Saturday, February 18, 2006

Unnatural Causes

posted by The Vidiot @ 2:29 PM Permalink

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Guards beat a prisoner to death. The beating was caught on tape. The ME rules it 'natural causes.'

No, this wasn't Gitmo, it was a Florida punitive boot camp. And the prisoner who died was a 14 year old boy who weighed 140 pounds.

A (not so) brief time line:
On January 6th Martin Lee Anderson, who been sent to the boot camp for a parole violation, died shortly after the intake process. Anderson had been arrested in June for stealing his grandmother's car and was then sent to the boot camp for violating his probation by trespassing at a school.

The body was sent, not to the hospital's morgue where he died, but to a neighboring county's hospital morgue:

Before he issued a controversial autopsy report on Martin Lee Anderson, Bay County's chief medical examiner said it was ''highly unusual'' that the local sheriff requested him to perform the procedure in the first place because the death did not occur in his county, according to a state report.
[Benjamin Crump, lawyer for Martin's family] said Martin should have had an autopsy in Escambia County, where he died at Pensacola's Sacred Heart Hospital. The family is also concerned about ties between the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the sheriff's office. FDLE Commissioner Guy Tunnell was Bay's sheriff and founded the boot camp. An FDLE spokesman said it's conducting a fair probe.

Jeff Martin, chief investigator for Escambia's medical examiner, said his agency didn't perform Martin's autopsy ''as a courtesy'' to its Bay counterparts and FDLE. [Ed: If I die in this county, please don't do me any courtesies.]

''It's not uncommon to change jurisdiction,'' said Martin, but noted that in his two years in the office he had never seen such a request.
Well, OK then, it's not uncommon, but it had never before happened in his experience.

But wait, there's more:

The report, released Thursday, said 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson didn't die because he was beaten by guards. Instead, strenuous exercise triggered an unusual blood reaction because of his sickle cell trait, said medical examiner Charles F. Siebert Jr.

From the same article:

Siebert's report created a storm of controversy. Some of Florida's best-known sickle-cell specialists said it couldn't happen. Unlike sickle cell anemia, which causes crippling pain and other health problems, sickle cell trait is silent, they said.

"In 30 years of taking care of children with sickle cell disease, I never, ever heard of anybody dying from sickle cell trait," said Dr. Jerry Barbosa, medical director of pediatric hematology oncology at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
Then it became known that a videotape of the induction was made. So the state did the right thing and released it, right? Sadly, No!*

Martin's final moments at the Bay Boot Camp, contained on a grainy 30-minute videotape, were played on televisions throughout the nation Friday after state investigators released the video in settlement of a public records lawsuit filed by the Miami Herald and CNN.

Let's go to the tape, but I warn you it is not suitable for viewing for those with sensitive stomachs, (and it is a 3.8 MB file in WMV format.) I had to turn it off several times, and I really don't want to imagine how his Mom felt:

For more than a month, his mother pleaded with authorities to show her what happened to her son. But when Gina Jones saw the video for the first time Friday, she had to turn away.

A description from the NYT is somewhat less disturbing:

A teenager who died a day after entering a juvenile-detention boot camp was kneed and hit by guards while being restrained the day before his death, a videotape released Friday showed.[...]
Martin, who entered the camp Jan. 5 because of a probation violation, complained of difficulty in breathing and collapsed during exercises that were part of the entry process. He died the next day at a hospital.

The Bay County Sheriff's Department, which runs the camp, said Martin was restrained after he became uncooperative.[Ed: Collapsing is uncooperative!?]

On the surveillance videotape, which lasts 80 minutes and has no sound, as many as nine guards can be seen restraining Martin. Guards kneed him and wrestled him to the ground, where he was repeatedly hit by one guard. He was limp throughout most of the videotape.

The videotape shows that a woman in a white coat was present while the guards restrained Martin and at one point used a stethoscope to check him. Near the end of the confrontation, guards appeared to become more concerned, and several began running in and out of the scene. Emergency medical personnel later arrived and took the boy away.

