Monday, 18 August 2014

Brown's Autopsy Results Released; Holder Orders Third Autopsy

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An autopsy performed on Michael Brown, the 18-year-old Ferguson, Missouri, resident whose death has sparked a week of rancorous protests, reveals that Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, and all shots were in the front of Brown's body. The findings came from a second, private autopsy conducted on Sunday by Dr. Michael Baden (shown), who was hired by the Brown family. The results of the autopsy seem to undermine claims that Brown was executed as he was running from police.

Baden is just one of approximately 400 board-certified forensic pathologists in the nation, the New York Times observes. He reviewed the autopsies for both President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and has performed over 20,000 autopsies in his lifetime. Baden said that as a result of the national attention being given to this case, he has waived his $10,000 fee.

Baden conducted the nearly four-hour autopsy on Sunday at the Austin A. Layne Mortuary in St. Louis. The autopsy revealed that one bullet had entered the top of Brown's skull. Four others struck him in his right arm, and one hit him in the eye. The bullet that struck Brown on top of the head is believed to have entered his skull while he was bent forward.

Referring to the wound on top of Brown's head, Baden said, "This one here looks like his head was bent downward. It can be because he's giving up, or because he's charging forward at the officer."

Professor Shawn Parcells conducted the autopsy with Baden and said that the order of the gunshot wounds could not be determined, but said that he and Baden believe that Brown was wounded prior to the fatal shot to the head. They stated that all of the wounds would have been survivable except the shot to the head.

Baden also noted that the shots did not appear to be fired at close range, based on the lack of gunpowder on Brown's body. However, further examination of Brown's clothes will be necessary in order to make a clearer determination.

Baden said that his autopsy showed no signs of struggle, but added, "In talking about a struggle, one of the things that the attorneys have also asked for is the medical examination of the officer who was in a struggle. So signs of injury to the officer, to Michael Brown are both needed."

While six gunshot wounds were found, only three bullets were recovered from the body. Baden has not yet seen the X-rays showing where the bullets were found, though they would help clarify Baden's findings. Baden has also not had access to witness or police statements.

Baden's findings are likely to inflame critics of the Ferguson police. "There is legitimate concern as to whether the shooting was overreacting. That has to be answered and we don't have all the answers," said Baden. Baden indicates that six gunshot wounds points to "excessive" force.

"In my capacity, I would say, ‘You’re not supposed to shoot so many times,’" said Baden, who retired from a position as the forensic examiner for the New York State Police in 2011.

Similarly, Benjamin L. Crump, a lawyer for the Brown family said, "The sheer number of bullets and the way they were scattered all over his body showed this police officer had a brazen disregard for the very people he was supposed to protect in that community." "This case is about a police officer executing a young unarmed man in broad daylight," Crump added.

Still, Baden believes that the autopsy may help quell aggravation among the protesters who assert that the police are trying to cover up what happened to Brown. "People have been asking: How many times was he shot? This information could have been released on Day 1," Baden told the Times after performing the autopsy. "They don’t do that, even as feelings built up among the citizenry that there was a cover-up. We are hoping to alleviate that." "That takes away the concerns the community has of there being a cover-up," he said.

The findings of Baden's autopsy could be significant as they seem to undermine assertions made by witnesses at the shooting. Some claimed that Brown was crouched on the ground with his hands held up at the time he was shot, while others indicated he was shot in the back while running from police.

Dr. Baden told Fox News' Bill Hemmer, "This autopsy shows that there [weren't] any gunshot wounds in his back. Some people thought they saw that. An autopsy helps organize which witness testimony is more reliable."

Baden has stressed that the autopsy is preliminary, as there are still items that require examination including Brown's clothing. "We need more information; for example, the police should be examining the automobile to see if there is gunshot residue in the police car," he said.

As noted by the Washington Post, Mary Case, the St. Louis County medical examiner who conducted the first autopsy on Brown, said that her autopsy results corroborated Baden's and revealed that Brown was shot six times in the front. Additionally, according to the Post,

While Case declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation into Brown’s death, another person familiar with the county’s investigation told The Washington Post that Brown had between six and eight gunshot wounds and was shot from the front.

In addition, Brown had marijuana in his system when he was shot and killed by a police officer on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, according to this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation....

In anticipation that Brown could be vilified by the results of the drug test, conducted as a routine part of the autopsy, protesters have consistently insisted that Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Brown, should be required to submit to one as well....

Residents and protesters have noted that allegations of marijuana use have been used in the past by some in an attempt to disparage the character of shooting victims, including in the Trayvon Martin case.

Perhaps for that reason, Attorney General Eric Holder has ordered a third autopsy to be performed on Brown's body. "Due to the extraordinary circumstances involved in this case and at the request of the Brown family, Attorney General Holder has instructed Justice Department officials to arrange for an additional autopsy to be performed by a federal medical examiner," Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement.

"This independent examination will take place as soon as possible," he continued, adding, "Even after it is complete, Justice Department officials still plan to take the state-performed autopsy into account in the course of their investigation." Baden remarked that while three autopsies are "appropriate" in this case, they are also "extremely unusual."

The circumstances surrounding Brown's death have been difficult to determine, as conflicting accounts from witnesses continue to circulate more than a week after the shooting. The shooting is under investigation by St. Louis County and the FBI, which is working with the Justice Department's civil rights division.

Photo of Dr. Michael Baden speaking about the autopsy results: AP Images