Your quick, once-a-day look at disability rights, self-determination
and the movement toward full community inclusion around the world.

Friday, November 21, 2003
Year IV, Edition 180

This front page features 8 news and information items, each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the"Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this page for 30 more news items.

"Now, I've got to go live my life."

--Barry J. Laughman, when he was released from prison Friday after new DNA evidence called into question his 1988 rape and murder conviction (First story)

"We're lucky. Actually, the citizens are lucky."
--Janet Hamilton, management analyst for Lodi, California, talking about Jay Jenson, who has autism and recently completed a 16,000-document public records project for the city (Fourth story)



DNA Clears Gettysburg Man After 16 Years Behind Bars

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 21, 2003

GETTYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA--Barry J. Laughman, 40, was released from Adams County Prison Friday, after spending 16 years behind bars for the rape and murder of a distant relative.

New DNA evidence revealed earlier this month that bodily fluids found at the crime scene could not have come from Laughman.

"The truth is coming out," Laughman said from his brother's apartment. "It just took too long. Now, I've got to go live my life."

Laughman, who reportedly has mental retardation, was convicted for the August 1987 rape and suffocation death of 85-year-old Edna Laughman. Police said that Barry Laughman confessed soon after the crimes, but Laughman later denied having given a confession.

Laughman's defenders have pointed out that the police officer who claimed to have taken the confession was later discredited. They also argued that Laughman's confessions gave details that were not consistent with the actual crime.

The DNA samples were tested this summer, after the Patriot-News of Harrisburg traced them to a former Penn State professor who had moved to Germany. The researcher had the samples in his possession for nearly 10 years after Laughman's previous defense attorney had sent them to him for analysis.

Laughman was released on $30,000 unsecured bail. He will face a new trial which will include the new DNA evidence.

Laughman's brother said Barry was going to an all-you-can-eat restaurant with his family Friday night to celebrate. He said Barry was looking forward to playing guitar and going fishing, and that he plans to work at the fertilizer manufacturer where he was employed when he was arrested in 1987.

Over the past few years, several inmates with mental retardation on death row or serving life sentences have been cleared by new DNA technologies. Some of those "confessed" to the crimes under questionable circumstances.

IDE Archives: "Overturned Murder Convictions" (Inclusion Daily Express)



Judges Baird And Greer Refuse To Step Aside On Schiavo Cases

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 21, 2003

TAMPA, FLORIDA--Two Pinellas Circuit Court judges on Friday refused to step aside in cases regarding Terri Schiavo's right to live.

Governor Jeb Bush asked the 2nd District Court of Appeal to disqualify Judge W. Douglas Baird in the suit filed against the governor by Michael Schiavo over the constitutionality of "Terri's Law". Mr. Schiavo, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, are trying to get the law thrown out that gave Bush the authority to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted on October 21, six days after it had been taken out under a court order.

Last week, Judge Baird commented that the law violated Terri's privacy rights and the Florida state Constitution's separation of powers provisions. Bush wants Baird removed from the case because of his "own personal biases and prejudices". Bush's appeal came after Baird refused to disqualify himself Friday.

In a related case on the same day, Judge George W. Greer denied a request by Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, to step aside in their suit to have their son-in-law removed as their daughter's guardian. Greer has repeatedly sided with Michael Schiavo in his rulings, including the order in mid-October that removed the gastronomy tube which provides Terri with food and water. The Schindlers claim that Greer, too, is biased in that case.

Disability rights advocates have been watching Terri's legal battle for several years. Her husband and several doctors claim that she has been in a "persistent vegetative state" since she collapsed from an apparent heart attack in February 1990 and was without oxygen for several minutes. The courts have supported Mr. Schiavo's claims that Terri cannot recover from her injury, that she does not feel pain, and that she would not have wanted to live "by artificial means".

Terri's parents believe that she is alert and responsive and that she could improve with rehabilitative therapies which Mr. Schiavo has denied her for at least the past 10 years. They claim that Terri's husband wants her to die so that he can marry another woman with whom he has fathered two children, and so he can benefit from what's left of an insurance settlement that now pays for her treatment. They want him removed as Terri's guardian and investigated for abuse, neglect and financial exploitation.

The Schindlers and advocates have defended Terri's right to live, noting that allowing her to die by starvation would reinforce the message that the lives of people with certain disabilities are not worth living. With their urging, the governor championed the bill that gave him permission to order Terri's feeding tube reinserted on October 21, and to appoint an independent guardian to review her situation and provide the governor with recommendations.

