Ann Arbor Hospital Murders

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The Ann Arbor Hospital Murders were the murders of 10 patients by unauthorized administration in their IV of a curare drug Pavulon in an Ann Arbor, Michigan, Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital during 1975. Following a vast FBI investigation into the deaths, Filipino nurses Filipina Narciso and Leonora Perez were charged with murder, but only found guilty on poisoning and conspiracy charges. Public opinion was against prosecution of the nurses on the basis that they could have had only the most trivial of possible motives for conspiring to commit such extremely serious crimes, and the case was dropped after a retrial was ordered.

Homicides and investigation[edit]

During a few months in 1975, patients at the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan began suffering respiratory failure and sometimes dying with extraordinary frequency. In a single twenty minute period on one day in the middle of August, three patients required emergency treatment to save their lives, and the chief of anesthesiology, finding they responded to an antidote for a paralyzing drug, called in the FBI.[1] Investigators found that nurse Filipina Narciso had been on duty in the relevant ward during every poisoning, and she was identified by a patient as the nurse who injected something into his IV just before his breathing suddenly stopped.[1]

Nurse Leonora Perez was also identified by another patient as having injected his IV just before his respiratory arrest occurred, but he—like the patient who had identified Narciso—died before the trial.[1][2] The case against Narciso and Perez was considered by assistant U.S. Attorney General Richard Delonis to be "highly circumstantial", although the defense lawyers felt it was strong enough that they had to put their clients on the stand, where in the event they appeared evasive.[2] There was only one charge of murder considered by the jury with the other charges being of "poisoning".[1][2]

Both defendants were recent immigrants to the United States, and the trial was marred by accusations of racism. One man, originally slated to be the lead witness for the prosecution, referred to Perez and Narciso as "slant-eyed bitches" and asserted that there was a nationwide conspiracy of Filipino nurses to murder veterans.[3] Racial tensions at the time were also running high due to high rates of immigration to the U.S. by Asian immigrants.[4]

The two defendants were the primary (though not always the only) nurses on duty during the poisonings.[5] The prosecution emphasized the regular proximity of the defendants to poisoned patients. Crucial evidence came from a relative of the victims who testified one of the defendants had been in the room doing something to the bedside equipment just before he suddenly stopped breathing.[1][6] The significance of evidence that the defendants had been in the room shortly before was that the injections of Pavulon, according to the prosecution’s experts, must have been administered only minutes before the victims suffered paralysis and cessation of breathing.[1][2][7] Narciso and Perez were acquitted of the murder charge, but both nurses were found guilty of three counts of poisoning, and conspiracy to poison, patients.[1]

Verdicts and appeal[edit]

Pacifico Marcos, president of the Philippine Medical Association and younger brother of Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, headed a defense fund and called the verdict a "miscarriage of justice".[5] In February of the following year, a judge set aside the guilty verdicts, ruling that the jury (which had deliberated for 15 days and acquitted on the only remaining murder charge and some of the poisoning charges) may have been influenced by what amounted to prejudicial presentation of the prosecution case during the trial.[8]

The new attorney general declined to mount another prosecution, reportedly because the American public were not behind the prosecution of the nurses, and the defendants were unlikely to make the mistake of exposing themselves to cross examination again.[1] Narciso and Perez had suffered as a result of their lengthy trial process. The prosecution of Narciso and Perez for the murders became a focal point for many protest groups and Filipinos, who united in their condemnation of the handling of the case and expressed support for the two nurses.[3]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Greg Stejskal (February 3, 2011), The Murders at Ann Arbor’s Veterans Hospital; What Went Right and What Ultimately Went Wrong in the Case, Tickle the Wire
  2. ^ a b c d Galang, M. 2003. Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images. Coffee House Press
  3. ^ a b Choy, Catherine (2003). Empire of Care: Nursing and Migration in Filipino-American History. Duke University Press.
  4. ^ Ngai, Mae. 2005. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton University Press
  5. ^ a b "Long Count to A Guilty Verdict". Time Magazine. July 25, 1977.
  6. ^ Brian Lane. Encyclopedia of serial killers.[full citation needed]
  7. ^ Cheyfitz, Kirk (July 14, 1977). "Nurses Convicted in Poisoning Case Nurses Convicted in Poisoning Case". Washington Post.
  8. ^ Pratt, Phillip. 1978. US. v. Narciso and Perez, Memorandum Opinion and Order Regarding Defendants' Motion for a New Trial p. 17.