UK gets $6 million grant to research cocaine addiction

Saturday, November 21, 2015 


Posted: Saturday, November 21, 2015 12:22 AM

By Linda B. Blackford Lexington Herald-Leader

LEXINGTON – A group of University of Kentucky researchers has won a $6 million grant to further develop a potential treatment for cocaine abuse.

UK College of Pharmacy professor Chang-Guo Zhan, along with UK professors Fang Zheng and Sharon Walsh, and Wake Forest University professor Mei-Chuan Ko, are researching new therapies for overdose and addiction.

“Dr. Zhan’s groundbreaking work in this field cannot be overstated,” interim dean Kelly M. Smith said. “There currently is no FDA approved treatment for cocaine overdose or cocaine addiction, and Dr. Zhan and his research team are trying to change that. Developing such therapies would be a major breakthrough for health care.”

Previously, Zhan’s team designed and tested CocH1, an enzyme that breaks down cocaine in the bloodstream without producing harmful byproducts in the body.


Even Nuns Aren’t Exempt From Obamacare’s Birth-Control Mandate

A federal appeals court rules that the Little Sisters of the Poor received a sufficient religious accommodation.

Emma Green

  • Jul 14, 2015

They’re the perfect plaintiffs: elderly nuns who wear habits and care for the poor and elderly. When the Little Sisters of the Poor filed a complaint against the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate in 2013, they joined a host of other religious charities and colleges that claimed the law placed a burden on their free exercise of their religion. But the sisters stood out: If nuns claim a law violates their conscience, who’s to tell them they’re wrong?

On Tuesday, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals did just that. A three-member panel of judges ruled that the Obama administration has come up with a sufficient accommodation for religious organizations like the Little Sisters: If they object to providing insurance coverage to employees who want to buy birth control, organizations can sign a two-page form stating that objection. That’s it—from there, the administration will arrange for a third-party provider to make sure the employee can get coverage. But the Little Sisters, along with schools like Notre Dame and other religious organizations, claimed that signing that piece of paper was the moral equivalent of condoning birth control.

“More than a few people who contacted us about our lawsuit have asked us something like this: ‘You are celibates and you take care of the elderly, so obviously contraception has nothing to do with you; why have you taken on this issue?,’” Sister Constance Carolyn of the Little Sisters wrote in an email in March. “As Little Sisters of the Poor we vow to devote our lives specifically to the service of the elderly poor, but the unborn are no less worthy of reverence and protection than the frail seniors we serve every day.”

The Sisters and other religious non-profit groups have claimed protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, which prohibits the federal government from placing a “substantial burden” on a person or group’s exercise of religion. While recognizing the sincerity of the sisters’ claim, the Court ruled that the accommodation “does not substantially burden their religious exercise under RFRA or infringe upon their First Amendment rights.”


Kentucky cancer cases may be ‘cluster’, Researcher finds excessive rates in Jefferson County

Monday, September 8, 2003

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE – A University of Louisville researcher says he’s identified an excessive number of cases of lung cancer in western and southern Jefferson County.

Looking at reported cases of cancer, ZIP code by ZIP code, epidemiologist and associate professor Timothy Aldrich attributed the large majority to tobacco smoke, but said it’s not clear on what role environmental and occupational contaminants play.

“The Jefferson County piece is our local version of a much larger picture,” said Aldrich, of the university’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences. “The state has enormously high lung cancer rates.”

In his draft study, done at the request of the Courier-Journal newspaper, Aldrich reported what he said were excessive rates and “evidence of clustering” for bladder and cervical cancers and leukemia in various locations around Jefferson County. The study also identified 16 ZIP codes with high breast cancer rates, but Aldrich said he found no apparent pattern to their occurrence.

