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December 1993: The Miller Case -- Can Prison Hospitals Make Mistakes?

Prisoner Mike Miller was charged with taking an intoxicant into his body, based upon a positive result from a urine sample. Mr. Miller, when asked to plead to the charge, said he had voluntarily given the urine sample; the test indicated the presence of Serax in his body, but he could not explain how it got there because he had not taken it. Mr. Walters replied that he could not take a guilty plea, because it was a necessary part of the charge that the person must knowingly have taken an intoxicant into his body, and Mr. Miller seemed to be saying he had not done this. Mr. Miller confirmed that he had not knowingly taken Serax.

Officer Buxton, the co-ordinator of the urine analysis program, testified that after staff noticed fresh needle tracks on Mr. Millerís arm, Mr. Miller was asked to provide a urine sample. Mr. Miller complied with this request, and the sample tested positive for Oxypan, generically known as Serax. Health care records indicated that Serax was not a prescribed drug for Mr. Miller.

At the conclusion of Officer Buxtonís testimony, Mr. Miller offered his explanation of events. Before the testing was done, he told an officer that the sample might come back positive for marijuana. It did not, but this showed he was not trying to hide anything. He also said that the reference to needle marks did not make much sense, since Serax was taken orally, not injected. Officer Buxton confirmed this. After getting the test results, Mr. Miller had spoken to several staff members and consulted pharmacological references in the library to see if any of the approved medications he was on could test positive for Serax. He had satisfied himself that none of them would so test, and he was at a loss to explain the results. He pointed out, however, that in the report from the Health Care Unit regarding Mr. Millerís medications, they had failed to include one medication which he had been taking for over a year. He produced a card with a number of these pills still in their gelatin cases; he had been given the drug in January 1993 to be taken as necessary, and the prescription did not expire until the following month. This medication would not explain the positive Serax reading, but it showed that the prison hospital could make mistakes. Maybe he had been given the wrong medication in another instance, resulting in the positive test.

S. 69 of the CCR Regulations provides that, in hearing a disciplinary charge of taking an intoxicant, a positive urinalysis certificate "establishes, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that the inmate who provided the sample has committed the offence." Mr. Walters found Mr. Miller not guilty, on the basis that his evidence was "evidence to the contrary" and raised a reasonable doubt about Mr. Millerís knowledge of taking Serax.

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Mike Miller