Viewers were stunned by what they saw on the nightly news; a video showing a young boy, who later died, being badly beaten by guards at a Florida boot camp. Anyone seeing the video did not need to be a forensic pathologist to conclude that the vicious beating had to have left significant bruises on the victim and that it probably played some role in the death.
Anyone, that is, except the Bay County Medical Examiner, whose office conducted the original autopsy on 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson.
That autopsy concluded that the boy had died of Ã¢â‚¬Å“natural causesÃ¢â‚¬Â associated with sickle cell disease. There was no mention of bruises on the body, or any discussion of foul play. Was this a bad autopsy, the accidental omission of information from the report, or an attempt to cover-up a brutal homicide?
Had the video not surfaced after the Ã¢â‚¬Å“officialÃ¢â‚¬Â autopsy, there is little doubt that the findings would never have been challenged. But the video did appear, and with it came charges that the autopsy had been nothing more than part of a cover-up.
As a result, a second autopsy was carried out this week. Noted forensic pathologist, Michael Baden, who was an observer at the new autopsy, said Ã¢â‚¬Å“You can see from the video that you would expect to find bruises.Ã¢â‚¬Â
And that is precisely what the second autopsy found; bruising that was consistent with the wounds being inflicted on the video. In addition, new blood tests also disprove the Ã¢â‚¬Å“sickle cell diseaseÃ¢â‚¬Â diagnosis.
Andersen was arrested in June 2005 along with 5 other youths for joy riding in his grandmother’s car. After violating the terms of his probation, he was sent to boot camp, where he arrived on January 5.
Just two hours after his arrival, however, the boy was in an ambulance being rushed to a local hospital after being Ã¢â‚¬Å“disciplinedÃ¢â‚¬Â for not completing an exercise.
According to Dr. Baden, the bruises on the body were consistent with the beating shown on the video. The bruises that were not even mentioned in the original autopsy report that was filed before the video was made public.
Baden also claims to have found other Ã¢â‚¬Å“mistakesÃ¢â‚¬Â in that report including a failure to test blood samples taken in the ambulance. The blood sample upon which the erroneous sickle cell finding was made was supposedly taken after the boy died.
Baden has characterized the vicious beating as Ã¢â‚¬Å“thuggeryÃ¢â‚¬Â that had noting to do with discipline.
Clearly, the initial autopsy has been completely discredited and the case is far from closed.