Sunday, April 24, 2011

DA in Pennsylvania re-files criminal charges against caregiver in death of man with Down syndrome

From WHTM-TV in Pa.:

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The Franklin County District Attorney's Office has re-filed criminal charges against a Chambersburg caregiver in the death of a mentally challenged man.

Joseph Easton, 39, faces charges of involuntary manslaughter in the September 9 death of Tim Smith.

A district judge dismissed the charges during a preliminary hearing last month, saying Easton showed no evidence of criminal behavior when he straddled Smith's chest during a struggle.

Smith, who had Down syndrome and required 24-hour care, had charged at Easton and scratched at his eyes before the caregiver was able to restrain him, according to court documents.

Easton, an employee of Person Directed Supports, continued to restrain Smith until other caretakers arrived at the Guilford Township home and found Smith had stopped breathing, the documents state.

An autopsy determined Smith died of traumatic asphyxia.

Easton's instructor testified at the hearing that caregivers are trained to never restrain clients, but to move to a safe location until the person tires or calms down.

A preliminary hearing was scheduled before another district judge on May 10.