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4/23/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: April 23, 2014


Don't mess with her jewels. Photo via

By Shawn Dwyer

addiction TV

4/22/14 7:30pm

New ABC Drama ‘Black Box’ Tackles Addiction


Photo via ABC

On Thursday, ABC will debut a new drama, Black Box, which focuses on Catherine Black, a brilliant but troubled neuroscientist who struggles with bipolar disorder. But what makes the show unique is that Catherine is addicted to not taking her medication in order to get high on her condition and experience the world in a euphoric, but simultaneously dangerous state.

"This show is not a generic examination of bipolarity – not at all," said Kelly Reilly, who plays the title character. "This is about one woman who is an addict to her disease. The disease is treatable. But it calls for a lifetime of commitment and rearranging medications to see what works and what doesn't work – and fighting the battle of deciding whether or not you want to take them."

Series creator Amy Holden Jones has her own experiences in dealing with bipolar disorder through her father, a physician who practiced until he was 70 years old despite having the disease. "There are highly functional bipolar people. You may think your only experience of it is on 'Homeland,’” Jones said in reference to the acclaimed Showtime series, which stars Claire Danes as a bipolar CIA officer. “But that's probably not the case."

Both Jones and Reilly were quick to point out that Black Box is not a show about illness, but rather uses bipolar disorder and addiction as a metaphor, questioning what is considered normal brain activity. According to Catherine, medication dooms one to mediocrity while lapsing into a manic state is “a freakin' rocket ride.”

"This is not a life that's ever going to be straight and narrow for Catherine," said Reilly. "It's always going to be a bit wobbly: Is she gonna go off crazy again, or is she going to try to toe the line? She's a rule-breaker by nature who takes risks. But I think she longs for what normal might feel like."

The series airs on ABC this Thursday at 10 p.m. But judging from the bruising reviews, the show might not reach such euphoric highs in the ratings.

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By Shawn Dwyer

hypocrite politicians

4/22/14 5:30pm

Republican State Congressman Arrested For DUI


Rep. Dane Eagle/Leon County Jail

Seems like Florida has cornered the market on politicians who can’t avoid running afoul of drugs and alcohol.

State Rep. Dan Eagle (R-Cape Coral) was charged on Monday in Tallahassee for driving under the influence. According to court documents, Eagle pulled out of a Taco Bell in his black SUV before making a U-turn and almost hitting the curb outside a Papa John’s pizza. He then proceeded to run a red light, leading police to pull him over.

The arresting officer was immediately struck by the “strong odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle,” and later reported that Eagle’s eyes were bloodshot and watery. Like any good politician, Eagle tried talking his way out of the predicament by claiming he believed the stoplight was yellow.

Eagle acknowledged the arrest on Tuesday and released a statement to the News-Press. "While there are some decisions that I would have made differently, I do not believe there is a complete and accurate picture of the events," the statement said. "Under advice of my legal counsel, I cannot discuss all the details right now, but I look forward to publically (sic) sharing the entire story at an appropriate time."

Florida has seen its share of troubled politicians in recent times, most notably the notorious Cocaine Congressman, Trey Radel, a Republican from Florida’s 19th congressional district who resigned from office in January 2014 following a conviction for cocaine possession stemming from a November 2013 arrest.

Rather lesser known was former mayor of Hampton, Fla., Barry Layne Moore, who was arrested last November for possessing and selling oxycodone.

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By Shawn Dwyer

criminally insane

4/22/14 3:30pm

San Diego Man Claims Anti- Smoking Drug Made Him Kill Ex-Wife



In 2011, Tim Danielson, 65, shot and killed his ex-wife, Ming Qi, 48, in a fit of rage. Now he is claiming that the anti-smoking drug, Chantix, is to blame.

At the time of the murder, Danielson and Qi were living together in Lakeside, Calif. despite having been divorced since 2008. Qi had moved back in due to financial difficulties, but had been seeing another man and allegedly flaunted the affair in front of her ex-husband. That led to numerous heated arguments in the weeks leading up to her death on the night of June 13.

