This page documents a number of similar cases to the Ben Geen story.
Worldwide there have been many similar cases – where a medical worker has been arrested, accused, tried, found guilty and served time for “crimes” that not only were they later found not to have committed but that there were no crimes committed at all!
Sally Clark (August 1964 – 15 March 2007) was a British solicitor who, in November 1999, became the victim of a miscarriage of justice when she was found guilty of the murder of two of her sons. Although the conviction was overturned and she was freed from prison in 2003, the experience caused her to develop serious psychiatric problems and she died in her home in March 2007 from alcohol poisoning.
Clark’s first son died suddenly within a few weeks of his birth in September 1996, and in December 1998 her second died in a similar manner. A month later, she was arrested and subsequently tried for the murder of both children. The prosecution case relied on significantly flawed statistical evidence presented by paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow, who testified that the chance of two children from an affluent family suffering sudden infant death syndrome was 1 in 73 million. He had arrived at this figure erroneously by squaring 1 in 8500, as being the likelihood of a cot death in similar circumstances. The Royal Statistical Society later issued a statement arguing that there was “no statistical basis” for Meadow’s claim, and expressing its concern at the “misuse of statistics in the courts”.
Clark was convicted in November 1999. The convictions were upheld at appeal in October 2000, but overturned in a second appeal in January 2003, after it emerged that Dr Alan Williams, the prosecution forensic pathologist who examined both of her babies, had incompetently failed to disclose microbiological reports that suggested the second of her sons had died of natural causes. She was released from prison having served more than three years of her sentence. The journalist Geoffrey Wansell called Clark’s experience “one of the great miscarriages of justice in modern British legal history”. As a result of her case, the Attorney-General ordered a review of hundreds of other cases, and two other women had their convictions overturned.
Sister Jessie McTavish was one of the first members of the medical profession to be found guilty of using insulin as a means of murder.
She was jailed for life in 1974 after being convicted of killing an elderly patient by giving her illegal injections.
In chilling echoes to the case of Colin Norris, the trial heard that the nurse had even predicted to another nurse the exact time that 80-year-old Elizabeth Lyon woman would die.
But only five months later the Sister McTavish, 34, was freed on appeal when judges ruled that the jury had been misdirected.
Sister McTavish worked in a geriatric ward at Ruchill Hospital, Glasgow, and was accused of murder after the sudden death of Mrs Lyon.
After a 15-day trial, at which colleagues claimed she was a “caring and gentle” nurse, she was found guilty by a majority verdict of killing the elderly patient and assaulting three other patients by giving them illegal injections.
The court heard that she once remarked to a visitor to the hospital that she was known in the mortuary as “Sister Burke and Hare” because there had been more deaths than normal.
Police witnesses claimed that she had admitted carrying out a “mercy killing” and explained that she gave Mrs Lyon the injections because she “wanted to be put out of pain and misery”.
However, she denied the claim and the issue of her statement to police officers was central to her successful appeal.
She was sentenced to life imprisonment in October 1974 and her appeal was heard five months later in February 1975.
Three appeal judges said there was ample evidence to support the jury’s decision, but quashed her conviction because of an error by the trial judge Lord Robertson.
They said he had failed to draw the jury’s attention to Sister McTavish’s version of events, and the fact that she had denied making any admission to the police.
They said it was a single omission that “a few words could have cured”.
There was cheering and applause in the crowded Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh when Sister McTavish was told that she was free to go.
USA – Jani Adams – 1980
Cleared of Lurid Charges She Was the ‘death Angel’ of Vegas, Nurse Jani Adams Goes Back to the Ward
By Dennis L. Breo
When the story broke, in March of 1980, it combined Gothic horror with a sense of modern depravity. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a nurse at the city’s Sunrise Hospital who called herself the Angel of Death had killed at least two patients in the intensive care ward by shutting off their life-support units. More shocking still, the paper reported that the nurse, “like an oddsmaker at a bookmaking establishment,” had taken bets from other staff members as to what time certain patients would die.
