The legal challenge filed by the mother of Zachery Tims to prevent the City of New York and its medical examiner's office from publicly revealing the Florida pastor's cause of death goes before a New York State justice this week.
Madeline Yvonne Tims, 61, will be hundreds of miles away from her Maryland home and in a Manhattan courtroom the day before Thanksgiving trying to convince a judge why her son's cause of death should not be disclosed to the public.
Zachery Tims, 42, was found dead in a room at the W Hotel in Times Square on Aug. 12. He was the founder and pastor of the New Destiny Christian Center (NDCC) in Apopka, Fla.
Investigators determined that there was no criminal element to the pastor's death. Sources close to the investigation, however, told the New York Daily News that a glassine envelope with white powder was found in Tims' pocket.
The initial autopsy performed on the late pastor was inconclusive, leading to toxicology tests to help determine Tims' cause of death. The nature of the white powder allegedly found in Tims' pocket has presumably also been determined.
The New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner was prepared to publish a press release on Friday, Oct. 7, to inform the public as to the cause and manner of Tims' death, which City officials are legally allowed to do.
The medical examiner's office, however, does not make autopsy or toxicology reports public.
On Oct. 6, Madeline Tims' attorney, Ricardo E. Oquendo, was granted a temporary restraining order by Justice Cynthia S. Kern against the medical examiner's office, barring representatives of that office from "making any oral or written statements or comments to the public or responding in any matter to inquiries from the public" concerning the NDCC pastor's death.
The case is scheduled to go back to New York State Supreme Court in downtown Manhattan on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 23, the day before Thanksgiving. The burden will be on Madeline Tims and her attorney to convince the court as to why the pastor's cause of death should not be made public.
Tims' attorney Oquendo argues that since autopsy and toxicology reports are not a matter of public record, neither should their findings be made public.
"We are challenging what has never been challenged before, which is the medical examiner's practice of disclosing manner and cause of death," Oquendo told the Orlando Sentinel. "The cause of death of any person who may be subject to an autopsy or toxicology should not be made public.”
A legal representative for the medical examiner's office issued a statement Oct. 11, saying that her office plans to vigorously fight the restraining order.
Ave Maria Brennan, a spokesperson with the New York City Law Department said in a statement, according to Central Florida News 13: "The City feel it's important to make this information available to the public. The Law Department will defend this challenge to the Medical Examiner's ability to do so."
Defendants listed in the case are: The City of New York, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene of the City of New York, Thomas Farley, M.D., as Commissioner of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene of the City of New York, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and Charles S. Hirsch, M.D., as Chief Medical Examiner.
A message left with Madeline Tims' attorney, Ricardo E. Oquendo, was not returned.