Image Source: msutoday.msu.edu
Image Source: msutoday.msu.edu
In celebration of Filipino-American History Month (October), the Michigan chapter of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS-MI) and Paaralang Pilipino will hold a film screening of an award-winning documentary entitled “U.S. vs Narciso, Perez and the Press” at 3 p.m. on Oct. 13, 2013 at the Philippine American Community Center (PACCM) in Southfield.

The documentary is about the case of two Filipina nurses who were accused of poisoning patients at the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor in 1975.

The screening of the film, which is the winner of the 2013 Emmy Award in the cultural documentary category of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (Michigan chapter) competitions, will be open to the public.

The director/producer of the documentary, Geri Alumit Zeldes, Ph.D, associate professor of journalism at Michigan State University, will be the guest speaker at the event.

“U.S. vs Narciso, Perez and the Press” is about the struggle of two Filipina nurses, Filipina Narciso and Leonara Perez.

During a six-week period in the summer of 1975, 27 patients experienced respiratory failure and 11 of them died at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital. In June 1976, after an FBI investigation, the two nurses were accused of injecting the patients with Pavulon, a muscle-relaxant drug.

The jury found the nurses guilty of conspiracy to poison three patients but dropped the murder charge against Narciso. However, then Assistant U.S. Attorney General Richard Delonis called the evidence “highly circumstantial.”

The case grabbed international attention because it confronted political and racial tensions. In 1977, a federal judge ordered a new trial, citing prosecutorial misconduct that gave prosecutors a chance to retry the case. However, the prosecutors decided not to do so.

This left the guilty verdict standing, but without penalty. The authorities eventually released the nurses although they have not been exonerated.

Based on interviews, archival video and photos, and thousands of pages of FBI documents obtained via FOIA, the film re-constructs the trial of the two nurses and the movement that mobilized to prove the nurses’ innocence. The documentary also examines coverage of the case in the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Ann Arbor News and Ann Arbor Observer, probing ideological, organizational and individual reporter differences to explain differences in reportage.

The producer/director has received numerous awards, including seven best paper awards from the Association for Journalism and Mass Communication, Broadcast Education Association and the International Communication Association.