July 18, 2008

Murder as Magic Trick

The Washington Post finally develops some skepticism (after uncritically relaying the suicide theory peddled by attorneys for some of the prison guards in the death of Ronnie L. White:

Five medical examiners from across the country interviewed by The Washington Post said it would have been difficult for White to have broken the hyoid bone in his neck by hanging himself.

Bobby Henry, an attorney for White's family, said that he does not think White committed suicide and that any discussion of such rumors distracts from the homicide investigation.

"The medical examiner's office has already given the cause of death, and that is not going to change," Henry said. White's "neck was broken, and he was strangled to death. There's nothing that can change that, nothing. . . . You can't willy-nilly come up with a convenient explanation three weeks later of suicide."

The medical examiners interviewed by The Post noted that the hyoid, a U-shaped piece of bone and cartilage just above the Adam's apple that helps form the airway, is fairly flexible in young adults and was more likely to be broken by a violent strangulation than a hanging.

This bit could have been presented with a bit more skepticism:

The revelation of additional evidence -- sources said a bedsheet was found in or near White's cell-- appears to lend some credence to the suicide theory. But it's unclear where, when and in what condition detectives found the sheet. If it was removed from White's cell, it could amount to tampering with evidence, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Now, why hasn't the Post published photos of the crime scene? Why hasn't the paper gotten a timeline of what happened after the body was discovered -- who found it, how many people entered the cell, at what point were guards told to preserve evidence, etc? And why is the Post presenting the suicide theory as even being vaguely respectable (White's body was not found hanging from the rafters, but on the floor). Did he hang himself and, with has last bit of strength, pull down the bed sheet and force it through the small opening for food trays in the door to his cell?

Posted by Ideofact at July 18, 2008 07:14 AM