NEW YORK — The medical examiner who ruled Jeffrey Epstein’s death a suicide immediately pushed back Wednesday against the suggestion by a longtime forensic pathologist hired by Epstein’s family that some of the evidence indicates homicide.
Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson said she stands “firmly” behind her findings in the August autopsy report, which ruled Epstein hanged himself and temporarily quelled much of the speculation surrounding the financier’s death.
Conspiracy theories about Epstein’s death were reignited after Dr. Michael Baden, who was in the room for Epstein’s autopsy and has been called as an expert witness in high-profile cases, spoke about it in an interview Wednesday on the TV program “Fox & Friends.” Baden’s comments suggest Epstein’s family might contest the autopsy results in future legal proceedings.
Baden said that injuries found on Epstein’s body, including fractures to his larynx and hyoid bone, were “extremely unusual in suicidal hangings” and more consistent with “homicidal strangulation.”
“There’s evidence here of homicide that should be investigated, to see if it is or isn’t homicide,” he said.
Baden, who was New York City’s chief medical examiner in the late 1970s, said he hasn’t seen the type of neck bone injuries Epstein suffered in a suicide in 50 years of death investigations. He cautioned, though, that his observations were not conclusive.
Sampson quickly responded to Baden’s comments, saying, “I stand firmly behind our determination of the cause and manner of death for Mr. Epstein. The cause is hanging, the manner is suicide,” she said.
Other experts have said injuries to the hyoid bone do happen in suicidal hangings, and while not common are more likely to happen in hangings involving older people. Epstein was 66.
Sampson said no conclusions should be drawn from a lone injury or piece of evidence.
“In forensics, it’s a general principle that all information from all aspects of an investigation must be considered together,” Sampson said. “Everything must be consistent and nothing can be inconsistent, and no one finding can be taken in isolation. You can’t draw a conclusion from one finding. Everything about the case has to be considered.”
Baden said he went on Fox to discuss the matter because Epstein’s brother, Mark, is concerned with what he sees as a lack of progress in the death investigation.
Attorney General William Barr has promised a thorough investigation into how Epstein died, though that inquiry has focused on the conduct of guards who were supposed to have been watching Epstein the night he died. He has criticized the jail for “serious irregularities.”
Mark Epstein has been having trouble getting information from the federal authorities and the medical examiner’s office about other possible steps in the probe, such as testing any DNA found on the bedsheet and interviews with the correctional officers on duty that day, Baden said.
“He’s frustrated that after the medical examiner called it a suicide, that ended the investigation,” Baden said.
Epstein’s death touched off outrage that such a high-profile prisoner could have gone unwatched.
Jail guards on Epstein’s unit failed to check on him every half hour, as required, and are suspected of falsifying log entries to show they had, according to several people familiar with the matter. Both were working overtime because of staffing shortages, the people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they lacked authorization to publicly discuss the investigation.
Epstein was charged with sexually abusing numerous underage girls over several years, which came years after he served an 18-month sentence in Florida for prostitution involving a minor.