Supreme Court won't hear Butler case

Plague researcher looking for scientific job in US or Europe

By | May 17, 2006

The US Supreme Court refused on Monday (May 15) to review the case of former Texas Tech professor Thomas Butler, the plague researcher who was convicted in December 2003 of improperly shipping plague samples to Tanzania and defrauding his university in unrelated research. Butler was "definitely very disappointed," his wife Elisabeth told The Scientist yesterday. "I'm deeply depressed but I hope to get out of it," she said. Butler was unavailable for comment. Butler served 19 months of a two-year sentence, was released to a half-way house in November, and released for good in December. A federal appeals court upheld his conviction and sentence last October. Butler's attorney, George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley, told The Scientist yesterday that his client's chances with the Supreme Court had always been slim, because it reviews less than 1% of cases brought before it. Butler has been working since last December, but Elisabeth Butler would not say exactly where or in what capacity, except to say that he wasn't working in science, medicine or research. His job is not in medicine or research and is clerical in nature, according to Elisabeth Butler. Both William Greenough, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, and Peter Agre, vice chancellor for science and technology at the Duke University Medical Center, said Butler has had job offers, although as a convicted felon, he is barred from practicing medicine. Agre, who trained under Butler at Case Western University in Cleveland, would not specify the offers, but characterized them as "research-oriented jobs that would be beneath his training but would help him get going again." Greenough said Butler is also considering a job at the Child Health Foundation in Columbia, Maryland, where Greenough is a founding trustee. John Dudley Miller Correction (posted June 2): When originally posted, this story incorrectly identified Jonathan Turley as a professor at Georgetown University. The Scientist regrets the error. Links for this article J.D. Miller, "Thomas Butler convicted," The Scientist, December 2, 2003 J.D. Miller, "Butler gets 2 years in prison," The Scientist, March 11, 2004. J.D. Miller, "Thomas Butler loses appeal," The Scientist, October 26, 2005. Jonathan Turley William Greenough Peter Agre


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May 19, 2006

Jonathan Turley is a professor at George Washington Law School, not Georgetown.

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