Toast4EthanToday would have been Robert Ethan Saylor’s 27th birthday. His mom has asked everyone to think of Ethan today and what his legacy will be. Here are my hopes for what his legacy will be.

If you follow my News page, you may have seen my entry from October 16, 2013 where I explained how Ethan’s tragic death illustrated the legal concept of res ipsa loquitur:

Saylor, was asked to leave a movie theater because he had not bought a $12 ticket. Off-duty police officers acting as security guards physically removed him and in the struggle, Saylor went unresponsive, ultimately dying. The autoposy ruled it a homicide and found that his throat had been fractured. The law has a phrase called res ipsa loquitur, meaning the thing speaks for itself. A classic example is negligence being found where a passer-by on the street is hit on the head from a mattress falling out of a hotel window. Here a young man was killed over not buying a movie ticket. The thing speaks for itself.

From this tragedy, that happened just three days after Ethan’s birthday, here are what I hope will happen to serve as a fitting legacy:

  1. The Saylor Family will receive an appropriate monetary settlement: Forgive the lawyer in me, but the family would be helped by an appropriate monetary settlement. They have filed a civil lawsuit and almost all lawsuits end up being settled. A settlement would spare them the heartache of having to relive that night in a courtroom, but would serve as a monetary deterrent to future abuses occurring, while compensating them–in the small way that money can–for their loss.
  2. The Maryland Commission will bring real reform in the treatment by authorities of those with intellectual and developmental disability: Governor O’Malley empaneled a special commission for improvements in the training and interaction by authorities with those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. There are good people on this Commission and hopefully some good will come of their work.
  3. The Department of Justice will conduct a civil rights investigation: the lawsuit and the Maryland Commission will hopefully effect change, but that change may be limited to Maryland. A federal investigation could have national implications in how authorities treat those like Ethan.
  4. The network of new advocates will continue to advocate: Ethan’s case resulted in a new wave of vocal advocates engaging with the national Down syndrome organizations and taking to social media to demand #justiceforethan. This resulted in wide press coverage in national publications and television spots. Hopefully these advocates will keep their passion and apply it to further measures that call for activism, like the issues addressed on this blog.

Ethan’s death was tragic, but hopefully these outcomes will take place so that his is a legacy of positive, needed change in how individuals with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities are treated.

UPDATE: From the News page:

  • Maryland commission led by Tim Shriver issues initial findings of inconsistent training of police officers and first responders on interacting with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities; makes initial recommendations and outlines next steps. The commission was empaneled in the wake of the homicide of Ethan Saylor, a man with Down syndrome, by off-duty police officers and issued its report on what would have been Saylor’s 27th birthday.  Full report here.


  1. Thank you for a timely reminder. Have shared with our supporters.

  2. Good points, as always Mark. I am given a small spark of hope today by the way #Toast4Ethan is being embraced and spread across the web. It shows that this is not a tragedy to be brushed under the rug, Ethan’s life was valuable and valued.

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