Aldrich’s study is the first to address some of the health questions raised by Louisville-area air monitoring that has found numerous chemicals or compounds at levels federal, state and local environmental regulators consider unsafe. It follows one published in 1997 by the Louisville and Jefferson County Board of Health that found no clusters but identified the highest cancer death rates in western and southwestern Jefferson County, attributing them largely to lack of early diagnosis and treatment.

Aldrich said he found that it’s likely the public doesn’t have to worry about the environment as a cause of three categories of cancer sometimes associated with chemical pollutants: pediatric cancers, brain cancer and liver cancers. In all three, he said, he found no evidence of excessive rates or clustering.

But Aldrich said he cannot rule out that hazardous air pollutants might explain some of the excess lung, bladder and leukemia cancers in certain ZIP codes and may cause or contribute to other illnesses he did not study.

Other medical experts have also said smoking and poor air quality could combine to produce more lung cancers.

“The environment (as a cause of cancer) is not immaterial, but you have to keep it in perspective,” Aldrich said. “I don’t want to tell people it isn’t important – it’s important.”

To answer the question of how important it is, he and several other researchers at UofL have begun a two-year research project to determine what part, if any, environmental or occupational contaminants play in Louisville’s lung cancers.

Aldrich and other Louisville medical experts said lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking and alcohol consumption, along with genetics, play the dominant role in determining whether someone gets cancer, and prevention measures should continue to focus on lifestyle factors.

“All of these factors come together in very complicated ways, in addition to air quality,” said Dr. Donald Miller, director of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center at the University of Louisville. “Clearly if you are looking at cancer prevention targets, smoking is at the head of the list.”

Air pollution “is a big problem,” said Dr. Wayne Tuckson, a colorectal surgeon who worked on the 1997 cancer study. “But it’s just another one of the problems.”

Aldrich is scheduled to discuss his research at a meeting Thursday of the Rubbertown Community Advisory Council that will include several presentations from university experts.

The Louisville Metro Health Department is studying Aldrich’s findings, and Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson and metro government’s Air Pollution Control District have promised to take residents’ air pollution concerns seriously.

Art Williams, director of the air district, said the agency will continue its efforts to curb hazardous air pollutants.

“We will move as aggressively as we can to reduce air toxics to safe levels,” Williams said.




New lung is only potential cure

The dual neuroprotective–neurotoxic profile of cannabinoid drugs

British Journal of Pharmacology – Library of Cannabis Information



October 7, 2003

United States Patent

Hampson ,   et al.
October 7, 2003

Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants


Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia. Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidoil, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention. A particular disclosed class of cannabinoids useful as neuroprotective antioxidants is formula (I) wherein the R group is independently selected from the group consisting of H, CH.sub.3, and COCH.sub.3. ##STR1##



Extensive in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that cannabinoid drugs have neuroprotective properties and suggested that the endocannabinoid system may be involved in endogenous neuroprotective mechanisms.

Hemp taking over Kentucky’s tobacco resources; 22 companies investing so far

Image result for farm, 27 acres of hemp grew all summer

By Janet Patton

October 25, 2015

WINCHESTER — Tucked away off a narrow country road in Clark County, in the middle of a farm, 27 acres of hemp grew all summer. Now, the plants will be harvested and processed.

Kentucky, hailed as a leader by industrial hemp advocates, has grown the hemp. Now the state is working on growing the industry.

“In two years, we’ve come a long way,” said Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who is now running for Congress. “We’ve proven first of all that it’s not a drug, which was very important for the opposition to realize. And we’ve proven it’s economically viable, or there wouldn’t be 22 companies that have made an investment in the state. … What we’re doing now is working with the companies that want to go to the next step to commercialize the product. ”

The plants in Winchester are part of the 100 acres of hemp — high in cannabidiol and low in tetrahydrocannabinol (the high-inducing chemical in marijuana) — grown this year for GenCanna, which moved from Canada to Kentucky to be in the heart of the hemp revolution. It deliberately chose to come to Kentucky over other states, including Colorado, because of the agricultural resources and the climate, both meteorological and political.

