#SandraBland | Circumstances of a murder staged as a suicide?

Let’s see if we can start a thread from the forensic community about some of these issues .

The family of Sandra Bland, who died while in a county jail in Texas this week, has made it clear that the authorities’ (at this point the police in charge of the jail) statement that she committed suicide by self-asphyxiation is unacceptable and patently questionable.

A forensic re-phrasing of what the family says is that her asphyxiation was “staged” to look like suicide. That changes the manner of death to murder, not suicide.

So what proof is necessary to determine such a change in this outcome? Remember she was asphyxiated by a trashbag.

I am not a pathologist, but the the following  first came to my mind about the possibility of what physical evidence could support the family’s current position of rejecting what the authority have claimed up to this point. This is by no means a comprehensive list. The media and the family’s representatives will need to know.

The best scenario for the family would be:

1) Authorities immediately followed proper crime scene protocol after the body was discovered. This means isolating the jail area (beyond the immediate cell) from any unnecessary access. Were EMT’s called? Some say not.  In any event, the trashbag becomes the prime source for fingerprints and “touch DNA” collection. If no EMTs arrived, its a surety that jail personnel touched it. Let’s hope that they were wearing surgical gloves. If not, there could also be prints etc. from whomever originally placed it in the cell. Or maybe someone else directly involved in this mystery.

2) Sandra’s full autopsy being performed by a certified forensic pathologist. They seem to be plentiful in Texas an though in some areas the pathologist is not local. Headline cases like this commonly have the family hiring a second forensic pathologist to review the records of the state’s medical expert. Rarely, if ever, would a family retained pathologist be permitted at the primary autopsy.

3) The autopsy itself. The external inspection of her remains is particularly crucial. Victims of murder are not cooperative and signs of a struggle (not resuscitation efforts) relating to bruising, torn fingernails (also a source of a perp’s DNA from being scratched) would be compelling evidence to rebut the claim of suicide.

4) Lets see what other qualified folks can add to this list.

 

About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
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3 Responses to #SandraBland | Circumstances of a murder staged as a suicide?

  1. mbhauptle says:

    The ligature furrow mark in the neck ought be a characteristic inverted “V”, if she hanged herself. I would obtain other inmate “witness” statements as to what they did or did not overhear, coming from her cell.

  2. csidds says:

    Thanks MB. We will have to wait for the LE to see how much info they release from the autopsy. Of course, it could take weeks.

  3. csidds says:

    Reblogged this on FORENSICS in FOCUS @ CSIDDS | News and Trends and commented:

    More info on the signs of hanging versus asphyxiation. There is a recent sci paper describing a murder staged as a hanging suicide.
    From Mary Beth Hauptle.
    The ligature furrow mark in the neck ought be a characteristic inverted “V”, if she hanged herself. I would obtain other inmate “witness” statements as to what they did or did not overhear, coming from her cell.

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