Stunned by the charges that made lurid headlines across the country, the hospital administrator immediately suspended seven employees under investigation. Three weeks later a Nevada grand jury indicted registered nurse Jani Adams, 32, for allegedly cutting off oxygen to critically ill Vincent Fraser, 52, thereby causing his death.
Then, almost as suddenly as the scandal had surfaced, the case against Adams collapsed. District Judge Michael Wendell quashed the indictment for lack of evidence, and the district attorney’s office chose not to appeal. Reinstated, and apparently vindicated, Adams returned to work.
Though the case was closed, the recriminations were only beginning. “For 11 weeks Jani Adams suffered the agony of the damned,” complains hospital director David Brandsness. “Scurrilous and unfounded allegations were made in an atmosphere of hysteria and sensationalism.” Dr. J. Daniel Wilkes, the hospital pathologist and a trustee, contends that the Review-Journal and its aggressive editor, Don Digilio, rushed flimsy charges into print prematurely, then leaned on the district attorney to obtain “a political indictment protecting the newspaper.” Both Adams and the hospital considered filing suit against the paper. “Our investigation shows absolutely no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of any Sunrise employee,” says Dr. Wilkes. “Jani Adams is found not only to be innocent but to be a highly conscientious and competent nurse.”
Why then were the bizarre charges brought? Fellow nurses describe Adams as intense and high-strung and say that on duty she is sometimes curt and abrasive. To deal with the stress of attending the dying, she, like many other intensive care nurses, sometimes indulges in gallows humor. At least once, the grand jury was told, she reacted to a patient’s death by remarking offhandedly, “Well, I killed another one tonight.” Most of the nurses didn’t take her seriously. But on the night of patient Fraser’s death, nurse Barbara Farro, who usually worked an earlier shift, became upset that Adams and some other nurses were playing cards and seemed indifferent to Fraser’s failing life signs. Farro later told the police.
Called in for questioning, Adams was stunned. “I’m a Catholic,” she says. “I believe that only God can take a life. We did everything we could to keep Mr. Fraser alive, but he was such a sick man he just died. Then to be charged with murder. I was numb, in a state of shock.” A native of Charlotte, N.C., Adams once taught English at Clemson University before turning to nursing in 1974. She and Bernard Deters, 39, a former hospital technician, share a modest Las Vegas home with two dozen prizewinning Persian cats. Deters was appalled by the grilling Adams was subjected to. “The cops’ opening line was, ‘You can either be a witness or a defendant,’ ” he claims. “They were saying things to Jani like, ‘You can go to the gas chamber.’ ”
Incredibly, the grand jury that indicted Adams saw only small portions of Vincent Fraser’s half-foot-thick medical record. If the jurors had been fully informed, they would have learned that he suffered from a peptic ulcer and chronic cirrhosis of the liver, and that five physicians had agreed his condition was terminal. “To convict for murder, you need a body and a cause of death,” says pathologist Wilkes acidly. “It never occurred to anybody on the DA’s staff that the death certificate listed the cause as sepsis—massive infection that led to shock.” Assistant DA Ed Kane, who handled the case, admits somewhat lamely that “we knew we had serious problems with the indictment,” and says he wishes he had sought expert medical opinion before proceeding. Wilkes couldn’t agree more. “If police, press and prosecutors make decisions like this, what almost happened in Las Vegas would close down every intensive care unit in the country,” he says. “Every day there would be indictments for murder.”
UK – Colin Norris – 2008
Colin Campbell Norris (12 February 1976, Glasgow) is a nurse from the Milton area in Glasgow, Scotland who was convicted of murdering four elderly patients in a hospital in Leeds, England, in 2002. He was sentenced in 2008 to serve a minimum of 30 years in prison. Doubts have since been raised about his conviction by, among others, Prof Vincent Marks, a leading expert on insulin poisoning.
