Murder Charges 30 Years Later

05 May

David Michael Knick and Robert Duston Strong have been charged with a murder that took place 30 years ago. Sort of. The victim did not die until 2010. So if the victim died 30 years after Knick and Strong’s involvement how could they be charged with murder? It all comes down to the coroner’s determination that the death was a direct result of an act by these gentlemen.

In November, 1980, Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies Ira Essoe and Greg Brown observed three men tampering with a series of cars in a parking lot in Orange, CA. When they approached the men a gun appeared and Deputy Essoe was shot. His injuries resulted in paralysis. The gunmen stole the officers patrol unit and a high-speed chase followed. These are big in Southern California. Seems like one happens every week. This one lasted about an hour and the two men were arrested. That was then.

Deputy Essoe remained paralyzed and suffered many complications from his condition. He also developed diabetes and heart disease and apparently had to have both legs amputated along the way. Last year he develop bed sores, a very common problem in paralyzed individuals, and from these developed an infection that spread to his bloodstream, a condition we call sepsis. He died from this.

Dr. Anthony Juguilon, chief forensic pathologist for the Orange County Coroner, determined that Essoe’s death was a delayed complication of the gunshot that left him paralyzed. This determination is critical. This makes the manner of death homicide and not natural, which would have been the case had Deputy Essoe been injured in a blameless accident, for example. But the fact that he was paralyzed by a gunshot wound that occurred during a criminal act and that his death was directly related to that incident led to the determination that the manner of death was homicide.

Both men will soon be going to trial. The defense will likely argue that the death was natural and was a complication of his other disease processes while the prosecution will of course agree with the coroner’s determination. We’ll see how this one plays out.


5 responses to “Murder Charges 30 Years Later

  1. Ashley McConnell

    May 5, 2011 at 11:33 am

    Wasn’t there a provision in old English Common Law that if someone survived a year and a day after an injury, their death wouldn’t be ascribed to the person causing the injury?


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      May 5, 2011 at 12:18 pm

      I don’t know but currently the ME/Coroner will often assign the manner of death as homicide if the event that started the cascade of events that ultimately led to the victim’s death was a criminal act. This is not a rare determination. Here the cascade would be gunshot—paralysis—bedsores–wound infection—sepsis—death. At least that’s the coroner’s position. We’ll see what happens at trial.


  2. Onetime law student

    May 5, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I didn’t stay in law school that long but since then I remembered this one especially in cases where medical malpractice was involved which this kind of includes. Just like you said, D.P., is what I recall hearing in cases.


  3. Leslie Budewitz

    May 5, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Ashley, that principle is basically a statute of limitations, providing that a person can not be prosecuted for a death unless it occurred within one year or a year and a day of the alleged crime — although the suspect could be prosecuted on other charges related to the incident, such as attempted murder. By statute, the year & a day rule is still the law in some states. A civil claim could still be brought even if the death occurred after the one year, so long as it occurred within the statute of limitations for civil actions, typically 3 years for personal injury or death; the estate and heirs could sue for money damages.



    August 16, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    This case was heard by the appeals court after they put a “stay” on the case. As of yesterday it was heard at oral argument and according to the judges this was clearly a case of ex post facto. Just waiting for the official ruling of the appeals court and hopefully justice will be served and both of these men will be released.



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