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Attorney says nurse did not steal morphine

By Staff | Apr 6, 2009

The prosecution and hospital officials have jumped to the conclusion that a former United Hospital District nurse stole morphine when she was employed there.

That’s the opinion of Daniel Birkholz, defense attorney for Theresa Lynn Polzin of Blue Earth.

“It’s a legal leap of logic. They make the conclusion that if they can’t find it, therefore, it’s a theft,” he says. “There’s no single shred of evidence my client intentionally deprived the hospital of the morphine.”

Birkholz challenged probable cause for theft during a contested omnibus hearing held Thursday in Martin County District Court.

Birkholz says his client had no reason to take the morphine because she does not use drugs.

“If you look at this reasonably, ‘Who would take the same syringe and use it if it’s already contaminated?'” says Birkholz.

Faribault County Attorney Brian Roverud says this is not the time to try the case and it should go to a jury trial.“We must remember this is a theft case, not a drug case,” he says. “The allegation, ‘Was there an intent to permanently deprive the hospital of its property?” is a matter for the jury.

The 29-year-old Polzin faces five counts of theft of morphine.

According to a court complaint, personnel documentation shows that from Jan. 1, 2008 through April 1, 2008 Polzin checked out more morphine from a Pyxis machine than other nurses.

The complaint states she took 86 milligrams of morphine from the dispensing unit, and 54 milligrams were unaccounted for. The average dispensing of morphine for all nurses at the hospital during the same time period was 22.5 milligrams.

Birkholz focused on the five occasions Polzin checked out morphine and she failed to document how much was used.

He says in addition to being a registered nurse, his client also assisted during ambulance runs and that explains why she checked out more morphine than the other nurses.

Birkholz says Polzin would check out 10-milligram syringes of morphine, use what was needed and dispose any waste into the ‘sharps’ container on the ambulance. He says this is not the hospital’s disposal policy.

The defense attorney says nurses are suppose to chart how much morphine is given to a patient, how much is disposed and another registered nurse is required to witness what is thrown away.

Birkholz says his client admits she was bad at documenting the waste.

“It was negligence on her part. But, it is not a crime she failed to follow proper policies,” he says.

Roverud says the hospital could not find any charts or notes documenting use, waste or disposal of the morphine.

But, Birkholz contends his client made reports of the usage.

“My client wrote those notes. The hospital district is unable to locate them,” he says. “What my client did was violate employment rules, which she’s been fired for.

Roverud says a jury will need to decide if any law was broken.

“It’s an issue of credibility. Of whether the hospital or the employee should be believed,” he adds.

Judge Robert Walker will determine in the next two to four weeks whether probable cause exists to hold a trial in Blue Earth.