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Video Evidence Inadmissible?

Published on July 25th, 2018

The Des Moines Register reported the shocking decision of Clayton County prosecutors who are asking an Iowa judge to dismiss all charges against two Iowa nurses caught on video neglecting an elderly nursing home resident.  Iowa, unlike several states, doesn’t expressly guarantee nursing home residents the right to use cameras and electronic monitoring to collect evidence of poor care.

Last year, the family of Cheryll Scherf grew concerned about the care she was receiving at the Elkader Care Center and installed a motion-activated camera in her room.  In March 2017, the “nanny cam” captured video evidence of workers repeatedly leaving Scherf in bed, naked from the waist down, with the door to the room left open.  The video also showed that while no nurses entered Scherf’s room for more than 17 hours, the staff wrote in her file that they tended to her needs during that time and administered physician-ordered medications.

The caregivers were criminally charged with wanton neglect, dependent adult abuse and tampering with medical records.  Now, Clayton County Attorney Alan Heavens is asking the court to dismiss the charges against the caregivers.

One of Scherf’s attorneys, Pressley Henningsen, said it’s his understanding that the Elkader Care Center is now asking residents to sign forms agreeing not to record their interactions with the staff.  “These videos show what they show,” Henningsen said. “They show what did happen, and what didn’t happen. They’re videos. And yet now this home is asking people not to record them.”

The states of Texas, New Mexico, Washington, Illinois, Maryland and Oklahoma expressly allow nursing home residents to install surveillance cameras in their own rooms, provided their roommates agree. Most state legislatures, including South Carolina’s, have not addressed the issue.

Joe Pioletti
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