Originally created 02/17/99

Coronor denied test results

AIKEN -- The Medical College of Georgia has refused to provide the Aiken County coroner toxicology tests on Shayna Lively, sole survivor of a Jan. 11 head-on collision that killed three people on Interstate 20, seven miles into South Carolina.

The hospital denied the coroner's subpoena for blood-alcohol and drug levels because the 19-year-old Ms. Lively is not dead, MCG senior legal adviser Clay Steadman said. Georgia law provides that coroners have jurisdiction to subpoena records of the deceased alone, he said.

"I am not going to get into that mud puddle at this time," Coroner Sue Townsend said, "but I strongly disagree. I do have authority to seek records for anyone who is involved with or has knowledge of a death, and Shayna Lively was involved in three deaths that are under investigation by my office. Those three deaths were referenced in the subpoena, and the states are supposed to operate under reciprocal agreements.

"Everything about the case is on course except for those medical records."

Section 16-27 of the Georgia code of laws says, "When a coroner or a medical examiner conducts an investigation into the death of an individual, the coroner or medical examiner shall be authorized to issue subpoenas to compel the production of any books, records or papers relevant to the cause of death ..."

Mrs. Townsend's subpoena was returned to her with an unsigned "sticky note" attached indicating it was not considered valid by MCG, where the Martinez teen-ager was treated after the wreck. There was no other explanation.

A hospital representative said Ms. Lively's medical records also were requested by prosecutor Barbara Morgan in South Carolina's second judicial circuit, and they were given to her. Ms. Morgan was ill Tuesday and did not return telephone calls about the Lively records.

The State Law Enforcement Division lab is performing separate toxicology tests on Ms. Lively's blood, but it's not known when those tests will be completed because of heavy backlogs, spokesman Hugh Munn said.

In most cases, SLED results differ slightly from hospital results because they rely on whole blood, not plasma, and preservatives are present -- the reason Mrs. Townsend said she prefers to have both.

Ms. Lively is facing three counts of felony DUI in South Carolina. She also is charged with possessing marijuana, not wearing a seat belt, and driving without a license. Hers was revoked after she was caught smoking marijuana in a South Carolina state park, her attorney has confirmed.

If convicted on all the charges, Ms. Lively could face 75 years in prison.

The state Highway Patrol says she was driving the wrong way on the interstate when she hit a car driven by Dexter Bernard Hearns, 31. Mr. Hearns and his daughters, 18-month-old Zainab Hearns and 3-year-old Imani K. Momodu, died.

Margaret N. O'Shea is a reporter for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.


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