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Defense in Lockport manslaughter trial wants to call pharmacist as expert witness

LOCKPORT – The drunkenness of the victim and how it might have affected him will be a “material issue” in a coming first-degree manslaughter trial, defense attorney Brian J. Hutchison said Monday in Niagara County Court.

Hutchison, a court-appointed defense counsel for Paul M. Flynn, asked County Judge Sara Sheldon for money to hire Dr. Francis M. Gengo, a pharmacist and associate professor of pharmacy and neurology at the University at Buffalo, to testify as an expert on Flynn’s behalf.

His purpose on the witness stand would be to comment on how high levels of intoxication might have affected the victim, Clyde M. Mullen, 48, whose head was struck on the sidewalk after either falling or being pushed off the front porch of 80 Genesee St., Lockport, on the night of Sept. 20. Police originally charged Flynn, 40, who lives at the Genesee Street apartment house, with second-degree murder, but a grand jury decided to indict him only on the manslaughter count.

A witness contended that Flynn and Mullen were quarreling over a can of beer when Flynn allegedly grabbed Mullen and threw him down the short flight of steps. Other witnesses didn’t see it that way. Hutchison said that on the way to the emergency room, paramedics drew Mullen’s blood, which showed blood alcohol content of 0.31 percent, nearly four times the legal threshold for intoxication among drivers.

Flynn, on the other hand, didn’t seem to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, according to the March 2 testimony in a pretrial hearing of two Lockport police officers who questioned Flynn right after the incident.

“The intoxication issue is front and center in this case,” Hutchison told Sheldon on Monday.

He said he’s talked to other local defense attorneys who told him Gengo is the expert witness he needs on the subject of how high levels of intoxication affect a person physically and psychologically.

However, Sheldon said the law is that court-appointed defense attorneys are entitled to only $1,000 for outside experts or investigators unless there are “extraordinary circumstances.” She told Hutchison that he should see if he can hire someone who’s good enough for under $1,000. But if that can’t be done, the judge advised Hutchison to use the $1,000 to try to get started with Gengo. “Then you can request further funds at a later date,” she said.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com