Dentist Who Killed Three Patients with Anesthesia Gets Parole OK

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A former dentist who was convicted of killing three patients at his clinic will be paroled, say California officials.

Tony Protopappas, who had once run a successful, high-volume dental practice, has served 25 years of a 15-years-to-life sentence at Folsom State Prison after a jury convicted him on three counts of second-degree murder in 1984. Protopappas was negligent in giving three patients fatal doses of anesthetic, in part due to his own drug and alcohol abuse.

The deaths—of Kim Andreassen, 23; Patricia Craven, 13; and Cathryn Jones, 31, occurred over a span of five months in late 1982 and early 1983. At the time, Protopappas cited the inexperience of his staff as factors in the dosage errors, and has continued to deflect the responsibility for the women’s deaths. Another contributing factor in his negligence was the fact that he did not have the proper licensing to administer the anesthetic.

In 2008, a parole board considering Protopappas’s case found that he had failed to demonstrate sufficient understanding or insight into his crimes, and that he therefore was a danger to society. They denied parole; in recent months, an attorney for the former dentist said that state parole board violated his client’s right to due process, and that parole should be granted. Attorney Rich Pfeiffer said that because the deaths occurred when Protopappas was practicing dentistry, and that because he is restricted from doing so ever again as a condition of his conviction, there is no chance that he could ever have access to anesthesia again, let alone use it improperly.

In March, a three-judge panel agreed with Pfeiffer, ruling that the state parole board should not have rejected the release of Protopappas, because there was not sufficient evidence that he remains dangerous to others.

Protopappas, who is now 65, will be paroled pending the approval of the release ruling by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has 30 days to review the case. If the governor finds that he cannot approve the parole, he will either modify the conditions of the parole, send it back for review by the entire parole board or reverse the decision entirely.

Governor Schwarzenegger is granted this power by Proposition 89, which California voters approved in 1989, and which allows the governor to single-handedly reverse parole decisions, but only in cases of convicted murderers.

Pfeiffer says that his client has accepted the responsibility for the deaths, and that he is in recovery for his addictions.

 

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