And the WaPo:

The boy appeared limp for most of the ordeal and never appeared to offer significant resistance. While he lay motionless on the ground, a guard struck him several times, either on his arm or torso.

At one point, a guard struck him from behind, lifting his feet off the ground. At the beginning, as the guards are pinning him against a pole, they struck him three times with their knees.

But now that the tape is out and we all have seen the outrageous conduct, of course Jeb Bush will do the right thing? Sadly, No!*

Bush said he continues to support the boot camp concept.

"I don't believe we should shut down every boot camp because of one tragic accident," he said.
ONE tragic 'accident!?'

Meanwhile, Department of Juvenile Justice officials were grilled Wednesday by a House committee looking for answers on the recent rash of deaths in Florida boot camps. Three teenagers have died in state custody in the past three years

What the hell is wrong with our country that we torture and kill adults and children? That our government even attempts to justify these acts shames all of us. We not only justify these practices against 'illegal combatants', a fictional term invented by Bushco that appears nowhere in the Geneva Conventions or the UN Treaty Against Torture, we use them at home, against children.

* Please don't confuse these references with the great blog Sadly, No!


At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read a blog earlier from a man who said he works with horrible inner-city youths and was sure that this young man deserved what happened to him at the boot camp in Bay Co. Florida. I think he was either lying about his vocation or should not be in the position he is in, as the guards that killed this young man should not have been in the line of work they were in. If this idiot were truly in this profession he would have known the facts of this case and would have known that this child or any child should not die like this. I am not a bleeding heart liberal. I studied criminal justice and law, however came to believe that most of the time there is no justice. Mature adults who should be put to death for raping, killing, torturing innocent victims, typically are not. Right now there is debate about whether lethal injection is "humane" enough for some of these animals, and yet a 14 year old child is beaten to death by people whose paychecks come from our taxes. I have two children and I have tried so hard to instill the value of life in them. I try to make them understand that when someone dies, yes, they go to heaven, but life on earth for them is final. They can't come back. And it not only affects them, but, everyone around them. I guess I don't understand why so many people grow up without having this basic understanding, without knowing the value of life, and without realizing that if you kill someone, you can't take it back. You can't say you're sorry. Oh, I know accidents happen, but I also know a lot of accidents can be avoided. However this boys death was no accident. It was cold blooded and evil, perpetuated by a group of men, who should not only be brought up on murder charges, but should also be beaten one at a time, for a half hour or so by a group of men, so they know what that boy went through. You know a thought occurred to me while I was wondering why children can grow up without realizing how sacred life is. They have adults who belittle them over and over, and show them how little value their lives have. How could they possibly have any respect for any one else's life when they see adults behave like this. Something else that makes me really sad is the fact that there are parts of this country where it seems there is no respect shown to children. I have lived in several parts of the country and moved to Florida in 1999. It seemed to me then that there was not a lot of interest in serving children here then. In fact, it seemed as though all they wanted to do was have extreme control over children in the schools. Three years ago, we moved to Chicago. My children loved the schools there because they were actually allowed to be children. They could ask questions, have discussions with their teachers and classmates and basically taught to respect themselves and others. (By the way) both of my children have always had very good grades in every (5) school district they have been in. We recently were transferred back to Florida and moved right back to the neighborhood we previously lived in. My kids have always remained in touch with their old friends, so starting over wasn't an issue. What was an issue, however, was the fact that they do not like the way they and other children are treated in the schools here. They are not allowed any personal freedom and don't feel that there is a two way respect issue. My middle school son came home after a few days in school here and told me he felt like he was "In boot camp". Those words haunted me after this incident. When I was a kid I remember seeing something that said a child will learn what he lives. Some of these children deserve a lot better than what they are getting. And if they are not learning what is right at home, then maybe as a society we need to step up and teach them how to respect themselves and others. There is a huge difference between abuse and discipline and I believe that if we discipline our children with the respect and the knowledge that they are children,(they will make mistakes from time to time,) but if we truly treat them with dignity while we discipline them and teach them right from wrong, maybe our children won't become the kind of animals that killed this young man.


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