“We have been in this industry for many years, and we are setting a new bar in Kentucky,” GenCanna CEO Matty Mangone- Miranda said. “Kentucky’s kept the focus on industrial hemp” rather than cloud the issue with other forms of cannabis cultivation, as Colorado has permitted.

Mangone-Miranda, who estimates that hemp could become a billion-dollar industry, said his group is in hemp for the long run.

“The industry is likely to have a bubble, then stabilize with a market of diversified products,” he said, citing potential uses in sports drinks, nutritional products, supplements and more.

GenCanna has invested more than $5 million in Kentucky, according to company officials, although it has yet to see any revenue. That will come once the company is able to deliver a stable source of low-THC/high-CBD hemp.

“The only way to have hemp become an agricultural commodity is to grow lots of it and see what happens,” said Steve Bean, GenCanna’s chief operating officer.

Coming to Kentucky had other benefits, too. Many farmers were eager to get into the crop, which decades ago proliferated in the Bluegrass; hundreds applied to be part of pilot projects to grow hemp. The crop still can legally be grown only in affiliation with the state Department of Agriculture and entities that sign detailed memos of understanding.

Kentucky also has resources that in the past were used for tobacco that have converted well to hemp cultivation.

In fact, GenCanna’s headquarters is now in part of a former Philip Morris office building stuffed with former labs. The place was practically abandoned as the cigarette maker began retreating from Central Kentucky.

And next door is a processing center in a former tobacco seed plant, where GenCanna built a system to turn the chopped-up hemp plants into a sort of dried powder to sell as a nutritional supplement.

The Shell Farm and Greenhouses in Lancaster is turning its fields away from tobacco, growing 157,000 hemp plants on 40 acres outdoors and 3,500 plants in a greenhouse.

“And we’ll be growing it indoors all winter,” Giles Shell said. Shell’s greenhouses once raised flowers; now he’s working on hemp genetics.

“There’s no seed crop, so we have to take cuttings to get the plants in the field. So I’m selecting genetics, for a hardier plant — bigger, fuller,” Shell said. “We’ve got a problem with variegation or chimera, so I trying to select away from it.”

Next year, Shell intends to grow even more hemp.

“We’re going to quit raising our tobacco crop, and if we do any flowers, it will be downsized,” Shell said. “Last year, we raised 120 acres of tobacco. This year, we dropped to 80. Next year, we will drop to none. There’s not a market any more for tobacco and not enough money once you factor in labor and chemical costs.”

Both the offices and the processing center are shared with Atalo Holdings, another hemp entrepreneur company, this one formed by Andy Graves and other Kentuckians working on crushing hemp seed for oil and other fiber production. Graves also grew the 27 acres of hemp for GenCanna.

Other groups, including the Stanley Brothers of Charlotte’s Web CBD oil fame, also are pursuing the hemp’s potential.

Kentucky could be on the cusp of a green revolution — a hemp boom that could go in myriad directions or spiral into a bubble of speculation.

“It could,” Comer acknowledged. But, assuming that sometime in the next two years, Congress makes it legal for anyone to grow hemp, he said Kentucky should be well-positioned, with a jump-start on the infrastructure.

“We get requests every day for companies that want to start processing hemp. I worry that some may not have the credibility of some of the others, and that’s why its taking longer to certify, to get more background info,” Comer said. “We’re not picking winners and losers, but those that have credibility. Our reputations are on the line here, too.”

GenCanna has more contracts with farmers than any other company at this point, Comer said. It’s the only one in the cannabidiol business with signed contracts with national chains to buy their hemp product, he said.

“GenCanna is the real deal,” he said. “And they’ve given me assurances everyone will be paid, and all the farmers are happy.”

The Shell family, which has a three-year contract with GenCanna, certainly is now.

“We were very leery — I was the most reserved in my family of starting to do this,” Giles Shell said. “But … I felt like we were the best route to help commercialize this crop. Demand is really high, and supply isn’t there. Basic economics will tell you that’s profit.

