Did a Forensic Pathologist Say That Jeffrey Epstein’s Death Looks More Like Homicide Than Suicide?
On October 30 2019, media and its social counterpart were awash in a bombshell claim that a pathologist said that Jeffrey Epstein’s death looked more like a homicide than a suicide:
Jeffrey Epstein's autopsy shows signs of homicide, not suicide, according to forensic pathologist https://t.co/D4RhYb9DvP
— fox8news (@fox8news) October 30, 2019
Jeffrey Epstein's death was 'likely homicide, not suicide', says famed NYC pathologist https://t.co/nl1uXtjzQB
— The Independent (@Independent) October 30, 2019
Medical Examiner: Epstein Autopsy More Consistent with Homicidal Strangulation Than Suicide https://t.co/gIHlwvhInX
— Total Resistance (@TotalResister) October 30, 2019
Forensic pathologist says in 50 years he's never seen injuries like the ones Epstein experienced in a suicidal hanging https://t.co/SoyE12wrti
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) October 30, 2019
Headlines like “Medical Examiner: Epstein Autopsy More Consistent with Homicidal Strangulation Than Suicide” led to the widespread belief that a medical examiner had ruled that Epstein’s injuries resembled those of a homicide (as widely speculated) versus a suicide (the “official” line.) A Breitbart article with that headline stated in part:
Epstein, who was found hanging in his prison cell at the high-security Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, had been on suicide watch and was found after a “total breakdown” in security surveillance, [Dr. Michael] Baden noted.
“I think that the evidence points toward homicide rather than suicide,” Baden, who was asked by Epstein’s family to investigate the death, declared.
Use of the word “declared” hinted — perhaps inadvertently — that Baden’s commentary constituted official findings in an investigation. An October 30 2019 Miami Herald piece (“Jeffrey Epstein’s injuries look more like murder than suicide, noted pathologist says”) began by reporting that Epstein’s brother Mark did not believe Epstein killed himself, and so he hired Baden, who also moonlights as a television show host and Fox News contributor, to offer a second opinion:
Since his brother was found dead in a New York City federal jail in August , Mark Epstein has been worried that his life, and the lives of other people, may be in danger because federal authorities, believing that Epstein committed suicide, have not fully investigated what happened to his brother, sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.
Now a private forensic pathologist hired by Mark Epstein to oversee his brother’s autopsy bolsters what conspiracy theorists have suggested for months: that the evidence does not support the finding that Jeffrey Epstein killed himself.
Dr. Michael Baden, one of the world’s leading forensic pathologists, viewed Jeffrey Epstein’s body and was present at the autopsy … In an interview with the Miami Herald, Baden described Epstein’s jail cell, the ligature he allegedly used to hang himself, and his own suspicions that federal authorities have not conducted a thorough probe into Epstein’s cause and manner of death.
“They rushed the body out of the jail, which they shouldn’t do because that destroys the evidence,’’ Baden told the Herald.
“The brother doesn’t think it was suicide — he is concerned it might be murder. It’s 80 days now and if, in fact , it is a homicide other people might be in jeopardy,” Baden said.
During an October 30 2019 appearance on the Fox News show Fox & Friends, Baden claimed that Epstein “had two fractures on the left and right sides of his larynx.” Baden, who says he was “present” at Epstein’s autopsy and “viewed” his body, said that it was unusual for one or more bones to be fractured in a hanging. Epstein suffered multiple fractures. The Herald quoted Baden as saying fractures in general “are extremely unusual in suicidal hangings and could occur much more commonly in homicidal strangulation.”
Baden also observed hemorrhaging in Epstein’s eyes, which he said are “more common” in strangulation than hanging. The outlet noted that Baden’s conclusions based on his observation were not totally aligned with the ruling of New York City Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson of a suicide by hanging, adding:
[Baden] also explained that the pathologist who actually conducted the autopsy, Dr. Kristin Roman, also had trouble determining that Epstein hanged himself, and ruled that he manner of death was “pending.’’
“The autopsy did not support suicide,’’ Baden said. “That’s what she put down. Then Dr. Sampson changed it a week later to manner of death to suicide. The brother has been trying to find out why that changed … what was the evidence?”
