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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: March 20, 2006
Latest Update: March 20, 2006
This backup copy is to be used only if the original site on the Web is not accessible. It is meant to preserve the document for teaching purposes, when sometimes the URLS are changed when sites are updated, or sites are eliminated. Please be certain to give credit if you refer to this to the original URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/18/national/18camp.html. Original URL, consulted: March 20, 2006.
March 18, 2006
2nd Autopsy in Youth Boot Camp Death Fails to End Questions
By ABBY GOODNOUGH
MIAMI, March 17 — Martin Lee Anderson was buried a second time this week, more than two months after he died following a confrontation with guards at a boot camp for teenage offenders in the Florida Panhandle. But questions about his death, and whether the state should close all its boot camps in the aftermath, are very much alive.
After supervising a second autopsy of Martin's body on Monday, a special prosecutor appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush disputed the findings of the original pathologist in the case: that the youth had died from complications of sickle cell trait, an undiagnosed blood disorder. But the prosecutor, Mark Ober, would not say more until his broader investigation of the case was finished.
The guards at Bay Boot Camp in Panama City kneed, kicked and hit Martin, 14, after he stopped running during an orientation drill on Jan. 5. He had been sent to the camp for violating probation after stealing his grandmother's car. In a videotape, which the state released after news organizations sued for it, the boy appears limp throughout the encounter.
He died early on Jan. 6, and when the original autopsy report came out a month later, his parents, lawmakers and civil rights groups expressed outrage. Even after Mr. Ober said through a spokeswoman that Martin "did not die of sickle cell trait, nor did he die of a natural cause," the medical examiner who made those findings, Dr. Charles Siebert of Bay County, stood by them.
"I am appalled at the baseless and mean-spirited accusations from special interest groups with little or no knowledge of the evidence in this case," Dr. Siebert said in a statement on Thursday, "who are calling for everything from the revocation of my license to criminal charges."
Dr. Michael Baden, a pathologist who attended the second autopsy on behalf of Martin's family, told a legislative committee in Tallahassee on Friday that Martin had most likely suffocated during the incident and was brain dead by the time an ambulance carried him away.
"There was a time when there were hands over Anderson's mouth," Dr. Baden said in an interview, noting that the guards held ammonia capsules under the boy's nose several times during the incident. "There may have been ammonia capsules blocking his nose, hands blocking his mouth — that could contribute to asphyxia."
The boot camp, run by the Bay County Sheriff's Office, will close next month. In a letter to state officials, Sheriff W. Frank McKeithen said he was closing it because the program had been "virtually paralyzed" after Martin's death.
The seven guards in the incident remain on the job — though not working with young offenders, who have already been cleared from the camp — while Mr. Ober decides whether they should face criminal charges.
Meanwhile, Governor Bush and his Department of Juvenile Justice are reviewing policies for the state's five other boot camps, as the Legislature debates whether they should remain open. Many states have closed military-style boot camps for teenagers in recent years, but Governor Bush said Thursday that they have "yielded a good result," and Anthony Schembri, his juvenile justice secretary, affirmed that assessment in an interview Friday.
"I think the remainder are good options that we can use for certain kids," Mr. Schembri said of the five surviving boot camps, though he said every camp should have education and therapy components.
Martin's parents, Gina Jones and Robert Anderson, said they were appalled to hear that Dr. Siebert had not changed his assessment of Martin's death after the second autopsy, which he attended. In an interview, they said every guard involved in the incident should be arrested immediately, as should a nurse who stood by during the confrontation.
"My baby passed away from the beating," said Ms. Jones, who said her son was an honor student who liked basketball, chess and video games. "It's not only the guards to blame; it's the sheriff, the doctor, the governor. It's time for the governor to step in."
In an interview, Dr. Siebert said Dr. Baden, a former chief medical examiner for New York City, was biased because Martin's parents had sought his involvement.
"I'm charged with coming to a truthful and unbiased manner of death, and I feel that's what I did in this case," he said. "I have nothing to gain by conspiring with anybody."
During a meeting on Friday of the Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee of the Florida House of Representatives, Mr. Schembri's chief of staff, Chris Caballero, said the Juvenile Justice Department might require young offenders to get electrocardiograms and drug tests before entering boot camps.
Mr. Schembri, who would not discuss the Anderson incident except to call it tragic, said he would also revise use-of-force policies at boot camps, which in Florida are for "moderate risk" young offenders.
Representative Dan Gelber, a Miami Beach Democrat on the Criminal Justice Appropriations Committee, said the video suggested that guards at the Bay Boot Camp were following an established use-of-force protocol.
"I just was shocked that the officers seemed to think this was what they were supposed to do," he said. "They clearly were inflicting substantial force on somebody who was not threatening them or himself."
Mr. Gelber added: "They knew the camera was there, they knew they were being filmed, they weren't trying to hide anything. But the notion that you could inflict pain to get somebody to run or say, 'Yes, sir' — that is just un-American."
Christine Jordan Sexton contributed reporting from Tallahassee, Fla., for this article, and Terry Aguayo from Miami.
Copyright 2006The New York Times Company