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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

photo by lindsay beyerstein


Ice Weasel: "Misdiagnosis"

Excited delirium, indeed

Thanks to Ice Weasel for this cool post - THANKS ICEE!

In the middle-late nineteenth century "hysteria", often referred to specifically as "female hysteria" was a fashionable diagnosis for a rather undefined problem. The solution, uniquely appropriate however inappropriate the misogynistic diagnosis was, was to stimulate the genital areas of the "afflicted" women, frequently using a vibrator. It seems that getting off made the patients feel better.

In the more enlightened days of the twenty-first century we're beginning to see the rise of another convenient and equally inappropriate diagnosis to explain the "unexplained" deaths of people in the custody of police. "Excited delirium" is now all the rage.

While a completely unrecognized medical term, ED (come on, just to save the keystrokes) is now the explanation for a number of deaths of citizens while in the custody of police.

If you happened to listen to NPR this afternoon you may have heard their fawning report on excited delirium. In NPR's ever more ridiculous attempt to be fair, they devoted the entire segment today to what ED is and it's proponents (according the very last line of the piece, this is just the first of two parts of the story). Although it was never said what would be presented in the second half, one might hope another side to this story would be presented tomorrow.

Sure it will.


  • June 13, 2005 - Shawn C. Pirolozzi, 30, of Canton, Ohio, dies after police tried to subdue him with a Taser. His death certificate listed excited delirium as the cause of death. The Taser was not listed as a contributing factor.

  • April 21, 2006 — Alvin Itula, 35, dies after a struggle with Salt Lake City police. Itula led officers on a foot chase, then fought with them when the officers caught up, according to police. Officers tased Itula and also used pepper spray and a baton. Itula stopped breathing soon after. The medical examiner found that Itula died of excited delirium brought on by methamphetamine and cocaine.

  • April 24, 2006 — Jose Romero, 23, dies in Dallas police custody. He was in his underwear, screaming and holding a knife on his neighbor's porch. Police tased him multiple times. He died shortly thereafter. The Dallas County medical examiner ruled Romero died of excited delirium.

  • Sept. 5, 2006 — Larry Noles, 52, dies in Louisville, Ky., after a struggle with police. Noles, an ex-Marine, was standing naked in the middle of a street when police were called. Police said he was agitated. They tased him two or three times. He died a few minutes later. The Jefferson County medical examiner ruled Noles died because
    of excited delirium and not the Taser.

  • Oct. 29, 2006 — Roger Holyfield, 17, dies after police in Jerseyville, Ill., shocked him twice with a Taser. Holyfield had been walking down a street, holding a phone in one hand and a Bible in the other, yelling that he wanted Jesus. After policed shot him with the stun gun, Holyfield went into a coma; he died the following day. A medical examiner ruled the death was probably a result of excited delirium.

  • Dec. 17, 2006 — Terill Enard, 29, dies following a disturbance at a Waffle house in Lafayette, La. He was naked and yelling, with a broken leg bone piercing his skin. Police stunned Enard with a Taser; he died several hours later. Police said the
    forensic report from the Lafayette Parish coroner's office found Enard died as a result of "cocaine-induced excited delirium."

— Laura Sullivan

I'm sure this sampling of recent deaths accorded to ED is just as representative of the issue as the side of the story NPR presented this afternoon talking with the people who invented the term, work for Taser and who "consult" with police departments on the issue.

The NPR audio story was especially bad. Several times in the story the police or Taser people talking about people with Ed exhibiting "Superhuman strength". What? Superhuman strength? You've got to be shitting me. it's called adrenalin and it happen when you beat, electrically shock or throw poison in a person's face. It's a
natural involuntary reaction and frankly, any reasonable person should know this.

In other words, what the police departments and Taser are hoping to is introduce a new, ill-defined and quite convenient excuse when a citizen in custody is killed. Suddenly, it's not about anything the police did, it's about what the citizen did. They were on drugs. They did something to merit tasing, pepper spray and choke holds and it has nothing to do with those actions why the citizen died. No. It's about excited delirium.

Read the NPR story. Read the words from Taser's spokesman and ED advocate. Take in the idea that now the police may be arming themselves with an excuse to do as they please and then deftly credit a medical condition to the police's actions.

This country is changing every day. It's arguable that during this administration we've seen many, enormous changes in the basic fundamental ways we define our civil rights and issues such as this one, what kind of lethal force the police are allowed to use on citizens, is just one topic that's been shunted to the proverbial back page while we just begin to wrestle with other, perhaps weightier matters outside our borders. However, our world isn't static. Everything around is changing and while we're looking at one thing, a dozen other issues appear that are important in their own way.

It's time to multi-task. It's time to look at domestic issues such as this, the proliferation of private police forces, an out of control prison system as well as all our civil rights. These affect all of us. And these are issues that aren't waiting around while we deal with other things.

- posted by Ice Weasel