The lawsuit filed by Zachery Tims' mother to keep secret the cause and manner of the New Destiny Christian Center (NDCC) church founder's death was rejected by the Manhattan Supreme Court Monday, and his family has 30 days to appeal the decision, New York City authorities told The Christian Post.
Madeline Tims sued the New York medical examiner's office, as well as New York City, on Oct. 6, one day before the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) was set to issue a press release regarding the cause and manner of Tims' death. Her attorney, Ricardo E. Oquendo, Esq., argued that since the City has no right to publicly disclose autopsy reports, neither should it be allowed to disclose information listed on such reports, such as the cause and manner of death. But Judge Cynthia S. Kern said in the Monday decision that "upon public inquiry, the OCME may release the cause and manner of death in the cases it handles."
Currently, Tims' family is considering whether they should appeal the decision, Oquendo told CP Wednesday.
"The family is personally disappointed with the decision," Oquendo said. "Legally, I am reviewing the case for the possibility of pursuing an appeal, but no decision has been made yet."
Once the court officially files the decision, the family has 30 days to seek a further injunction in the appellate court, before the medical examiner's office can release the cause of death to the public. The deadline was extended from the previous one – 48 hours – “in light of the time of year and people's unavailability due to the holidays,” the NYC Law Department stated Wednesday.
"Once the judge's order is entered and we speak to plaintiff's counsel to determine whether an appeal is planned, we will frame an appropriate timeline for the release of the information," Gabriel Taussig, Chief of the City Administrative Law Division, said in a statement.
The OCME has historically released the cause and manner of death of individuals to the public.
Oquendo was hoping to establish a new precedent, in which the City would lose the possibility of disclosing causes of death. He argued that since there is no explicit written law allowing authorities the practice, the judge should forbid it.
Kern stated that Madeline Tims had a “standing to bring this claim” based on her claiming that “she will be personally embarrassed by the disclosure of the cause and manner of her son’s death.”
However, in the end, the judge agreed with the City.
"As the City correctly points out, if agencies had to be explicitly empowered to take any action, city government would be paralyzed," Kern's decision reads.
"The Medical Examiner has historically released the cause and manner of death upon public inquiry, and we are gratified that the Court agreed that this important practice complies with the law," Ave Maria Brennan, Senior Counsel at the New York City Law Department, told CP in an emailed statement.
Madeline Tims was looking to make that information concerning her late son permanently private. Tims' death has raised some controversy, as it was reported that a white powdery substance was found on the pastor after his death. It is known that Tims struggled with drugs in the past.
The former senior pastor of Apopka, Fla.-based NDCC was found dead in his room at the W Hotel in Times Square on Aug. 12. He was reportedly in New York City for a speaking arrangement.
The charismatic preacher battled drug addiction before becoming a Christian, which he described in a memoir called It's Never Too Late, which tells "how a teenage criminal found his divine destiny and became a successful millionaire and pastor of a thriving church," according to the book cover.
An NDCC representative could not be reached for comment.