Thomas Butler loses appeal

Jailed plague researcher to be freed in January, colleagues discuss how to help him work again

John Dudley Miller(johnmiller@nasw.org)
Oct 25, 2005

A federal appeals court yesterday upheld the conviction and prison sentence of former Texas Tech professor Thomas Butler for illegally shipping plague samples and for defrauding the university in unrelated consulting for drug companies. Yesterday, a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) committee also met to discuss how to help him find a suitable job upon his release, scheduled for January.

In a unanimous decision, three judges from the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans—temporarily operating out of Houston—rejected Butler's claim that six errors in his original trial prejudiced the jury against him. In their unsigned opinion, the judges concluded "that the district court did not commit reversible error." Butler has already served over 18 months of the 24-month sentence he received in March 2004.

Not surprisingly, scientists who have supported Butler decried the decision. "I'm bitterly disappointed but still confident in the American judicial...

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