The New York City medical examiner’s office concluded in August that Epstein 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 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 Baden, who observed the autopsy done by city officials.
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 Baden were strongly disputed by the city’s chief medical examiner, Dr Barbara Sampson, who previously ruled that Epstein’s death Aug. 10 in the Metropolitan Correctional Centre was a suicide.
“I stand firmly behind our determination of the cause and manner of death in this case,” Sampson said in an interview 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 in a man.
Sampson also dismissed Baden’s contention that the circumstances around 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.
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, Baden said 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 Epstein had several bones broken in his neck. But the city medical examiner said Epstein’s death was “hanging” and the manner was “suicide.”
Before that determination was made public, an article in The Washington Post noted Epstein’s injuries included a broken hyoid 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 Epstein may have been killed 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, head of Elite Medical Experts, a consulting firm based in Arizona, echoed that scepticism. “It’s not 100%,” he said. “It’s not even going to get us to 90%.”
The 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 failed attempt to take his own life.
Epstein was a wealthy financier and convicted sex offender. He used his money and connections to get a widely criticised plea deal in Florida in 2008 after several teenage girls gave sworn statements to police stating that Epstein had sexually abused them at his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida. 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 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 perform sex acts with him for money.
A spokesman for the US attorney’s office in Manhattan had no comment on Baden’s statements about Epstein’s death.
The criminal case against Epstein was closed after his death, but in the final court hearing in August, Epstein’s lawyers said they were not satisfied with the city medical examiner’s findings.
On Wednesday, one of the lawyers, Martin Weinberg, said Baden’s comments on Fox were consistent with the concerns he had previously raised.
This is hardly the first time Baden has generated headlines. In 1979, the city health commissioner wrote a letter to Koch — who was the mayor at the time — saying that Baden had “exhibited poor judgment in many instances,” including when he said that it appeared former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller “had died during sexual intercourse.” He denied saying the remark.
In 1995, when OJ Simpson was on trial for the murders of his former wife and her companion, Baden testified that evidence pointed to Simpson’s innocence. He said that the timeline of Simpson’s whereabouts that night would not have given him enough time to commit the murders.
Baden, who was featured in an HBO documentary series about his work, estimated he has conducted more than 20,000 autopsies.
© 2019 New York Times News Service