New York City’s chief medical examiner pushed back hard Wednesday against a celebrity pathologist-for-hire’s conspiracy-stirring claim that Jeffrey Epstein’s autopsy was more consistent with homicide than suicide.
“The original medical investigation was thorough and complete. There is no reason for a second medical investigation by our office,” said Dr. Barbara Sampson.
Sampson determined Epstein died by suicide from hanging in his jail cell in August, while he was awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges.
Epstein’s lawyers and family have refused to accept her finding, and the disgraced financier’s brother hired Dr. Michael Baden—erstwhile host of HBO’s Autopsy—to do his own investigation.
During an appearance Wednesday morning on Fox News, where he is a contributor, Baden said his own review isn’t complete but nonetheless suggested that suicide isn’t the cause of death.
He claimed a collection of neck fractures in Epstein’s hyoid bone and thyroid cartilage “are extremely unusual in suicidal hangings and could occur much more commonly in homicidal strangulation.”
“I’ve not seen in 50 years where that occurred in a suicidal hanging case,” Baden said.
Although more common in homicidal strangulation cases, some studies have found that hyoid and thyroid fractures are not rare in suicidal hangings.
A 2000 study in Australia found fractures in nearly half the 40 suicide cases it examined and said they were even more common in older victims and men; in fact, 15 percent had fractures of both the hyoid and the thyroid. And a 2010 study out of Thailand found such fractures in 25 percent of the confirmed suicides it reviewed.
Baden, who observed the autopsy performed by Sampson, served briefly as the city’s chief medical examiner before being fired in 1979 by then-Mayor Ed Koch in response to a complaint that he told doctors during a guest-speaking event that Gov. Nelson Rockefeller had died during sexual intercourse.
Three years later, he was dismissed as chief deputy medical examiner by Suffolk County, New York, over a magazine article about ways to kill that wouldn’t show up in an autopsy; he protested that he was misquoted.
In the '70s, Baden helped Congress investigate the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.—he concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray, respectively, were the killers—but became famous for serving as a private pathologist in high-profile cases like the Aaron Hernandez suicide, the O.J. Simpson murder trial, and the Jayson Williams shooting. He also served as a defense witness in the Phil Spector murder trial, where he reportedly testified that he had no conflict of interest in the case even though his wife was heading Spector’s legal team.
Baden isn’t the only one skeptical about the official account of Epstein’s death at the high-security federal lockup in Manhattan, which is currently the subject of a Justice Department probe.
Spencer Kuvin, a lawyer representing victims of Epstein, said serious questions remain, including the whereabouts of the guards assigned to monitor him, why the cameras outside his cell apparently didn’t work, and why he was taken off suicide watch.
“It all makes no sense. Until they come out with the evidence, I don’t believe anything they’re telling us,” Kuvin said. “Exactly what happened I can’t tell you, but I certainly don’t believe the story they’re trying to feed everyone.”
Sigrid McCawley, an attorney at Boies Schiller Flexner, the law firm representing some of Epstein’s victims, said the ongoing Justice Department probe “limits what can and should be said at this time.”
“But as the public has come to to understand the horrifying scope and scale of the international sex trafficking system he operated for decades with impunity, what really matters for the brave survivors who are seeking justice is how he lived, not how he died,” she said. “That is how the man should be judged.”
Kuvin said his clients are “more interested in seeing co-conspirators prosecuted” than in delving into Epstein autopsy theories.
“The justice system failed. They either allowed him to take his own life or someone got in there and killed him,” Kuvin told The Daily Beast. “Either way, it’s a failure of the Justice Department… [which] has failed them repeatedly over the last 13 years. This was just one more time.”
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741