Details on Why A Federal Judge Sealed Alton Sterling's Autopsy Report

Details on Why A Federal Judge Sealed Alton Sterling's Autopsy Report

What the coroner has to say about the rare order.

Published August 3, 2016

A federal judge presiding over the Alton Sterling case has ordered the official autopsy report to be sealed. The judge has prohibited officials from publicly releasing the report that accounts for the death of Sterling, 37, who was killed by police in Baton Rouge. 

East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark, the coroner who performed the autopsy, also said that he is prohibited from releasing the judge’s report that orders the autopsy to be sealed.

Clark notes that this order is uncommon. In fact, he said that this is the first time since he became the parish coroner that a federal judge has ever ordered the sealing of an autopsy report.

Last month, Clark announced that the autopsy showed Sterling died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and back; however, now that the official report has been sealed, no additional information or findings will be disclosed.

Over the course of criminal investigations, autopsy reports are typically released to the public. However, Samuel Bagenstos, a University of Michigan law professor who served as the Justice Department's principal deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights, believes that this may have been done to preserve privacy.

Last month, a cellphone camera captured a scuffle between Sterling and officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II outside of a convenience store where Sterling sold CDs. Police claim that Sterling had a weapon, even though the owner of the store said that Sterling was not holding a gun during the time of the shooting.

The officers have been placed on administrative leave, and the U.S. Department of Justice has launched a civil rights investigation into Sterling’s death.

Written by Rachel Herron

(Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images)


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