Video Suggestions

by | Aug 5, 2019

Video 1: “Man Walks Free after 21 Years in Prison When a Witness in the Murder Case Admits to the Killing”

Note: In addition to the video, please see the following article included at the above-referenced internet address:

“Man Walks Free after 21 Years in Prison When a Witness in the Murder Case Admits to the Killing”

According to the article, a Pennsylvania man who spent 21 years behind bars for murder was freed recently after the star witness in the case confessed to the killing.

John Miller walked out of the State Correctional institution in Frackville, about 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia, after prosecutors declined to retry him, saying there was insufficient evidence, according to court records.

“I’m very happy and excited that after 21 years I’m finally being heard and that my innocence has reached the surface,” Miller said in a written statement distributed by his attorney. “I’m going home to my family. I’m overwhelmed, excited, and happy.”

Miller, 44, credited his attorneys with securing his release after years of declaring his innocence.

“Without them, I don’t know what would have happened or where I would have been,” he said.

Miller was convicted in 1997 for the October 1996 murder of Anthony Mullen during a robbery attempt outside the 30th Street Station, Philadelphia’s main railroad station, according to court records. Mullen had been shot to death. A jury convicted Miller of second-degree murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

David Williams was the witness who identified Miller as the killer, according to court records. Williams told police in exchange for leniency in another case that Miller had confessed to him that he killed Mullen, the court records show.

But Williams recanted his statement even before Miller’s preliminary hearing, and “he has been confessing to Mullen’s murder for more than a decade,” the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office wrote in a motion filed recently that declined to retry Miller.

Williams even sent a letter to Miller’s mother in December 2002, saying in it that he committed the murder.

“I can’t live with this on my conscience. Your son had no knowledge of this crime. He wasn’t even there. I lied on him,” he wrote, according to court records.

Miller filed 10 appeals, his attorney, Thomas Gallagher said. All were denied, he said.

Miller’s legal team, which included the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, took on the case eight years ago and found evidence that had not been previously disclosed to Miller’s defense team, Gallagher said in a news release. That evidence raised questions about what authorities knew about Williams initial testimony, according to court records.

A federal judge on July 1 ordered Miller be released, subject to a decision by the district attorney on whether to pursue a new trial.
In a motion filed this week, the District Attorney’s Office said there was “insufficient evidence” to make a case against Miller.

“Williams’ statement to the police was the crux of the case against defendant,” the motion said.

Recently, a Common Pleas Court judge agreed and ordered Miller released.

The media was unable to reach Williams for comment, and it was not immediately known if he had an attorney. The District Attorney’s Office has not said whether it will charge Williams in the Mullens murder.

Discussion Questions

1. In your reasoned opinion, who (if anyone) is responsible for John Miller’s wrongful conviction and twenty-one (21) years served in prison?

David Williams falsely identified Mr. Miller as the perpetrator, so he is at least in part responsible; however, in your author’s opinion, there is a strong case to be made that the court system is responsible as well. As the article indicates, Mr. Williams recanted his statement even before Miller’s preliminary hearing, and he confessed to Mullen’s murder for more than a decade. Further, Mr. Miller filed ten (10) appeals with the court system, and all of his appeals were denied.

2. Should Mr. Miller receive compensation from the state of Pennsylvania for his wrongful conviction? If so, in your opinion, what amount of money would be enough to compensate Mr. Miller for his twenty-one (21) years served in prison?

It is fairly common for a wrongfully convicted individual to receive compensation from the jurisdiction involved in the wrongful conviction. Reasonable minds might differ in terms of what amount of money would be sufficient for the wrongful conviction. Even if Mr. Miller were to receive $21 million, representing $1 million for each year wrongfully imprisoned, would that amount of money really be enough to compensate Mr. Miller for deprivation of his freedom during much of his youthful years (age 23 through 44)?

3. As the article indicates, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has not charged David Williams in the murder of Anthony Mullen. Should it? Why or why not?

As the article indicates, Mr. Williams has confessed to Mullen’s murder for more than a decade. Even still, confessions are not necessarily proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt, since a defense attorney could argue that the confession was coerced, or that his or her client confessed in order to gain attention and notoriety. Ultimately, it is the prosecutor’s decision as to whether to charge a defendant with the commission of a crime.

Video 2: “Worldwide Recall Issued for Textured Breast Implants Tied to Rare Cancer”

Note: In addition to the video, please see the following article included at the above-referenced internet address:

“Worldwide Recall Issued for Textured Breast Implants Tied to Rare Cancer”

According to the article, Allergan issued a worldwide recall of Biocell textured breast implants and tissue expanders that have been linked to a rare cancer. The move came after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested the manufacturer voluntarily recall the products.

“Allergan is taking this action as a precaution following notification of recently updated global safety information concerning the uncommon incidence of breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL) provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” according to a press announcement by Allergan.

Textured breast implants are less commonly used in the United States compared to other countries, according to the FDA. Specifically, macro-textured implants — the type of textured implant that Allergan manufactures — represent less than 5% of all breast implants sold in the United States.

