Coroner Lee speaks out about Hudson lawsuit

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; On Wednesday, Adams County Coroner James Lee spoke out for the first time in more than a month &045; albeit, through his attorney &045; about a lawsuit filed against him by the parents of Eric Hudson.

The 5-year-old Concordia Parish boy was found dead in a pond last fall and, in late March, his parents, Rachel and Sam Hudson, filed a civil suit against Lee. Rachel and Sam Hudson could be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The lawsuit claimed Lee had made public statements &uot;in which he claimed that the death of Eric Hudson was a homicide, that he (Lee) knows the ‘true identity’ of the killer, and that the sheriff of Concordia Parish is covering up the identity of the killer.&uot;

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In a Wednesday press conference, Lee attorney Daniel Brenner of Alexandria, La., called the lawsuit &uot;outrageous,&uot; adding that he plans to mount a vigorous defense. An answer to the lawsuit, he said, will be filed in the next few days.

Numerous pieces of evidence will support Lee’s contention that Eric Hudson’s death was a homicide, including testimony by Mississippi State Medical Examiner Dr. Steven Haynes and Lamar County Coroner Dr. Michael West, Brenner said.

But &uot;there will be multiple physicians &045; pathologists &045; (testifying), more than just those two. The evidence not only supports (Lee’s case) but is overwhelming,&uot; said Brenner, who said details of the evidence will be given in court.

Of the filing of the lawsuit in Seventh Judicial District Court in Vidalia, Brenner said &uot;it caught Mr. Lee my surprise, Š that this step is being taken against a person who is simply trying to find the truth. Mr. Lee is doing the job he was elected to do.&uot;

&uot;Mr. Lee was not sued for doing his job,&uot; said Karl J. Koch of Baton Rouge, attorney for Sam and Rachel Hudson. &uot;Mr. Lee was sued for extraordinary and reckless behavior.&uot;

That behavior included &uot;irresponsible statements to the media Š that he will reveal the true killer&uot; and showing postmortem exam photos of Eric Hudson to people in the parking lot of Kmart, Koch said.

Brenner denied allegations that Lee showed photos from the medical examination of Eric Hudson to people in the parking lot of Kmart.

Although Lee’s office does use the Kmart photo lab to develop pictures, steps are taken to insure that no one, including store employees, sees the photos, Brenner said.

&uot;The Hudsons aren’t advocating for one side or another &045; they just want to find the truth,&uot; Koch said.

&uot;They are entitled to a professional, responsible determination of the cause of their son’s death, and Mr. Lee’s conduct has not contributed to that goal.&uot;

In Wednesday’s press conference, Brenner said stated that Sheriff Randy Maxwell is &uot;acting like a defense lawyer.&uot;

&uot;The sheriff is working from the premise that it was not a homicide and not trying to find other possible explanations for what could have happened&uot; in Eric Hudson’s death, Brenner said.

&uot;Hopefully, the Sheriff’s Office will continue to investigate this case and not whatever personal animosities he may have get in the way.&uot;

A team of personnel from the Concordia Parish

Sheriff’s Office, the Louisiana State Police, the Attorney General’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office continues to investigate Eric Hudson’s death, Maxwell said in a written statement.

Currently, he said, forensic pathologists in New Orleans, including Dr. Scott Benton, are reviewing medical reports and other evidence in the case.

In recent interviews with the investigative team, Lee &uot;did not produce one credible piece of evidence,&uot; Maxwell said.

&uot;He admitted to investigators that he knows absolutely nothing about the specifics of the case. But then, the next day, he claimed to be an authority in the newspaper.&uot;

Maxwell pointed out that Lee, who got involved when Eric Hudson was brought to Natchez Regional Medical Center on the day of his death, has no jurisdiction in Concordia Parish.

Maxwell said Lee is more interested in being on television and in the newspaper than cooperating with investigators, and when Lee makes statements in the media it &uot;does nothing more than to hurt the family over and over again.&uot;