“We’ve got a year ahead of everybody else that’s going to get into the game.”

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter; @janetpattonhl.

Read more here:

Democratic ag commissioner candidate promotes medical marijuana, GMO labeling in first ad

10/22/2015 08:14 PM

Democratic candidate for agriculture commissioner Jean-Marie Lawson Spann has released her first ad of the campaign with a focus on a slightly more liberal agenda for the office.

Lawson Spann’s ad touts her support for the legalization of medical marijuana “under the strict supervision of a doctor to ease the suffering of cancer patients,” according to the ad.

The 30-spot also touts Lawson Spann’s demand that genetic modified foods be labeled.

“Like you, she wants to know what is in the food she is feeding her family,” a narrator says in the spot.

The ad, which the campaign says is being run on broadcast television stations around the state, can be viewed here.

Tres Watson, the campaign manager for Republican nominee Ryan Quarles, said the ad pandered to Lawson Spann’s liberal base.

“While Ryan Quarles is focused on the future of Agriculture in Kentucky, our opponent continues to pander to her liberal base and ignore the issues important to Kentucky’s ag community,” Watson said in a statement.

Lawson Spann and Quarles debated the issue of medical marijuana and GMO labeling in a meet the candidate forum before the Kentucky Farm Bureau in early October.

In that meeting Quarles said legalizing medical marijuana would imperil the state’s young industrial hemp industry and Kentucky’s status as a “clean atmosphere” for hemp growers.

“If you talk to hemp producers, the ones who are already investing in our state, they do not want to be co-mingled with its cousin, and in fact folks in Colorado right now who are wanting to invest in Kentucky are moving from Colorado to Kentucky because it’s a clean atmosphere and they’re not co-mingled with its cousin,” Quarles said at the forum. “So it’s important that if we do support an alternative crop, we listen to the industry needs.”

In the same forum Quarles and Lawson Spann also differed on whether food products should be labeled as contained GMOs.

Lawson Spann said she would like to see GMO products labeled on grocery shelves, but Quarles said the measure would confuse consumers.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or



The Republican candidate for governor of Kentucky favors legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. In an unusual role reversal, his Democratic opponent is attacking him for it.

Happy Monday morning from Richmond, Ky., where the governor’s race, just one week from tomorrow, is a true toss-up. I’m crisscrossing the state talking to voters and trailing the candidates. During a debate at Eastern Kentucky University last night, some of the biggest fireworks came over whether to allow medical marijuana.

“There is unequivocal medical evidence … that there are benefits for those with cancer and epilepsy,” said Republican Matt Bevin. “It should be prescribed like any other prescription drug.”

Democrat Jack Conway, running as a tough-on-crime attorney general, touted his endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police and fretted about “a lost generation” of young people to narcotics, particularly prescription pain pills.

“I don’t want to hear from some hipsters out in Hawaii saying Kentucky needs medical marijuana,” Conway said. “Because, if you have medical marijuana, there’s going to be more of it. Chances are there will be more accidents on our roads by young kids because there’s more of it. If we need it, the medical community has to come convince me. … And I haven’t heard from any of them.”

“Medical marijuana is the only medicine I can think of that would be prescribed in joints,” Conway quipped, adding that he’s supported cannabidiol oil to treat seizures. “When I’ve met addicts … it always seems like it started with marijuana at an early age.”

Bevin pushed back on the suggestion that giving “a kid with terminal brain cancer” access to medical marijuana is going to make him into a junkie or pusher. But he also defended himself, insisting that he would “never, ever” support recreational use of marijuana.

“We’re on the campus of a university,” the Republican said. Addressing the students in the audience of one thousand, he asked: “Is it not already easy for you to find this on the streets? Come on! Who are we kidding? The only people who can’t get it are the people who abide by the law!”

