UPDATED Oct. 9, 2007 – The medical examiner who refuted an earlier autopsy of a teen who died at a Florida boot camp for troubled youths said he took his time reaching his conclusion that the guards killed the boy and not sickle-cell disease.
Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Dr. Vernard Adams, who took the stand Friday in the manslaughter trial of seven guards and a nurse charged with killing Martin Lee Anderson, said the 14-year-old died after staff hit him and pushed ammonia capsules up his nose while covering his mouth.
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Adams’ medical report contradicted an earlier autopsy by Bay County Medical Examiner Dr. Charles Siebert, who said Martin died from natural causes. Martin did in fact have sickle cell trait, but Adams said the officers actions were enough to kill the youth even if he didn’t have the disorder.
"My opinion is there is enough suffocation going on here to kill anybody," Adams said, The Associated Press reported.
In addition to poring through Anderson’s medical records, Adams said he watched an enhanced video of the scuffle between Martin and the guards.
"It does not require a medical person to determine this. The video clearly shows his airway was obstructed by an external agency," Adams said.
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The disturbing footage shows five White guards and two Black guards punching and kneeing Martin Lee Anderson, who eventually collapses, while a nurse stands back and watches with her hands on her hips.
But the horror didn’t end there.
The guards are also seen pushing ammonia capsules up Martin’s nose while covering his mouth.
Meanwhile, the defense team argues that, since Martin fainted while running laps in the recreation area, it is quite likely that sickle cell, which undermines the ability of blood cells to carry oxygen, triggered his death.
Former guards, Henry Dickens, Charles Enfinger, Patrick Garrett, Raymond Hauck, Charles Helms Jr., Henry McFadden Jr. and Joseph Walsh II, and a former nurse Kristin Schmidt, all face charges for in the incident.
Martin’s family have already received $5 million from the state in a settlement, and the boot camps in Florida have gone through a major overhaul because of Anderson’s death.
But the all-White jury chosen to hear the case leaves Anderson’s family members and civil rights groups questioning whether justice will actually be served.
“Will an all-White jury convict?" asks Benjamin Crump, the Anderson family attorney, The Tampa Tribune reports. He added that the parents "would be very surprised if we get what we feel will be a fair verdict."