Denied transfusion: Stabbed Jehovah's Witness' beliefs may have let suspected killer go free

New York Daily News/November 15, 2009

Harry Morales' religious beliefs doomed him, but they may have saved his accused killer.

The 28-year-old stonecutter was dying from a stab wound to the back in 2006 when he refused a blood transfusion because he was a Jehovah's Witness.

And that may have helped sway a Bronx jury into acquitting Isead Galva on a murder charge that could have sent him to jail for life.

Morales' family said they have no regrets.

"Everybody has their beliefs," said his sister, Marilyn Morales. "He decided on his own and we have to respect that. We feel the same way. We don't question it and we don't doubt the decision.

"The person who stabbed him is who's at fault."

Morales, who lived in Tennessee, was visiting family and friends in the Bronx in July 2006 when he wound up in the middle of a brawling mob of 50 people on E. 199th St. in Bedford Park.

Morales, who by some accounts was playing the role of peacemaker, died the next day, and Galva, then 15, was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Galva insisted he was innocent and went to trial. He was acquitted last week and is trying to piece his life back together, said his lawyer, William Flack.

The DA's office would not comment, but Flack said his defense was simple: "My client said he didn't do it, and I really believed him."

The Bronx jury cleared Galva on Nov. 5.

Legally, the person who stabbed Morales is responsible for his death, even though Morales refused the transfusion. Flack said he thinks the prosecution's case was weak; there were no witnesses directly connecting Galva to the crime.

Still, Morales' choice was an issue at the trial.

Medical records from St. Barnabas Hospital showed that after doctors stanched the wound and stabilized Morales' blood pressure, they told him he still needed surgery and a transfusion.

Morales, citing his religion, refused. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that it's against God's will to accept other people's blood, or even their own blood after it has been stored.

"The patient aggressively and adamantly refused any and all blood products despite being told it may very well make a difference between life and death," records show.

Later, when Morales' condition deteriorated, doctors spoke with his twin, Havier, and he too cited the family's religious beliefs, records show.

Morales' sister, who sat through the trial, said it would be wrong for anyone to question the family's faith - even though it means her brother's killer may have gone free.

"Above all," she said, "we believe the only one who has the power to give life and to take live is Jehovah God."

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