On October 4, 2011, new concerns were raised about the safety of Norris’s conviction. Prof Vincent Marks – a leading expert on insulin poisoning – said the jury at Norris’s trial was led to believe by experts that a cluster of hypoglycaemic episodes, among people who were not diabetic, was sinister. The professor said international medical studies carried out in the years since the 35-year-old Glaswegian was convicted told a different story. “Looking at all the evidence, all I can say is I think Colin Norris’s conviction is unsafe,” Prof Marks said.
Documentary “A Jury in the Dark” available on YouTube.
NL – Lucia de Berk – 2010
Lucia de Berk (born September 22, 1961 in The Hague, Netherlands), often called Lucia de B., is a Dutch licenced paediatric nurse, who was the subject of a miscarriage of justice.
In 2003, she was sentenced to life imprisonment for four murders and three attempted murders of patients in her care. In 2004, after an appeal, she was convicted of seven murders and three attempts. Her conviction was controversial in the media and amongst scientists, and was questioned by investigative reporter Peter R. de Vries.
In October 2008, the case was reopened by the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, as new facts had been uncovered that undermined the previous verdicts. De Berk was freed, and her case was re-tried; she was exonerated in April 2010.
Canada – Susan Nelles – 1981
The Toronto hospital baby deaths were multiple alleged poisonings of babies at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children that occurred between June 1980 and April 1981, when charges of murder were laid against a nurse at the hospital.
The story was a major news event throughout the year, and ended with the nurse being exonerated. Although suspicion was cast on other people, no further charges were ever laid.
Later analysis suggests that the tests and methodologies that pointed to poisoning were flawed, and may have been generating false positives. Specifically, chemicals used in the manufacture of everyday medical items may have contributed to the test indicating high levels of the alleged poison. It was also demonstrated that a “wave” of similar alleged poisonings were occurring at that time.
Susan Nelles has since remained in the medical care world after her trial. In 1992 she became Director of the Belleville Dialysis Unit of Kingston General Hospital. She also counsels nurses on legal issues and on dialysis. In 1999, she received an honorary degree from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario (from which she had graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing Science degree in 1978) for her work in promoting integrity in the nursing field.
She helped establish the Nelles Scholarship for Queen’s Nursing Science Students in memory of her father, Dr James Nelles and brother Dr David Nelles.
USA – The Ann Arbor Hospital Murders – 1975
The Ann Arbor Hospital Murders were the murders of 10 patients in an Ann Arbor, Michigan, VA Hospital during the 1970s. Filipino nurses Filipina Narciso and Leonora Perez were tried for the crimes.
In 1975, 35 patients at the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, suffered respiratory failure, 10 of whom died. The FBI launched an investigation into the matter due to its suspicious jump from monthly averages at the hospital, and eventually accused two Filipina nurses recently immigrated to the U.S., Filipina Narciso and Leonora Perez, of responsibility for the murders in June 1976. The case against Narciso and Perez was, by admission of the assistant U.S. Attorney General, Richard Delonis, “highly circumstantial,” yet resulted in a guilty conviction. The FBI’s devotion to cracking the case was considerable, in total using an estimated 200 agents and devoting over $1 million in resources to the case.
In a trial marred by accusations of racism, a man slated to be the lead witness for the prosecution (though dropped by the Federal prosecutor just prior to trial), referred to Perez and Narciso as “slant-eyed bitches” in a “nationwide conspiracy of 1800 Filipino nurses out to murder Americans.” Racial tensions at the time were also running high due high rates of immigration to the U.S. by Asian immigrants. Despite the lack of any concrete evidence linking the two nurses to the crime, they were found guilty on three counts of poisoning in July 1977. Pacifico Marcos, president of the Philippine Medical Association and brother of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, headed a defense fund and called the verdict a “miscarriage of justice”. In February of the following year, however, the case was overturned on an appeal by the defense, due to several instances of misconduct by the prosecution during several stages of the trial. The prosecution was given permission for a retrial, but the case was dropped. Narciso and Perez had suffered as a result of their lengthy trial process. The struggles of Narciso and Perez became a focal point for many protest groups and Filipinos, who united in their condemnation of the handling of the case and support for the two nurses.