One of the reasons the debate over marijuana is so interesting is that it does not cut neatly across party lines. Jean-Marie Lawson Spann, the Democratic candidate for Agriculture commissioner – a very powerful job in the Bluegrass State – is airing a TV commercial right now touting herself as “the only candidate” in the race who supports medical marijuana “to ease the suffering of cancer patients.” Her Republican rival for Agriculture commissioner opposes medical marijuana on the grounds that the state’s burgeoning industrial hemp industry is against it. “If you talk to hemp producers, the ones who are already investing in our state, they do not want to be co-mingled with its cousin,” Ryan Quarles reportedly said during a recent candidate forum.

The back-and-forth in Kentucky underscores the extent to which pot has become a big issue in every state. The boundaries of the debate look likely to be pushed further in 2016, when the recreational use of marijuana is being put to the test in states like California and Nevada, and possibly Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont. Just next week, in their off-year election, Ohio voters will vote on Issue 3, which would legalize pot, but a measure to negate it is also on the same ballot. Look for a growing legalization push across the country, especially in states that have already lowered punishments for using it. (USA Today has a map to track where the fight is paying out here.)


2014 Idaho Law is a Blueprint to Nullify any New Federal Gun Control

While many gun owners and gun rights activists across the country are waiting fretfully in anticipation of President Obama’s eventual decision to issue executive orders for more gun control, his proposals would be practically worthless if more states enacted laws like Idaho did last year.

In 2014, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter signed legislation into law that effectively blocks in practice any new federal gun control measures by prohibiting state enforcement of any future federal act relating to personal firearms, a firearm accessories or ammunition.

This law blocks in practice future federal gun control because the federal government lacks the resources to enforce its laws alone. It depends on state assistance, assistance it will no longer get from Idaho. Judge Andrew Napolitano suggested that a single state standing down would make new federal gun laws “nearly impossible to enforce” within that state.

The Idaho Federal Firearm, Magazine and Register Ban Enforcement Act, seeks to “protect Idaho law enforcement officers from being directed, through federal executive orders, agency orders, statutes, laws, rules, or regulations enacted or promulgated on or after the effective date of this act, to violate their oath of office and Idaho citizens’ rights under Section 11, Article I, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho.”

The legislation continues:

“any official, agent or employee of the state of Idaho or a political subdivision thereof who knowingly and willfully orders an official, agent or employee of the state of Idaho or a political subdivision of the state to enforce any executive order, agency order, law, rule or regulation of the United States government as provided in subsection (2) of this section upon a personal firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition shall, on a first violation, be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) which shall be paid into the general fund of the state”

Kansas and Tennessee have also passed legislation that sets the foundation to do just what Idaho did in 2014.

As James Madison argued in Federalist 46, a single state can impede federal actions, but many states acting together can create obstructions the feds simply cannot overcome.

All other states should join Idaho and take that first step in stopping any new gun control program before it ever gets off the ground.

Kentucky Action Alert: Help Nullify Federal Gun Control, Support HB35

Kentucky HB35 seeks to “invalidate and nullify all federal laws and regulations restricting ownership or possession of firearms.” It has yet to be assigned to a committee at the present time.


1. Contact your State Representative. Strongly, but respectfully urge them to cosponsor and support HB35. A phone call has 10x the impact of an email, so make sure to take a few minutes to call.

Contact info here:

2. Call your State Senator. Strongly, but respectfully urge them to introduce legislation similar to HB35.

Contact info here:

3. Call Back – any NO or UNDECIDED – in 3-4 days. Make sure to follow-up. If they say YES, be sure to thank them and, if possible, announce their committed YES vote to email and social media contacts. If they say no, politely ask them why. Get the information from them and contact us.

4. Spread the Word. Share this information widely by facebook, twitter, email and other social networks.

5. Report Back. Tell us how your actions went. Click the button below


will somebody please go vote on election day? (TUESDAY, November 3, 2015) The U.S. Marijuana Party of Kentucky supports Drew and Heather Curtis for Governor of Kentucky 2015. PLEASE VOTE!

