Zepeda Olivares et al v. Fresno et al

Filing 14

ORDER ON OBJECTIONS TO THE EX PARTE REQUEST FOR A PRIVATE AUTOPSY signed by District Judge Jennifer L. Thurston on November 14, 2023. (Munoz, I)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 MARTHA ZEPEDA OLIVARES, et al., 12 Plaintiffs, 13 14 15 CASE NO. 1:23-cv-01575 JLT SAB ORDER ON OBJECTIONS TO THE EX PARTE REQUEST FOR A PRIVATE AUTOPSY v. CITY OF FRESNO, et al., Defendants. 16 17 The Court issued a preliminary order granting the plaintiffs’ request for a private 18 autopsy of the body of Maximiliano Sosa, Jr., who, it is alleged, was recently shot and killed by 19 one or more member of the Fresno Police Department. The plaintiffs seek to have the autopsy 20 occur before the body is embalmed, due to the changes that can be made to the forensic 21 evidence due to the embalming process. 22 Mr. Sosa’s wife, Maria Sosa, has filed objections to the order. (Docs. 11, 12) She objects 23 that she is entitled to determine the disposition of Mr. Sosa Jr’s remains, that the autopsy is 24 unnecessary because the Fresno County Coroner’s Office conducted an autopsy and that she 25 disagrees to further desecration and mutilation of the body, that the private autopsy will delay 26 the funeral, which will delay the ability of Mr. Sosa Jr.’s loved ones to begin the grieving 27 process, and because the plaintiffs’ have failed to provide details about the proposed private 28 autopsy. Id. Though the Court is saddened for Mrs. Sosa and all of Mr. Sosa Jr.’s family for 1 1 their loss and for all of the additional pain that a private autopsy will impose, the Court 2 OVERRULES Mrs. Sosa’s objections. 3 First, the Court makes no finding about the status of Mrs. Sosa’s relationship to Mr. 4 Sosa Jr. To the extent that there is a dispute on this topic, resolving it now is unnecessary 5 because the Court recognizes Mrs. Sosa’s significant interest in how Mr. Sosa Jr.’s body is 6 treated. This order allowing the private autopsy to proceed is not intended to disparage any of 7 Mrs. Sosa’s rights or to determine the rights of any party to inherit or to prosecute the estate’s 8 case. 9 Second, the Court recognizes that the Fresno County Coroner’s Office has conducted an 10 autopsy on the body. However, the Court’s experience in these types of matters is consistent 11 with the authorities cited by the plaintiff’s request and in their response to the objections. In 12 addition, the value of expert testimony is increased if the witness has examined the body. Thus, 13 in fairness, the plaintiffs deserve to be able to gather needed evidence to prosecute this action. 14 Also, the Court agrees that the fact that the autopsy determined the manner of death, this is a far 15 cry from determining how Mr. Sosa Jr. died. 16 In addition, the suggestion that embalming and burial does not impact the ability to 17 gather evidence is unsupported and is contrary to the evidence presented. In addition, if the 18 body were buried and later exhumed, the distress imposed on loved ones would be magnified. 19 Third, the response to the objections sets forth the information that Mrs. Sosa desired. 20 The plaintiffs have identified where the autopsy will occur and by whom and how long it will 21 take, including that they will bear the costs associated with it. 22 Fourth, the plaintiffs report that the private autopsy will result in no additional 23 disfigurement and that any delay to the funeral, scheduled for November 22, 2023, will be 24 modest. The fact that the service is planned so far out poses the significant potential that no 25 delay will occur at all. 26 For all of these reasons, the objections are OVERRULED. The Court’s order issued on 27 November 8, 2023 is now effective. The plaintiffs SHALL immediately arrange for and have 28 completed, the private autopsy. In addition, the plaintiffs SHALL serve Mrs. Sosa, Wallin 2 1 Funeral Home and the City of Fresno with this order. 2 3 4 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: November 14, 2023 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?