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SIRKIN, PINALES, MEZIBOV & SCHWARTZ LLP

ATTORNEYS & COUNSELLORS AT LAW                                                                                              

 

 

March 14, 2001

 

 

Dear Friends and Supporters of Fugen Gulertekin:

 

Please accept my sincerest regrets for my inability to attend this evening’s “Program on Fugen” hosted by the Federation of Turkish American Associations, Inc. Unfortunately, this event coincides with an event at the University of Michigan where my son will be receiving an award. Nevertheless, I did not want this occasion to pass without offering my perspective on Fugen’s circumstances and our ongoing efforts to gain her release and ultimate vindication.

 

Our law office has been active on several fronts on Fugen’s behalf: civil, criminal and a unique hybrid of legal categories known as federal habeas corpus. On the civil side, we have offered a factual defense to the claim of the Lape family that their son was seriously injured due to Fugen’ s intentional and/or negligent conduct. The centerpiece of this defense is the fact that it is not possible to prove by a reasonable degree of medical certainty that anything that Fugen did or failed to do caused this child’s injuries. Our position is bolstered by the medical opinion of Dr. Jan Leestma. Dr. Leestma is a well-recognized expert on injuries associated with “shaken baby syndrome.” He has reviewed the record in this case and has concluded that the medical evidence does not prove Fugen’s guilt. In fact, Dr. Leestma’s opinion is perfectly consistent with Fugen’s explanation of the child’s injuries. According to Dr. Leestma, it is possible for an infant to sustain a head injury in one circumstance or location (even by accident), seemingly recover, and then manifest or reveal symptoms of the injury later, perhaps as here, when another caregiver is present.

 

At this point, all avenues of relief in the criminal vein have been exhausted. Fugen’s criminal defense has been argued and appealed by other counsel up to and through the Ohio Supreme Court. However, we have filed a petition for habeas corpus in the United States Federal District Court located in Columbus, Ohio. The essence of our argument in this petition is that Fugen’ s conviction was the result of actions by the trial judge and her trial attorney which deprived Fugen of her basic constitutional right to a fair trial. Most recently our petition received a shot in the arm when the federal judge ruled that the state of Ohio, through the state Attorney General’ s Office, must respond to our petition and provide the court with reasons why Fugen should not be released. This means we will have a further opportunity to forcefully argue our point that Fugen’ s attorney failed to properly represent her and that the trial judge took actions that may have prejudiced the jury against Fugen. Habeas corpus is a powerful tool and if successful can win Fugen’ s release. It is also a slow process which may take another one to two years to complete. Of course, if we are not successful at the district court level we will file an appeal. This will add at least an additional year to the process.

 

We intend also to explore other avenues for relief. One is to petition the trial court for Fugen’ s early release. This petition cannot be filed until Fugen has served five (5) years of her sentence. A second is to explore a commutation of Fugen’s sentence from the Governor’s office. If either of these options is to be successful, however, we will likely need the assistance of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service as well as appropriate authorities in Turkey who would need to express their approval for Fugen’ s return. We hope to have more to report on these efforts shortly. This process is more political than legal in nature and it is difficult to place any certain time frame on the completion of this effort.

 

In the meanwhile, as Fugen’s attorneys, we have been buoyed and heartened by Fugen’ s good spirits and determination. We know she is committed not only to gain her release but also to clear her good name. We remain optimistic that both of these goals can be accomplished.

 

Thank you for your interest and your support of Fugen as reflected by your presence this evening at this significant event.

 

Sincerely,

SIRKIN, PINALES, MEZIBOV & SCHWARTZ LLP      Marc D. Mezibov

  MDM: jgv

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