Briefly Noted

Bay City News and City of Berkeley press release
Friday August 06, 2004

Jury Finds Beretta Not Responsible For 

1994 Gun Fatality 

An Alameda County Superior Court jury on Monday found that gun makers Beretta U.S.A. are not responsible for the death of a 15-year-old Berkeley boy killed in a gun accident 10 years ago. 

In the wrongful death suit brought by Griffin and Lynn Dix for their son Kenzo, the prosecution alleged that the Berkeley High School ninth-grader died because his friend and neighbor Michael Soe didn’t know the gun was loaded when he pointed it at Kenzo. 

This was the third time the case has been tried. Jurors in the first trial in 1998 decided by a 9-3 margin that Beretta wasn’t responsible for Kenzo’s death, but an appellate court granted the Dixes another trial because of alleged jurors misconduct. 

The second trial ended in a mistrial last Dec. 23 with jurors deadlocked 6-6 following three weeks of evidence and arguments and four days of deliberations. 

Both sides said on Wednesday that they were pleased with some aspects  

of the trial. 

Jonathan Lowy, co-counsel for the Dixes and senior attorney at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said that while the family is disappointed with the verdict, they are pleased the trial has been able to draw attention to issues with weapons manufacturing. 

Lowy said that numerous gun manufacturers have begun making and selling guns with internal locks—devices “which would have prevented the death of Kenzo Dix and will prevent deaths in similar instances in the future.” 

“When the Dixes filed this suit there were no pistols being made in this country with internal locks and Beretta and other manufacturers ridiculed the idea. Today even Beretta is advertising a model with an internal lock,” Lowy said. 

Additionally, Lowy said that California has enacted a law mandating chamber-loaded indicators, which alert users that a round of ammunition is in the chamber. 

He said the enactment of this law is “largely because of the Dixes’ efforts.” He also said the indicator, like the internal lock, will help to save lives in the future. 

As for the Dixes’ future, Lowy said they are considering whether to appeal the jury’s decision. 

Whether or not they decide to appeal Lowy said, the primary purpose of the lawsuits has been to try to save lives and spare the suffering of other families. 

“They have accomplished this much more than many lawsuits that have had more success in the courtroom,” Lowy said. 

Beretta attorney Craig Livingston expressed sympathy for the Dixes, but said he was satisfied by the jury’s decision. 

“No one, particularly Beretta, has ever suggested that this case was anything other than a parent’s worst nightmare for Mr. and Mrs. Dix. But this was a lawsuit in which the Dixes claimed that Beretta’s firearm caused their son’s death. And that simply wasn’t true, and that’s what the jury concluded.’’  

Livingston disagreed with the idea that the trial is responsible for the trend toward manufacturing guns with internal locking devices. He said the trend is a recent development in the industry, driven in large part by legislation that started in Maryland, where Beretta is based. 

—Bay City News 


West Nile Virus Found in Berkeley 

The presence of West Nile virus was confirmed for the first time in Alameda County today, public health officials reported. 

Three dead birds found in Alameda County have tested positive for the virus. A barn owl and an American crow found in Livermore tested positive, as did an American crow from Berkeley. 

The dead birds reportedly were submitted on July 22, July 27 and July 28 by the Alameda County Mosquito Abatement District to state officials for processing. The Center for Vector-borne Diseases at the University of California, Davis confirmed the presence of the virus today. 

“Despite these findings, the human risk from West Nile virus still is relatively low in Alameda County. By maintaining our sensitive early warning system, we can keep the public well-informed as we monitor the level of human risk in our county throughout the summer and fall,’’ said Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Anthony Iton in a prepared statement. 

The virus is transmitted to humans and animals through mosquito bites. The mosquitoes are infected when they feed on infected birds. 

Most individuals infected with the virus experience no illness, officials say. About 10 to 15 percent have moderate symptoms and less than 1 percent develop serious neurological illness such as encephalitis and meningitis. The elderly and those with compromised immune systems are more susceptible. 

To date, West Nile virus has not been found in humans or mosquitoes in Alameda County. 

“Many city agencies have been preparing for the arrival of West Nile Virus for months. The most important step that residents can take now is to protect themselves from mosquito bites,” said Dr. Poki Stewart Namkung, health officer for the City of Berkeley.  

The public can report birds (crows, ravens, magpies, sparrows, jays) that have been dead for less than 48 hours and show no signs of decomposition to the California Dept. of Health Services' toll-free hotline, 1-877-WNV-BIRD, or use the online reporting form on CDHS’ website www.westnile.ca.gov.  

For information about WNV visit the City of Berkeley at www.cityofberkeley.info/publichealth or contact the City of Berkeley advice nurse at 981-5300. For information about mosquito control, contact the Alameda County Mosquito Abatement District at 783-7744.  


—Bay City News and City of Berkeley press release