Guest Author - Lisbeth Cheever-Gessaman
What if the only existing evidence for a crime was lodged harmlessly somewhere in your body? And you were then, through a series of court orders, ordered to undergo a risky medical procedure to extract the evidence, which would then convict you?
Should the need for societal justice or your individual rights prevail?
This is the issue now facing Texas courts in a case against Joshua Bush, 17, who has a 9mm bullet embedded in his forehead. A bullet which prosecutors assert is the same bullet fired in self-defense during an attempted robbery, and the evidence that they need to convict the teenager as proof of attempted murder. And they've obtained a search warrant to extract it.
Not without some difficulty, however, as the case has sparked national interest and concern as regards unreasonable search and seizure and the protection of constitutional rights. Additional issues as regards the ethical responsibility of the Health Care establishment to protect patients at all costs also come into play.
The AP story, released December 21st, details how investigators concluded that Bush was part of an initial gang of teenagers involved in a used ca lot robbery. A man returning to the scene sometime after the crime occured, identified as Joshua Bush, confronted businessman Alan Olive, advising him not to assist authorities under threat of death. After a heated exchange, Olive was fired upon by Bush and subsequently returned fire. The bullet from Olive's gun lodged itself into Bush's forehead. Bush fled on foot.
A week later, Police questioned Bush regarding his involvement and noticed that his forehead was badly swollen with evident wounds. When asked about the injury, Bush reportedly advised that he'd injured himself playing basketball. A few days later he checked himself into a hospital advising doctors that he had been hit by a stray bullet while relaxing on his couch at home.
Officers began putting events together and petitioned the court for a search warrant to extract the bullet, which was granted by a judge in October. However doctors in Beaumont, TX, the facility assigned to perform the operation, advised that bone had began to grow around the bullet, and that the proper tools to remove it were not available. A second search warrant was then obtained and the operation scheduled in Galveston, TX. In the interim, Bush's lawyers had already begun working on blocking the order considering it "unreasonable search and seizure" as well as a violation on Bush's constitutional rights.
Finding someone to remove the slug, rather than a higher court to approve it's forced removal, may be the more difficult quandary as prosecutors reportedly are still looking for a doctor or hospital to perform the procedure. All sides agree that removing the bullet would not be "life-threatening".
As complex as the issues are which seem to present themselves, one would suppose that a good prosecutor has a viable case without any actual removal of the bullet itself. Witness identification coupled with the having been shot with a bullet the same caliber as the gun which was fired surely would offer a preponderance of evidence against the teen. Further argument could be made against the unwillingness of the suspect to have the bullet removed in order to prove innocence.
However the question it poses is a good one: When the rights of two individuals are at stake - one whose life was deliberately threatened in an act of attempted murder weighed against one who now stands accused, but only if a forced surgical procedure to remove the evidence is performed, which action then represents the greater good of us all?