Tara Monks / Boston Wrongful Death: Family Sues Police for Man's Death, Alleged Coverup

Boston Wrongful Death: Family Sues Police for Man's Death, Alleged Coverup

Massachusetts wrongful death attorney news: The family of a man who was killed during a police struggle will go to court.

Wrongful death suit to begin trial.
Boston Wrongful Death: Family Sues Police for Man's Death, Alleged Coverup

// West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Tara Monks // Tara Monks
Boston, MA – The family of a man who died in police custody brought a wrongful death lawsuit against two State Police troopers and a Lawrence police officer, claiming Alfonso Santana died as a result of a choke hold administered by an officer rather than what police alleged as cocaine intoxication. The suit will go to court Monday, August 23, 2010, as reported by The Boston Globe.

The jury will decide whether Santana’s death was caused by cocaine or a choke hold that was held long enough to stop blood from reaching his brain. The case is based on a blood sample that was taken from Santana during an autopsy.

The blood sample contains a relatively large amount of cocaine, according to the state medical examiner. The problem is, though, that there were no traces of the substance in Santana’s urine.

Gerald A. Fiegn, a former medical examiner in Massachusetts, claims the findings are impossible. He wrote a seven-page report on behalf of the Santana family explaining that for the duration of his career, which consisted of over 6,000 autopsies, he had never found cocaine in the blood but not the urine.

Feigin questions whether someone dropped cocaine into the sample while it was at the ME’s office in Boston. He wrote, “A reported finding of cocaine present in the blood and negative in the urine implies that the autopsy blood specimen was tampered with, as post-mortem event, by someone ignorant about human physiology and cocaine metabolism.”

The defendants, Troopers Mark F. Blanchard and Stephen R. Gondella, as well as former Lawrence police officer Mark Rivet, did not return phone calls for comment.

In court documents, the officers deny the accusations.

The incident began on the afternoon of October 19, 2005. The three officers were in plainclothes and conducting surveillance on a suspected dope house on Forest Street in Lawrence. When a red SUV approached the house, Gondella said he recognized the vehicle as one he saw earlier in the day.

Police approached Santana after he parked his vehicle. Santana gave the officers a driver’s license that was not his and Blanchard saw Santana put a white object in his mouth, according to Stearns’s testimony. When Santana refused to release the object in his mouth, he was punched in the face and pepper-sprayed by police. The struggle lasted for approximately 10 minutes, in which Santana was held in a choke hold by Gondella.

While police reported they retrieved a small amount of cocaine from his mouth, they did not realize Santana was not breathing and without a pulse until he was handcuffed.

Santana was pronounced dead on arrival at Lawrence General Hospital, according to court documents.

Feigin is expected to testify at trial.

The family is seeking an unspecified monetary amount for compensation.

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