Gubernatorial campaign

Drew Curtis announced his candidacy on January 23, 2015 for the upcoming election for the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.[17] With his wife Heather as his running mate, the platform revolves around a “Citizen Candidate” philosophy of common sense and data-driven decisions, no experiments, leaving people alone, having no party alignment, and taking special-interest money out of the political process. The stated hope is to build a blueprint for regular, real people in all 50 states/commonwealths to be able to create constructive disruptions in a broken system, in order to run competitively in elections.[18] He will face the Republican Party nominee, businessman Matt Bevin, and the Democratic Party nominee, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, in the November 3 general election.

Drew Heather Curtis founder Drew Curtis announces bid for Kentucky governor



“That was when I realized,” said independent gubernatorial candidate Drew Curtis, “that if I didn’t run — and win — we’re all screwed.”

“Whichever party comes in will push forth the party platform, and the problem is this, it’s that neither party has all the right ideas, and they will make decisions on policy based on what their party tells them to do or what their donors tell them to do,” Curtis said.

He said he would sign into law a measure allowing the use of recreational marijuana in the state if the legislature approved it.


PDF of KENTUCKY VOTER registration. 


(NOTE:  Last day to register to vote for the general election.
October 5, 2015)

October 2015 Dates

Last day to register to vote for the general election.
October 5, 2015

General: Members of the Armed Forces confined to a military base on election day who learn of that confinement within 7 days or less of an election may make application to vote absentee in the county clerk’s office.
October 27, 2015

November 2015 Dates

Members of the Armed Forces confined to a military base on election day who learn of that confinement within 7 days or less of an election may make application to vote absentee in the county clerk’s office.
November 2, 2015 –

Bowling Green Mayoral Election – Current Mayor: Bruce Wilkerson – Population(58,067)
November 3, 2015

General Election Day (first Tuesday after first Monday inNovember).Polls open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., prevailing time.County boards of elections to be in session all day.Mail-in absentee ballots must be received by clerk before 6 p.m., prevailing time.
November 3, 2015

Last day to apply for mail-in absentee ballot (not later than close of business 7 days before election). Applications must be received by this day.
November 27, 2015

2016 Important Events Calendar

The U.S. Marijuana Party of Kentucky supports Drew and Heather Curtis for Governor of Kentucky 2015. PLEASE VOTE!

LISTEN: Newsweek Writer Discusses Kentucky’s ‘Great Hemp Experiment’





Originally published on October 14, 2015 6:09 am

Newsweek reporter Jessica Firger recently wrote a story in which she described the challenges for Kentucky farmers growing the plant.

On Tuesday, Firger discussed with Kentucky Public Radio how the state’s fledgling hemp industry is providing an alternative for down-and-out tobacco farmers in the state.

In “The Great Kentucky Hemp Experiment,” Firger writes that hemp is just a few genetic tweaks away from marijuana and also smells like its illicit cousin when it flowers.

During her reporting at a hemp farm near Lexington, farmers turned to hemp after struggling to grow and sell tobacco and ornamental flowers, Firger said.

“A lot of farmers in the state and lawmakers are really hopeful that growing hemp is really going to change things,” she told Kentucky Public Radio.

Kentucky is one of several states that has enacted a hemp pilot program that allows a limited number of acres to be cultivated for industrial hemp.

Bringing hemp to Kentucky has been a pet project of Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, who has gotten support from U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, among others.



Trouble Behind Bars: When Jail Deaths Go Unnoticed

By: R.G. Dunlop October 5, 2015
Mugshot of Larry Trent taken after his July 5, 2013 arrest by Hazard Police. Trent was booked into Kentucky River Regional Jail for an outstanding bench warrant and on a charge of operating a motor vehicle under the influence.

HAZARD, Ky.—Larry Trent was just one of the 154 or more inmates who died in a Kentucky jail during the past 6½ years.

