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A Lockport woman's attorney said Friday that if his client is convicted for causing the death of a Wheatfield man in 1988, three Niagara Falls doctors will be "off the hook" in a civil suit filed by the man's family.

Dennis O'Keefe made his remarks in an opening statement to the jury hearing the case of second-degree murder brought against Ann Marie Truscio, who is accused of causing the death of 74-year-old Edwin Klein by administering a dose of insulin while she was working as a licensed practical nurse at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. Klein was recovering from surgery at the time.

Pending is a civil case instituted by Klein family members against the doctors who attended Klein.

"If she goes down," O'Keefe said, pointing to Ms. Truscio, "they're off the hook. If she goes down, the Kleins have no case."

O'Keefe said he will show how the doctors have changed their statements before the investigation into Klein's death began and after Ms. Truscio was brought into the case as a possible suspect.

"They have a real interest in their testimony," the attorney said.

Defendants in the civil suits are Drs. Vijay K. Bojelda, Charles J. Mallo and Carl J. Sheusi.

"Those doctors' careers would be ruined if the blame could not be placed somewhere else," O'Keefe said.

Ms. Truscio also is accused of 14 counts of first-degree assault involving insulin injections administered to five other patients with insulin during the midnight shift at the hospital. Those injections caused severe hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, but were not fatal.

O'Keefe said that of the 13 incidents of hypoglycemia that occurred during her shifts, Ms. Truscio found 10 of them and reported them to her superior.

"That's her job," O'Keefe said. "If by doing her job she becomes a suspect, then, in truth, anybody with any job could have done it at any time. Having access to these patients is meaningless."

Prosecuting attorney Thomas P. Franczyk in opening statements Thursday had speculated that Ms. Truscio did not set out to kill anyone, but may have injected the patients with insulin and then pretended to discover the problems so she could improve her job standing at the hospital.

O'Keefe said there were 38 cases of hypoglycemia involving 13 patients at the hospital during the same period and accused the prosecutors of being "selective" in pointing at Ms.Truscio.

Referring to the assault charges, O'Keefe said his client is facing the 12 counts because the prosecution's "very weak murder case is being propped up with all these assault cases." He asked the jury to consider each assault case separately.

O'Keefe reminded the jury that the prosecutors "must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these events were done purposely, willfully and with malice. Then, if so, did she do it?"

The prosecution's first witness was Dr. Alfred Lenzner, a diabetes specialist who described the disease and the effects of insulin on the metabolism. The trial will continue Tuesday with testimony from two nurses who conducted an investigation into hospital records after Klein's death.

Presiding is visiting Judge Mark H. Dadd of Wyoming County.

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