Qi had made the decision to move out and confronted Danielson, who allegedly became enraged enough to retrieve a .22 caliber rifle. He shot her six times, including once in the head, before carrying her to their upstairs bedroom, where he turned on a generator in order to kill himself by carbon monoxide poisoning. He emailed a sister-in-law describing what he had done and was found near death by police.

Danielson has been incarcerated since the incident, but it has only recently come to light that his lawyers will argue that Qi’s murder was caused by Chantix. Manufactured by Pfizer, the anti-smoking drug carries the FDA’s strongest warnings over its side effects, which include depression, suicidal thoughts, aggression, and suicidal action.

He pleaded not guilty in 2011 and has been awaiting trial ever since. Jury selection begins Wednesday. But he faces an uphill battle using a diminished capacity defense in California, since the state has abolished such maneuvers after the infamous Twinkie defense during the trial of Dan White, the San Francisco city supervisor who assassinated fellow supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.

But criminal defense attorney, Jan Ronis, told a local news station that there might be a way for Danielson’s attorney to argue that his client was mentally incapacitated. “Previously, it was called diminished capacity, now it's called diminished actuality,” he said. “It's a murky area of law that still provides somewhat of a defense.”

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By Shawn Dwyer


4/22/14 1:00pm

Supreme Court Smacks Down Rick Scott On Drug Testing


Photo: Wiki Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a big blow to Florida Gov. Rick Scott and his pursuit of a “drug-free workplace” on Monday by denying a petition to hear new arguments in an ongoing case regarding the legality of mandatory drug testing for all state employees.

By denying the petition, the Supreme Court agreed to let Florida’s 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stand in the case, Scott v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council (AFSCME) 79. The lower court’s ruling determined that the state could not legally require all government employees to submit to drug tests, which set up Scott’s petition to the Supreme Court late last week and its eventual rejection Monday.

The case has been in and out of Florida courts since 2011, when approximately 40,000 state employees filed a complaint claiming the state violated their fourth amendment right of protection against unreasonable searches. Lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Shalini Goal Agarwal of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said she was pleased with Monday’s ruling.

“The Supreme Court has agreed with what we have known all along: the question of whether the state has the power to compel all employees to submit to suspicionless searches without a good reason is settled. And the answer is ‘no,’” Agarwal said.

But the circuit court’s decision did grant Scott some leeway in drug testing without suspicion in "certain safety-sensitive categories of employees – for instance, employees who operate or pilot large vehicles, or law enforcement officers who carry firearms in the course of duty."

Though he lost the battle, Scott intends to keep fighting the war in the lower courts and defended his policy. "State employees should have the right to work in a safe and drug free environment, just like in any other business," he said.

Scott’s stubborn refusal to back down naturally drew fire from Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, who criticized the embattled governor for continuing to waste taxpayer money.

"What part of 'no' does he not understand?" Simon said.

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By Dana Byerly

waiting for eternity

4/22/14 10:30am

Crime Lab Delays In Texas Sparking Bogus Drug Convictions



More than 21 people across Texas have served time in jail on drug possession charges when they weren’t carrying an illegal substance, all due to lengthy crime lab delays which resulted in convictions before the public lab results on the samples could be sent back.

A report from the Austin-American Statesman found that 14 men and seven women pleaded guilty and began serving time before the results came back. In many cases, the lab results were sent back months or even years later due to lab backups or delays. It’s also likely there are many other similar cases which have yet to be identified.

"We all — prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, defendants — depend on rapid, competent forensic labs. But we have not had those in Texas for more than three decades," said Patrick McCann, a Harris County public defender. McCann represented Mario Martin in May 2008, who was ultimately convicted of possession of cocaine. His crime lab results came back negative in February 2010, far too late to overturn the six months he had already spent in prison.

The false-positive drug tests in the new report date back to 2005, but 14 people wrongly convicted in the state were belatedly exonerated in just the last two years. Department of Public Safety spokesperson Tom Vinger said the delays were due to a surge in blood alcohol tests and a shortage of staff. Last year, the state legislature authorized funding for 11 more lab technicians and implemented a new policy that limits testing in misdemeanor cases.

Inger Hampton, assistant district attorney in charge of Harris County's Conviction Review Section, said the top priority for now is addressing the more than 2,500 “pending or active cases” in the Houston lab.

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By McCarton Ackerman


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