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Court Backs Police Search Method: Laxatives

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Swallowing dope or other contraband won't hide it anymore.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that Milwaukee police officers were justified in using laxatives to search a man who had swallowed a bag of heroin during a 2002 drug bust. The decision found that police did not violate Tomas Payano-Roman's constitutional rights against unreasonable search by forcing him to drink a laxative called GoLytely every 20 to 30 minutes until the drugs came out.

In its 5 to 2 decision, the court said the laxative use was acceptable because it was carried out under medical supervision and met dual medical-treatment and evidence-gathering purposes. Dissenting, Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson said the evidence should not have been allowed since police didn't get a search warrant.

Officers saw Payano-Roman swallow the bag as they approached him. He pleaded guilty to possession of heroin and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

"Drug investigations are tough," said Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. "Drug suspects, drug dealers will go to great length to escape detection. When someone swallows the evidence, which is not an easy thing to do, the fact that the stuff was taken using a laxative should give the drug world something to think about."

-- Kari Lydersen

Letter From Yale Offers Skull and Bones Clue

The letter is beige-colored and nearly 90 years old, and bears the address of a Yale University dormitory. When historian and writer Marc Wortman stumbled on it in the university's vast archives, one word in the third paragraph stood out: Geronimo.

"The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrible, exhumed from its tomb at Fort Sill . . . is now safe inside the T-- together with his well-worn femurs," said the letter, written in June 1918 from one member of Yale's secret Skull and Bones club to another.

The letter, first reported in Wortman's new book, "The Millionaires' Unit," about Yalies who became pilots in World War I, is a tantalizing clue in one of the strangest mysteries associated with the club, whose members reportedly include President Bush, his father and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.).

For years, it was rumored that "Bonesmen" who had gone to Oklahoma's Fort Sill for artillery training had robbed the grave of the legendary Apache leader there and brought some of his bones back to the club's "Tomb" (the "T--" in the letter, according to Wortman).

Here, at last, seemed to be proof.

But the folks at Fort Sill aren't buying it: Geronimo's grave wasn't marked until sometime after the alleged theft, they say, so if the Bonesmen did rob a grave, it was probably somebody else's.

"There has never, ever been any indication that the grave has been desecrated," fort spokeswoman Nancy Elliott said.

-- David A. Fahrenthold

Big Winner on Election Day May Be a Voter

What is one vote worth? Maybe a million bucks.

Supporters of an Arizona initiative that would award $1 million to one randomly selected voter after each state election filed to get the measure on the November ballot. If a majority of voters approve the initiative, it would go into effect retroactively, with the first winner drawn from the election that created the award.

The goal is increased voter turnout, said Mark Osterloh, a Tucson lawyer, ophthalmologist and former gubernatorial candidate who said he spent more than $200,000 supporting the initiative. "If we want true representative government and true democracy, we have to have everybody voting," he said.

The measure is likely to pass because there's no cost to taxpayers, said Kelly M. McDonald, an assistant professor of political communications at Arizona State University. Prize money would come from unclaimed lottery winnings, and the lottery commission would conduct drawings.

While McDonald supports Osterloh's goal of increasing political involvement, he doesn't agree with this method. "When we reduce voting to treat it like a game of chance or a lottery, we further diminish the expectations of an engaged and informed electoral process," McDonald said.

Osterloh, though, has heard these concerns before. "I just want to get [voters] to the polls, and everybody else can educate them."

-- Matthew C. Wright

Citing Bird Flu, Bill Would Ban Cockfighting

Condemned by many as cruel, cockfighting has endured in Louisiana even as most other states have outlawed it, and some say it's part of the culture there.

But now opponents in the state have a new argument in favor of a ban -- avian flu -- and a measure forbidding cockfighting is moving through the legislature.

"Anyone who can tell me one redeeming value to cockfighting, I'd like to hear it," state Sen. Arthur J. Lentini (R) told local reporters last week.

State Sen. Nick Gautreaux (D), who comes from a district where cockfighting matches are held, pointed out that one might well ask the same question of other liberties: "What is the redeeming value of shooting a bird out of the sky, or what is the redeeming value of going to a strip club?"

He noted later that much of the state still lies ravaged by last year's hurricanes and that "you'd think we'd have better things to talk about."

-- Peter Whoriskey

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