Days after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died suddenly in remote West Texas, a former District of Columbia homicide commander is raising questions about how the death was handled by local and federal authorities.
“As a former homicide commander, I am stunned that no autopsy was ordered for Justice Scalia,” William Ritchie, former head of criminal investigations for the District of Columbia police, wrote in a post on Facebook.
Scalia was found dead in his room at at a luxury hunting resort in the state’s Big Bend region by the resort’s owner. It took hours for authorities to find a justice of the peace, who pronounced him dead of natural causes without seeing the body–which is permissble under Texas law – and without ordering an autopsy.
On Sunday, the U.S. Marshals Service, which provides security for Supreme Court justices, said Scalia had declined a security detail while at the ranch, so marshals were not present when he died. When the marsals were notified, deputy marshals from the Western District of Texas went to the scene, the service said in a statement.
Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara said she declared Scalia dead based on information from law enforcement officials on the scene, who assured her “there were no signs of foul play.” She also spoke to Scalia’s doctor, who told her that the justice had been to see him on Wednesday and Thursday last week for a shoulder injury, and that the physician had ordered an MRI, according to WFAA-TV in Dallas. The 79-year-old justice also suffered from several chronic conditions, Guevara said.
The manager of the El Paso funeral home that handled Scalia’s body said Scalia’s family insisted against an autopsy. But the decision has spawned a host of conspiracy theories online, as well as skeptical questions from law enforcement experts such as Ritchie.
“You have a Supreme Court Justice who died, not in attendance of a physician,” he wrote. “You have a non-homicide trained US Marshal tell the justice of peace that no foul play was observed. You have a justice of the peace pronounce death while not being on the scene and without any medical training opining that the justice died of a heart attack. What medical proof exists of a myocardial Infarction? Why not a cerebral hemorrhage?”
Ritchie also raised questions about the marshals’ actions:
“How can the Marshal say, without a thorough post mortem, that he was not injected with an illegal substance that would simulate a heart attack…”
A spokesman for the marshals service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(C) 2016, The Washington Post · Lena H. Sun, Sari Horwitz