The New York City medical examiner strongly disputed the claim that evidence from the autopsy suggested strangulation.
A forensic pathologist hired by Jeffrey Epstein’s brother disputed the official finding in the autopsy of his death, claiming on Wednesday that the evidence suggested that he did not take his own life but may have been strangled.
The New York City medical examiner’s office concluded in August that Mr. Epstein had hanged himself in his jail cell while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges.
But the private pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden, said on the morning TV show “Fox & Friends” that Mr. Epstein, 66, experienced a number of injuries — among them a broken bone in his neck — that “are extremely unusual in suicidal hangings and could occur much more commonly in homicidal strangulation.”
“I think that the evidence points to homicide rather than suicide,” said Dr. Baden, who observed the autopsy done by city officials.
Dr. Baden, a former New York City medical examiner and a Fox News contributor, added, “I’ve not seen in 50 years where that occurred in a suicidal hanging case.”
The findings by Dr. Baden were strongly disputed by the city’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Barbara Sampson, who previously ruled that Mr. Epstein’s death on Aug. 10 in the Metropolitan Correctional Center was a suicide.
“I stand firmly behind our determination of the cause and manner of death in this case,” Dr. Sampson said in an interview on Wednesday. She added: “In general, fractures of the hyoid bone and the cartilage can be seen in suicides and homicides.”
The hyoid is a bone near the Adam’s apple.
Dr. Sampson also dismissed Dr. Baden’s contention that the circumstances around Mr. Epstein’s death suggested other people may have been involved. She said her office had done a “complete investigation,” taking into consideration information gathered by law enforcement in making the determination.
“No one finding can be taken in isolation,” she said.
Dr. Baden served briefly as New York City’s medical examiner. He was provisionally appointed to the position in 1978 and dismissed just a year later, by Mayor Edward I. Koch. In later years, he went on to work as a consultant on a number of high-profile cases.
On Wednesday, Dr. Baden said Mr. Epstein had “three fractures in the hyoid bone, the thyroid cartilage.” He said those injuries were “very unusual for suicide and more indicative of strangulation — homicidal strangulation.”
The autopsy also showed Mr. Epstein had several bones broken in his neck. The city medical examiner said Mr. Epstein’s death was “hanging” and the manner was “suicide.”
Before that determination was made public, an article in The Washington Post noted Mr. Epstein’s injuries included a broken thyoid bone, an injury that could have been a sign of strangulation, as well as suicide by hanging.
The article helped fuel conspiracy theories that speculated Mr. Epstein may have been murdered in order to prevent him from ensnaring his coterie of rich and powerful friends into his legal woes.
At the time, several medical officials cautioned against relying solely on the broken hyoid as evidence of strangulation. “It’s not a slam dunk,” Marcella Sorg, a forensic anthropologist, said in an interview. She said a broken hyoid is “a sign of neck trauma” that can occur in both strangulation and hanging cases.
Dr. Burton Bentley II, the head of Elite Medical Experts, a consulting firm based in Arizona, echoed that skepticism. “It’s not a hundred percent,” he said. “It’s not even going to get us to ninety.”
Mr. Epstein’s death led to several investigations into how a high-profile inmate apparently killed himself just weeks after he was placed on suicide watch after a previous failed attempt to take his own life.
Mr. Epstein was a wealthy financier and convicted sex offender. He used his money and connections to get a widely criticized plea deal in Florida in 2008 after several teenage girls gave sworn statements to the police stating that Mr. Epstein had sexually abused them at his mansion in Palm Beach, Fla. He spent 13 months in jail, but was allowed to leave for 12 hours a day, six days a week.
In July, federal officials arrested Mr. Epstein at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and charged him with sex trafficking. He was accused of luring numerous underage girls to his homes in New York City and Florida then coercing them to perform sex acts with him for money.
A spokesman for the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan had no comment on Dr. Baden’s statements about Mr. Epstein’s death.
The criminal case against Mr. Epstein was closed after his death, but in the final court hearing in August, Mr. Epstein’s lawyers said they were not satisfied with the city medical examiner’s findings.
On Wednesday, one of the lawyers, Martin Weinberg, said Dr. Baden’s comments on Fox were consistent with the concerns he had previously raised.
This is hardly the first time Dr. Baden has generated headlines. In 1979, the city health commissioner wrote a letter to Mr. Koch — who was the mayor at the time — saying that Dr. Baden had “exhibited poor judgment in many instances,” including when he said that it appeared former Governor Nelson Rockefeller “had died during sexual intercourse.” He denied saying the remark.
In 1995, when O.J. Simpson was on trial for the murders of his former wife and her companion, Dr. Baden testified that evidence pointed to Mr. Simpson’s innocence. He said that the timeline of Mr. Simpson’s whereabouts that night would not have given him enough time to commit the murders.
Dr. Baden, who was featured in an HBO documentary series about his work, estimated he has conducted more than 20,000 autopsies.
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/30/nyre ... baden.html