"It's Not Only About Terri Schiavo" by Nat Hentoff (The Village Voice)
"Kerry refuses to criticize Bush on Schiavo decision" (Miami Herald)
IDE Archives "Terri Schiavo's Right To Live"
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation



Jury Rejects Discrimination Claim Against Fertility Clinic

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 21, 2003

DENVER, COLORADO--A federal jury on Friday disagreed with a blind woman who said that a fertility clinic had discriminated against her because of her disability.

Kijuana Chambers claimed in her discrimination lawsuit that she went to the Rocky Mountain Women's Health Care Center three times in 1998 to receive artificial insemination. The last time she went to the clinic, however, she was told that the clinic was refusing to treat her because it was not safe for her to parent a child.

During closing arguments Thursday, attorney Scott LeBarre told the jury that doctors had based their decision to reject Chambers on reports that she was blind, but that they used her personal hygiene, and her ability to childproof her home in order to justify that decision.

"Once you strip away all these concerns, what are you left with? You're left with blindness," said LeBarre, who also is blind.

An attorney for the clinic argued that doctors were worried Chambers would not be able to care for an infant.

The Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition had brought the lawsuit on Chambers' behalf. She had sought unspecified damages in the suit, which she believed violated two federal anti-discrimination laws.

Chambers has moved to Iowa where she found another clinic that would inseminate her. She gave birth to a daughter on Jan. 1, 2001.



"It Was A Project Made For Him"

November 21, 2003

LODI, CALIFORNIA--The following six paragraphs are excerpts from a story in Friday's Lodi News-Sentinel:

Jay Jensen is not your typical city employee.

He doesn't drive to work, rarely quibbles if he misses that all-important 15-minute break and doesn't get involved in union negotiations.

But the 23-year-old Lodi native can convert computer files faster than most people can type a full page. He's just completed a 16,000-document public records project that may have not even been started if it wasn't for Jensen and his gifted skills.

Although he's been tasked to perform other work, most recently, Jensen has finished converting all the City Council computer files into a new configuration so that the public can have access to them on the Internet.

"It was no small feat," said Janet Hamilton, management analyst for the city. "It was a project made for him."

Jensen has autism and a special knack for numbers.

Entire article:
"City worker completes document conversion project" (Lodi News-Sentinel)



Teen Faces Life In Prison, But No Charges

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 21, 2003

PERTH, AUSTRALIA--An unnamed 14-year-old boy with intellectual disabilities on Friday became the youngest person in Western Australia history to face the possibility of a life behind bars.

The teen was being held indefinitely in prison at "His Governor's pleasure" after Perth Children's Court Judge Valerie French dropped manslaughter, reckless driving and assault charges against him. The Mentally Impaired Defendants Review Board will review the teen on a regular basis to determine if, and when, he is "suitable" to be released back into the community.

Officials say he has mental retardation, along with impaired memory, cognitive and communication skills caused by years of abusing chemical solvents.

The charges against the teen stem from an incident on August 18 during which he stole a car, and -- while speeding away from police with four children as passengers -- ran a red light and slammed into another vehicle. His 12-year-old cousin died from the collision.

The teenager, who has been a ward of the state for the last year, had been released into the community twice earlier this year after other car theft and dangerous driving charges were dismissed for the same reasons.

According to the Western Australian news service, charges can be dropped for defendants who are not able to understand the nature of the charges, the reason behind their pleas, the evidence against them, or follow the court proceedings.

Judge French said the teen cannot be held in a mental hospital because he does not have a mental illness. The judge added that she hoped that in the future the teenager could be released into a community-based program that would be appropriate for him, but that there are no such programs available at this time.



Learning Disabilities Online

The leading Web site on learning disabilities for parents, teachers and other professionals.


# EXPRESS EXTRA!!! From the Inclusion Daily Express Archives -- One year ago:


"KU Seeks Evacuation Plans That Account For Disabled"

November 22, 2002

LAWRENCE, KANSAS--The following three paragraphs are in a news story from the Lawrence Journal-World:

If Kansas University’s Dole Human Development Center caught fire, Dot Nary isn’t sure she could make it out quickly and safely.

Nary, who uses a wheelchair, wants to change that. She is part of a task force of KU staff members who are studying the university’s evacuation procedures for people with disabilities.

Members are starting with the Dole Center and Haworth Hall, but they’re hoping to apply their report to all KU buildings.

Here is the entire article:

This link should take you to Kansas State University's Emergency Evacuation Procedures for Persons with Physical Disabilities:


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