14-year-old boy beaten to death by guards at Bay County Sheriff's Office boot camp
Pathologist: Teen Didn't Die From Illness
By MITCH STACY The Associated Press Wednesday, March 15, 2006; 7:07 AM
TAMPA, Fla. -- A pathologist who observed the second autopsy of a 14-year-old boy who was punched and kicked by guards at a juvenile boot camp said Tuesday the boy may not have died of a blood disorder as a medical examiner had ruled.
Dr. Michael Baden, who observed the new autopsy on behalf of the teen's family, said it was clear Martin Lee Anderson did not die from sickle cell trait, or from any other natural causes.
Anderson was sent to the Bay County Sheriff's Office boot camp on Jan. 5 for a probation violation. A surveillance video showed guards kicking and punching him after he collapsed while exercising on his first day at the camp, and he died at a hospital early the next day.
The sheriff's office has said the guards were trying to get Anderson to participate after he became uncooperative.
The second autopsy was ordered after the teen's parents questioned the findings of Bay County's medical examiner, and was conducted Monday by Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Vernard Adams.
"My opinion is that he died because of what you see in the videotape," said Baden, referring to the surveillance video.
Baden, who reviewed medical evidence in the slaying of Martin Luther King Jr. and worked for a congressional committee that reinvestigated the assassination of President Kennedy, said it will be several weeks before Adams can determine the exact cause of death because tissue samples must be analyzed and other evidence considered.
Pam Bondi, a spokeswoman for Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober, confirmed Baden's assertion. She would not elaborate, saying it will be months before the investigation is complete. Ober was appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush to investigate the case.
Anderson's mother, Gina Jones, said she wants to see action now.
"Now the truth is out, and I want justice," she said.
The medical examiner who made the initial finding of sickle cell, Dr. Charles Siebert, won't comment until the investigation is complete, his office said Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the Bay County Sheriff's Office, which operated the camp, also declined to comment.
No guards have been arrested or fired but the camp has been closed.
The U.S. Attorney's office in Tallahassee and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division also have opened investigations.
Posted on Wed, Mar. 15, 2006
BOOT CAMP DEATH
Teen's second autopsy rejects natural causesA second autopsy found that Martin Lee Anderson, who died after a beating at a youth boot camp, did not die of natural causes, although it didn't say what did kill him.
BY CAROL MARBIN MILLER AND PHIL LONG
TAMPA - With results of a new autopsy showing that Martin Lee Anderson did not die of natural causes after being manhandled by guards at a Panhandle boot camp, special prosecutor Mark Ober now faces one of the most daunting tasks of his career: Ober must determine what killed the 14-year-old basketball star and one-time chess whiz, and whether anyone should be held accountable. Both a Tampa medical examiner appointed to the case and a prominent New York pathologist hired by Martin's family agreed, following a grueling 12-hour autopsy Monday, that Martin did not die from an undiagnosed blood disorder, sickle cell trait, which affects one in 12 Americans of African descent.
The new finding contradicted the results of an earlier autopsy that infuriated Martin's parents and confounded experts on the blood disorder, who told The Miami Herald the finding was extremely implausible. Gina Jones and Robert Anderson believed then and now that the real cause of death was a 40-minute manhandling of their son captured on video and broadcast nationally.
''We will confirm that preliminary findings indicate that Martin Anderson did not die of sickle cell trait, nor did he die of natural causes,'' said Pam Bondi, an assistant state attorney and spokeswoman for Ober, the Hillsborough County state attorney appointed to the case by Gov. Jeb Bush.
''Our investigation will take months to complete,'' Bondi added.
Though pathologists say they are certain what did not kill the teen, it remains unclear precisely what did. Martin stopped breathing Jan. 5 at the boot camp for delinquents. He was removed from a ventilator at a Pensacola hospital the next day.
''We all agreed,'' said Michael Baden, a veteran New York medical examiner hired by the family to participate in the second autopsy. ``Martin did not die of natural causes.''
''My opinion is that, just as his mom and dad had said, he died of what happened on that video,'' Baden told The Miami Herald. ``The way he was treated is why he died.'' Ruth Sasser, a spokeswoman for Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen, who operates the Panama City boot camp under contract with the state, declined to discuss the second autopsy Tuesday, saying the sheriff's office has yet to receive a formal report on the autopsy from Dr. Vern Adams, Hillsborough County's chief medical examiner.
McKeithen will shutter the boot camp at midnight April 6, Sasser said. The sheriff announced the camp's closing Feb. 21, saying it had become ''virtually paralyzed'' by the uproar over Martin's death.