Arrested on July 5, 2013, in his car outside a Hazard doughnut shop, the 54-year-old Trent told police he drank “about four beers and mouthwash” before driving to the store with his 10-year-old grandson.

Booked into the Kentucky River Regional Jail, Trent couldn’t post bond, so he remained in custody. Four days later, he was dead, allegedly the victim of a fatal beating by two jail deputies.

Within 48 hours of Trent’s death, jail Administrator Tim Kilburn completed a required report for the state Department of Corrections and classified Trent’s death as a homicide. And a few weeks later, the two deputies were charged with manslaughter, accused of killing Trent by “striking, kicking and restraining” him.

The case is still pending, and a federal civil-rights investigation is ongoing. But Trent’s estate already has received a $2.375 million legal settlement — one of the largest in the state during the past 15 years.

The Department of Corrections doesn’t investigate jail deaths. “That would fall to law enforcement,” said department spokeswoman Lisa Lamb.

The department’s responsibilities do, however, include ensuring the safety of inmates and staff, as well as enforcing jail standards, such as those related to training. But DOC documents provided recently to the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting give no indication that the department found anything related to Trent’s death that merited its attention.

For example, the documents list Trent’s cause of death simply as an “altercation” in the jail. An internal DOC memo written after Kilburn’s report says little except that Trent “became combative” and that “use of force was necessary” to subdue him. And although the accused killers served as the jail staff trainers, department records don’t indicate a need for more or better training.

Trent’s is by no means the only in-custody death involving a jail inmate that raises questions about the aggressiveness and thoroughness of Department of Corrections’ oversight.

A months-long investigation by KyCIR found that at least several inmate deaths for which the cause is listed in DOC records as “natural, “unknown” or “autopsy pending” appear to have involved jail staff lapses, misconduct or indifference.

And the Department of Corrections’ own findings and follow-up in those cases were sketchy or nonexistent, despite evidence that the deaths were preventable.

Over the next five days, the “Trouble Behind Bars” series will show numerous Kentucky jail inmates have died or been injured because officials at all levels of government failed to ensure their health and safety.

The causes of more than 40 percent of all Kentucky jail deaths in the past 6½ years are listed ambiguously in department records, with the cause of death variously given as “unknown,” “natural” or “autopsy pending” — even though many of those deaths occurred years ago.

When KyCIR recently asked the department for more current, specific information about the unclear, years-old causes of death, DOC responded that it had none.

The department refused to say whether it followed up on jail deaths, and if not, why not.

“The Department of Corrections has been responding to your questions regarding county jails to the best of our ability for the past 10 months,” a DOC statement read. “We do not have anything further to add on this topic.”

In another case, the DOC list of deaths shows that Valerie Jones, a disabled veteran, died of “heart disease” after being jailed in LaRue County in September 2009. But a lawsuit filed by Jones’ family alleged that she was not properly treated for severe pain, and that she was left in her cell when she desperately needed medical attention.

More than five years later, DOC records still list the autopsy in her case as “pending.” The lawsuit was settled in 2011 for $92,859.

Danny Burden in the summer of 2012, less than a year before his death.

family photo

Danny Burden in the summer of 2012, less than a year before his death.

The death of Danny Burden isn’t listed at all in the department’s compilation of jail deaths. Burden was discovered unconscious in the Grant County jail in March 2013 and later died at an area hospital. A civil suit filed by his family and alleging neglect is pending. A state police inquiry found that Burden, a diabetic, badly needed insulin but did not receive it.

The Department of Corrections, however, found nothing to warrant concern — or action. The department would not comment on the omission of Burden’s death from their list of jail deaths.

A KyCIR examination of the Grant County jail, one of the state’s most troubled and the focus of a U.S. Justice Department investigation for more than a decade, shows lax government oversight and little action following Burden’s death and at least two others that seemingly could have been prevented by jail staff.

