Tags: Ferguson in Crisis | Michael Brown | forensic | pathologist | context

Pathologist: Statements About Michael Brown Case Misrepresented

By    |   Tuesday, 28 October 2014 09:26 PM

A forensic pathologist who reviewed the autopsy of police shooting victim Michael Brown for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says some of her statements were taken out of context by the newspaper.

Judy Melinek, an associate professor of pathology at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center, told The Washington Post that she didn't say a gunshot wound on the young black man's hand definitively showed he was reaching for the gun of white Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson, as the Post-Dispatch reported.

The St. Louis paper said the analysis bolstered Wilson's claims that Brown, 18, had attacked him.

Instead, Melinek told The Post that the autopsy findings could be viewed differently.

"Bullet trajectory analysis is complex, and you cannot interpret autopsy reports in a vacuum," she told The Post in an email.

"You need the scene data and the witness statements. When a forensic expert says something 'appears to be' or is 'consistent with' the findings, that doesn’t mean it is the only explanation.

"It means it is one possible explanation — one that fits the current forensic data. That opinion might change as other data comes to light."

Melinek also disputed quotes attributed to her declaring the autopsy didn't support contentions that Brown was shot while fleeing, or that he had his hands up when he was killed Aug. 9 by Wilson – an alleged surrender that sparked weeks of anger and protests.

In her email to The Post, Melinek wrote at length about one of at least six shots that hit Brown – a bullet to his right arm that "goes back to front," the newspaper reports.

While noting that "it would not be consistent with the standard 'hands up, palms front' surrender position," Melinek said the wound could have happened in several ways.

It "could be when he was running away if his arm was positioned with the lower back forearm exposed toward the shooter," she wrote.

"This wound could have occurred while Mr. Brown's hands were in the air — but not with his palms facing front. If Mr. Brown's hands were up when this shot hit him, then the back of his right forearm would need to be facing the officer, and the arm would need to be slightly extended at the elbow, to account for the 'slightly upward' trajectory."

Post-Dispatch editor Gilbert Bailon defended the paper's reporting, saying "We think that we reported it accurately," The Washington Post reports.

But the Post-Dispatch has updated its story with an editor's note saying Melinek "has since sought to qualify" her comments.

She also posted an account of her exchange with the Post-Dispatch on her blog.

Meanwhile, Fox affiliate KTVI reports that many businesses are looking at contingency plans for any civil unrest that might occur when the grand jury decision is made in the shooting case in the next few weeks.

"We have sent out cards to over 200 businesses to let them know how they can prepare for emergencies in the short term," Clayton, Missouri, Police Chief Kevin Murphy told the station, noting that people fear what may happen if the grand jury rules in favor of Wilson.

"It's an anxious time for everybody, I think it's fair to say," he said. "But we're prepared for it. Being the police for the county seat, we have dealt with demonstrations over many years, and I would say over the last six weeks we've had 10 or 15 demonstrations."

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A forensic pathologist who reviewed the autopsy of police shooting victim Michael Brown for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says some of her statements were taken out of context by the newspaper.
Michael Brown, forensic, pathologist, context
Tuesday, 28 October 2014 09:26 PM
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