Also declining to discuss the new findings: Dr. Charles Siebert, the Bay County chief medical examiner whose original autopsy report Feb. 16 added fuel to an already blazing controversy surrounding the Panama City youth's death. ''Any questions regarding the autopsy should be referred to the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office,'' Siebert's office said in a prepared statement. ``As for the findings at the conclusion of the autopsy, Dr. Siebert will defer comment until the results have been completed.''
For Martin's parents, Monday and Tuesday were agonizing days in a long line of agonizing days. Gina Jones and Robert Anderson buried their son -- for the second time -- Tuesday in a modest grave in a ragged cemetery two months to the day after his first interment. He had been exhumed last Friday for the second autopsy.
''If they had only told the truth, we would not have to bury my son again,'' said Jones as she drove Tuesday afternoon back to the Redwood Cemetery. ''It is time for Martin to rest in peace -- for good. We need justice, and we need to make sure he can rest in peace.'' Added Anderson: ``Maybe tonight, we can start to get some proper rest. And maybe my son will be at rest, as well.''
Joining Martin's family in calls for justice were state lawmakers who have watched the case closely.
Rep. Gus Barreiro, a Miami Beach Republican whose criticism of the state's Department of Juvenile Justice has prompted several reforms, said he was horrified when Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents screening the videotape for him expressed concern for ''the jobs and careers'' of the officers seen roughing Martin up.
''Martin Anderson will never have a job,'' Barreiro said. ``We have to send a strong message to all those individuals who work with kids that if you brutalize one of these kids there will be a consequence, just like you ask these kids to face consequences. You can't have a double standard.''
Said Sen. Frederica Wilson, a Miami Democrat who comforted family members last week as Martin was exhumed: ``This is a great day in the state of Florida because Martin Lee Anderson is speaking to us.''
``With the first autopsy, we all knew that something was amiss. Something was awry . . . It was false. We knew that. And for us to desecrate his grave to prove it, then, Martin, we have given you justice today.''
Martin was taken to the boot camp, located only blocks from his home, after he was convicted of taking a joyride in his grandmother's Jeep. A use-of-force report prepared by guards, and obtained by The Miami Herald, shows the teen complained after running several laps that he ``was tired and couldn't breathe good enough to run any more.''
During the next 40 minutes, according to the report, guards delivered ''knee strikes'' to Martin's legs, ''hammer strike'' punches to his arms and several ''pressure points'' to his head -- all in an effort to force the teen to continue running. The pressure point restraints were banned by the state at almost all juvenile programs two years ago.
The videotape that details much of Martin's last hour at the camp was viewed nationwide after The Miami Herald and CNN sued the Florida Department of Law Enforcement under Florida's public records law for its release. The state law enforcement agency is investigating Martin's death.
In his Feb. 16 autopsy, Siebert ruled that Martin died of natural causes, the result of complications of sickle cell trait. At Monday's 12-hour autopsy were Adams, five members of his staff, Baden, Ober and two lawyers for Martin's parents. Also present was Siebert, who has said he was there only to ``observe.''
''The thing that kept running through my mind was that this is science and technology, but on that medical slab was a human being,'' said the family's attorney, Benjamin Crump, who accepted an offer of Ober's cologne to help mask the smell of death. ``That was the thing I thought about the whole time.''
Crump, who has maintained steadfastly that Martin did not die of natural causes, said he will only feel ''vindicated'' by the new autopsy ``if somebody is held accountable for Martin's death.''
Dr. Baden, chief of forensic pathology for the New York state police and a 30-year member of the Medical Review Board of New York's Commission on Corrections, said in a lengthy interview Tuesday that Siebert had either failed to take into account -- or had missed -- several important clues to Martin's death. ''He had missed a number of bruises on Martin's body,'' said Baden, who declined to elaborate on the location of the bruises for fear of compromising Ober's investigation.
Baden said Siebert also did not take into account blood tests taken at Panama City and Pensacola hospitals before Martin was declared dead that showed no evidence of the mutation of red blood cells, called ''sickling,'' that is characteristic of the trait. The sickling of cells discovered at Siebert's autopsy is commonly seen after someone with the disorder already is dead -- the result of oxygen deprivation that occurs post-mortem. ''In between the guards talking to him, and his going out on a stretcher, [Martin] lost the ability to live,'' said Baden.
Miami Herald staff writers Marc Caputo, Jacob Goldstein and Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.