Fox News also published an article about Baden’s commentary:
While there’s not enough information to be conclusive yet, the three fractures were “rare,” said Baden, who’s probed cases involving O.J. Simpson, President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, record producer Phil Spector, New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez and many others.
“I’ve not seen in 50 years where that occurred in a suicidal hanging case,” the 85-year-old medical legend told Fox News … There were also hemorrhages in Epstein’s eyes that were common in homicidal strangulation and uncommon, though not unheard of, in suicidal hangings, the forensic pathologist said.
“Those three fractures are extremely unusual in suicidal hangings and could occur much more commonly in homicidal strangulation,” Baden, who is also a Fox News contributor, said.
The New York Post also quoted Baden’s Fox & Friends appearance on October 30 2019:
“The issue would be, did somebody come in and cause his death?”
There would be no shortage of people keen to kill the pedophile, the pathologist admitted.
“There were 800 other people in the correctional facility and most of them would have liked to have gotten their hands on him,” he said, both because of the sex crimes and the chance to “make a name for themselves.”
However, he stressed, “A number of people had to be involved if this was a homicide.”
“It’s 80 days now and the brother feels he is getting a runaround,” Baden said.
On August 13 2019, the New York Daily News published an op-ed about Epstein’s death three days before. The piece, written by a former inmate familiar with jailhouse methods of suicide, the article explains exactly how a suicide by hanging differs in prison:
At night, guards cannot wake everyone up every half-hour to make sure they’re alive. Instead, guards check for breathing. Staff makes rounds every half-hour, peeking in to make sure everything’s alright. A friend in a maximum security prison simply waited for rounds to pass to hang himself with a sheet from the top of his door immediately after. No great height is required if you tuck your knees in and drop off the steel sink. Soaping the noose ensures that it will swiftly and silently break your neck rather than strangling you slowly.
Although hanging is typically associated with a drop from a height, inmates must circumvent the lack of closets, rails, and kickable chairs to end their lives in a suicide.
On August 16 2019, the New York Times reported further details of Epstein’s death from his autopsy, noting Baden’s presence as an observer, but referring to him only as “a private pathologist” without naming him:
Guards on their morning rounds found Mr. Epstein at about 6:30 a.m. [on August 10 2019], prison officials said. He appeared to have tied a bedsheet to the top of a set of bunk beds, then knelt toward the floor with enough force that he broke several bones in his neck, officials said … Dr. Sampson, the medical examiner, said on Sunday night that her office had conducted an autopsy of Mr. Epstein but declined to release a determination about the cause of death. A city official said at the time that she wanted more information from law enforcement before releasing her determination. A private pathologist hired by Mr. Epstein’s lawyer observed the autopsy.
The Times article concluded by noting that the broken bones cited by Baden fueled suspicion at the time the story was first reported, for the same reasons. Sampson, who performed the autopsy, indicated that particular finding alone was not entirely out of the realm of possibility:
[On August 15 2019], an article in The Washington Post fueled further speculation when it reported that Mr. Epstein’s autopsy showed that he had a broken hyoid bone that could have been a sign of strangulation as well as of suicide by hanging. But Dr. Sampson and several experts cautioned against drawing conclusions, saying the broken bones were consistent with hanging, especially in an older man.
After Dr. Baden’s October 30 2019 Fox & Friends appearance, many news organizations reported that a private pathologist had claimed that Epstein’s death was a homicide and not a suicide. However, what we really found out was who the private pathologist present at the autopsy and hired by Mark Epstein had been — Dr. Michael Baden. Baden pointed to elements of the suicide that were uncommon, but Epstein’s hanging death was itself uncommon due to its location (a jail) and workarounds undertaken because of that. Baden said the findings — reported initially after Epstein’s death — could point to homicide, not that they did point to homicide.
Baden was observing and hired on behalf of Mark Epstein, partly due to his client’s fear that he and other family members were endangered if Jeffrey Epstein had indeed been murdered. Baden acknowledged that Mark Epstein’s fears were unfounded, and while he observed the autopsy and the body, he was not performing it and drew his inferences through observation. The same details (broken or fractured bones and ocular hemorrhage) were noted in the official autopsy, which ruled that Epstein’s death was a suicide by hanging.