During the past 6½ years, a Kentucky jail inmate has died an average of about once every 15 days. But in-jail deaths generally are not of interest or concern to the public at large, said Louisville attorney Greg Belzley, who has filed several dozen lawsuits over the past 15 years alleging wrongdoing in connection with inmate deaths.

No lawsuit often means no accountability, Belzley said. When a jail inmate dies, “People may look it and say ‘s—, another one gone, thinning the herd,’” Belzley said. “There is no question that some deaths that aren’t litigated involve wrongdoing that never gets exposed.”

About three-fourths of the state’s jails have incurred at least one inmate death since 2009. Oldham County Jailer Mike Simpson said no one had died in his jail since the 1990s. And while he didn’t think that fatality could have been prevented, he said, “when something like that happens, we all have a little bit of ownership.”

Incomplete Accounting of Deaths

In Kentucky, the DOC’s incomplete death data show that at least 33 of the 154 deaths have been suicides. Suicide is the single-most frequent cause of deaths in jails across the country, and it has been for at least the past 15 years.

That’s at least partly because large numbers of people housed in jails have significant emotional problems, because jail staff often aren’t trained to deal with them, and because jail conditions can exacerbate or trigger those mental-health issues, said Preston Elrod, a professor in the School of Justice Studies at Eastern Kentucky University.

Among the deaths reviewed by KyCIR were two suicides that occurred in 2010 at Grant County’s jail. The Justice Department has asserted in a document obtained by KyCIR that the two suicides there resulted from “serious breakdowns in jail medical care.”

Grant County Detention Center

R.G. Dunlop / KyCIR

Grant County Detention Center

Carl Lewis hanged himself in the jail on April 11, 2010. He had been placed in a cell by himself with a bed sheet, despite the fact that he was deemed a suicide risk and had what the Justice Department later called a “history of suicidal ideation.”

Justice Department documents show Lewis was given antidepressant medication in a quantity “that was likely too low to be effective.” He received no other mental-health treatment in jail, DOJ found.

The jail’s own inquiry into Lewis’ death, by contrast, concluded that “all operational procedures, medical procedures … were followed professionally and correct.” Nor did the state police or the Department of Corrections find any fault with the jail in connection with Lewis’ death, or that of the other Grant County jail suicide in 2010, involving Derrick Rose.

“Any time you have a fatality in a jail, there should be a very careful investigation and assessment of what went wrong, what happened,” said Elrod, the EKU professor. “Unfortunately, in so many instances, the only way you’re probably going to get closer to an understanding of what happened is if there’s a lawsuit where the parties become compelled to produce evidence.”

Judge Raises Questions

That’s what appeared to have happened in the case of Shannon Finn: minimal if any probing by the Department of Corrections, yet significant revelations come out in court.

On March 17, 2009, Finn was arrested and booked into the Warren County Regional Jail for a probation violation. The following day, he began to shake, sweat and act erratically. He was put on a “detox protocol” and given medication for alcohol and drug withdrawal.

Three days later, a deputy found the 34-year-old Finn lying in a puddle of blood and yellow liquid in his isolation cell. Soon after, he was pronounced dead.

(Listen to the radio version of this story on 89.3 WFPL News)

The family filed a civil suit, and a jury exonerated jail staffers at trial. However, U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley concluded in a pretrial opinion that there was ample evidence of questionable conduct.

Among other things, McKinley noted that a jail deputy did not intervene after discovering Finn on his knees, shaking and mumbling. And a nurse neither contacted the jail’s medical director nor sent Finn to the emergency room, McKinley wrote.

Despite jail policy that characterized alcohol withdrawal as a medical emergency, deputies had received no training regarding its symptoms and dangers, according to the judge.

The department’s listing of jail deaths says only this about Finn: “Found unresponsive–KSP (Kentucky State Police) investigating.”

Reporter R.G. Dunlop can be reached at or (502) 814.6533.