is Accident. Based on the information you have provided our office, you are asking that an inquest be conducted as well as further investigation. However, pursuant to Clark County Code 2.12.080, an inquest is not appropriate at this time, therefore, will not be conducted.”
Unfortunately, Murphy displayed his profound lack of understanding of NRS codes and Clark County Ordinances by citing 2.12.080. Law 2.12.080 (c) states “In a case where the coroner determines that an officer was involved in the death of an individual, the coroner will call for an inquest, contact the appropriate prosecutor, and utilize the procedure set forth in Section 2.12.020(e) for selection of a presiding officer.”
Any third-grader, even in this educationally-challenged state of Nevada, would understand that Jason’s death was not an officer involved incident, and that a completely different law applies. That law is: NRS 259.050~Investigation into cause of death; inquest. “1. When a coroner or the coroner’s deputy is informed that a person has been killed, has committed suicide or has suddenly died under such circumstances as to afford reasonable ground to suspect that the death has been occasioned by unnatural means, the coroner shall make an appropriate investigation. “2. In all cases where it is apparent or can be reasonably inferred that the death may have been caused by a criminal act, the coroner or the coroner’s deputy shall notify the district attorney of the county
where the inquiry is made, and the district attorney shall make an investigation with the assistance of the coroner. If the sheriff is not ex officio the coroner, the coroner shall also notify the sheriff, and the district attorney and sheriff shall make the investigation
with the assistance of the coroner.”
For more than nine years this law has not been applied. There has been no formal inquiry into the facts of Jason Turner’s death. Despite ample evidence and witness testimony, the case has not been presented to a panel consisting of a Justice of the Peace and three jurors.
Until September 2014, authorities handling this case had not requested a formal witness statement from Cynthia Turner, who has been the primary witness to circumstances behind her son’s death nine years earlier. In September 2014, nine days before the ninth anniversary of Jason’s death, Turner presented all the top law enforcement officials in Nevada with her formal statement regarding her son’s death. No one had asked for this statement during that period of nine years, so she took the initiative to write a lengthy statement of facts pertinent to the murder and had her statement hand-delivered. In October 2014, a copy of a related toxicology report was also delivered to CC Coroner Mike Murphy, along with a formal request that the above law be applied and that a formal inquest be conducted. In refusing to apply NRS 259.050, Murphy cited a law that is so far from applicable to this case that it might just as well be written in Hebrew for application in Israel.
So what does this action by Murphy mean?
It means that Murphy cannot be trusted to accurately define homicides when they are subject to examination in his domain. Or, that he has been lacking understanding of regulations that define his authority and responsibility to the public as long as he has held his position.
Or, he knows perfectly well that the Turner case is a homicide and that he chooses to redefine the “manner of death” as “Accident” due to personal vindictiveness and an unwillingness to bring this case to justice.
His current written position regarding the Jason Turner-Shenker murder might also mean that Murphy feels free to abuse his authority. If so, he flaunts his lack of respect for other NRS laws regarding abuse of authority. By unilaterally overriding the professional opinions of his own experts in the coroner/medical examiner’s office, Murphy displays contempt for due process of law and fair treatment of homicide victims’ relatives. In this case his contempt is as blatant as his abuse of the authority and trust vested in him by the pubic he purports to serve.
This position by Coroner Michael Murphy opens the question that now begs to be asked by all families who have lost a loved one during Murphy’s tenure: Can any determinations that a drug-overdose death occurred as an “Accident” be trusted? Might such a determination by Murphy be, in effect, a cover-up of a homicide? If this Jason Turner homicide case is an indicator, then it can be certain that Murphy has sidetracked or derailed other murder investigations by ignoring the expert conclusions of his professional staff.
In this case, Rick Jones and Dr. Tellgenhoff of the coroner’s office determined that Jason’s death was not accidental. Murphy’s opposite conclusion dismisses those determinations, as though Murphy has no confidence in the expertise of his staff. If so, he opens an alarming Pandora’s Box of doubt into previous cases that have relied upon the professional expertise of those two staff members. What other cases of homicide have been dismissed as unfortunate accidents by Murphy throughout his tenure at the coroner’s office, and how many families are adversely affected by this travesty of justice?
In a related blog article, Shannon Snow covered possible motives for Murphy to falsely identify homicide cases as accidental deaths. That article can be found here: http://jrshenkertrust.
It is easy to follow the logic and come to the same conclusion: It saves public money when homicides are called accidental deaths; and consequently, as an added bonus, authorities can claim a higher solve-rate for homicides by taking on easier cases for prosecution.
Also, our morally ambiguous district attorney — at present, Steven Wolfson — can avoid proving more difficult cases in court and altogether avoid prosecutions that involve privileged and elite members of society.
Because of Murphy’s blatant and conspicuous disregard for facts in this Turner-Shenker case, we should reexamine everything he has done as Clark County Coroner. Verdicts are often obtained based on the expertise of staff of the coroner’s office, the very same staff experts that Murphy has dismissed in this case. Prosecutors have obtained convictions based on their testimony. Murphy declares them less than trustworthy by his current position, adding to the suspicion that prosecutors have been quite dishonest in obtaining some convictions through unethical and unconscionable means. At the opposite extreme, we know that murderers have been left alone and free to continue their activities in the world without the onus of being accused, indicted or prosecuted, protected as it were by Murphy’s profound lack of judgment in harmony with Nevada statutes and common decency.
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Thomas A. Nagy is the author of Cannabis Consumer Handbook available at Amazon.com, and the blog ReGeneration at blogspot.com. Email direct at: email@example.com.