“It’s our estimation that hundreds of thousands of women have these implants,” Dr. Binita Ashar, director of the office of surgical and infection control devices at the FDA, said during a press conference recently. She added that the FDA will get more information on those numbers in the coming weeks.

The specific textured breast implant products that have been recalled include Natrelle Saline-Filled breast implants, Natrelle Silicone-Filled breast implants, Natrelle Inspira Silicone-Filled breast implants, and Natrelle 410 Highly Cohesive Anatomically Shaped Silicone-Filled breast implants.

The recalled tissue expanders include the Natrelle 133 Plus Tissue Expander and Natrelle 133 Tissue Expander with Suture Tabs.

In 2011, the FDA first identified a possible association between breast implants and the development of a rare cancer called breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL.

The FDA does not recommend the removal of these breast implant products in women without symptoms of BIA-ALCL, according to the agency’s announcement, but rather to know the symptoms and monitor the area around breast implants for any changes. If people experience any symptoms or changes, they should talk to their doctor.

The main symptoms of BIA-ALCL are swelling or pain in the area of the implant, which may occur years after the implant was placed. As of earlier this month, a total of 573 cases globally of anaplastic large cell lymphoma related to breast implants have been reported to the FDA. There have also been 33 patient deaths, the FDA said.

“Although the overall incidence of BIA-ALCL appears to be relatively low, once the evidence indicated that a specific manufacturer’s product appeared to be directly linked to significant patient harm, including death, the FDA took action to alert the firm to new evidence indicating a recall is warranted to protect women’s health,” Dr. Amy Abernethy, the FDA’s principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, said in the agency’s news release recently.

“We will continue to monitor the incidence of BIA-ALCL across other textured and smooth breast implants and tissue expanders as well as other devices intended for use in the breast,” she said. “If action is needed in the future, we will not hesitate to do what is necessary to protect patients.”

In March, the FDA Medical Devices Advisory Committee’s General and Plastic Surgery Devices Panel convened to discuss the steps it would take to maintain surveillance of breast implant safety.

“We will continually evaluate any new information and may, as a result, take action regarding other breast implants, if warranted,” Dr. Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health said in Wednesday’s news release.

“In addition, we are continuing our assessment to determine whether the risk of developing BIA-ALCL is limited to specific models of textured, or all textured breast implants,” he said. “We continue to advise women and health care professionals that the use of breast implants is associated with a risk of developing BIA-ALCL and that the risk is greater with textured implants.”

The FDA also announced that it is considering recommendations to change the labeling of breast implants to include a boxed warning indicating health risks, among other possible actions to help share safety information.

Breast augmentation was the most popular cosmetic surgical procedure performed last year, according to statistics from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

While most women have breast implants with no serious complications, as many as 20% of women who receive implants for augmentation have to have their implants removed within eight to 10 years, owing to complications, according to the FDA.

“Breast implants are not meant to be lifetime devices. They have a lifespan, and that might range from seven to 10-plus years, based on the implant and patient,” Dr. Tommaso Addona, a plastic surgeon and president of the Long Island Plastic Surgical Group in New York, said in March.

He added that he often discusses benefits and risks with his own patients.

“We do discuss complications. Those range from scarring around the implant, sometimes soreness and discomfort from the implant … to in the last seven years, probably a bit more, we’ve become more acutely aware of a specific type of lymphoma that is associated with breast implants,” he said. “What the general public should appreciate is, as doctors and clinicians, we always want what’s best and safest for our patients. We’re constantly not only educating ourselves but educating our patients.”

Discussion Questions

1. Comment on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) involvement in this case. Is this an example of proper or improper government oversight and regulation?

Student opinions may vary in response to this question. Although the FDA certainly put pressure on Allergan to engage in the “voluntary” product recall, some students might argue that proper government oversight and regulation would have identified the health risk before the product was made available to consumer-patients.

2. Based on the information provided in the article, is this case really an example of a “voluntary” product recall? Why or why not?

In your author’s opinion, this is not really a “voluntary” product recall. The FDA certainly put pressure on Allergan to engage in the recall, and had Allergan chosen not to do so, the FDA is authorized to initiate a mandatory product recall if the public’s health and well-being necessitates it.

3. In your reasoned opinion, should medical providers be required to provide comprehensive information to patients regarding the potential risks associated with a certain medical procedure? Should medical providers be liable to patients who experience harm if they do not disclose the potential risks associated with a certain medical procedure? Explain your response.

In your author’s opinion, absolutely on both counts! Comprehensive information disclosure is essential to a reasoned consumer purchase decision, and when the consumer’s health is at issue, requiring comprehensive information disclosure is even more compelling. In terms of whether medical providers should be liable to patients who experience harm if they do not disclose the potential risks associate with a certain medical procedure, the basic concept of negligence (more particularly, medical malpractice) would demand liability in such cases—the health care provider has not done what a reasonable provider would have done in the same or a similar case.