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Monday, June 20, 2016

Chapter Twenty Four - Names and Numbers

***

The phone rings on the table next to me. I look at it. The publisher's assistant - again. I answer tersely, because I'm busy: "What."

"Hey, look, remember what the boss said? Enough with the emotional investment already. No more ad hominem attacks, either. We want data, like we said. C'mon, bro, I went out on a limb for you, remember?"

I pause, hoping to limit my actions in the next few seconds; I really should just gently push the button to hang up the phone, rather than smash it to smithereens.

"Fine."

***

The data I uncovered in the course of my research is admittedly dated, but it is a comprehensive study that examines discrepancies between the M.E. Investigator's cause-of-death determination and the forensic pathologist's determination in the same cases.

The study involves all deaths reported to the Medical Examiner over a 10-year span in one of the largest, most diverse counties in the United States. Out of a total of 15,771 cases, there were 1,908 instances in which the judgment of the forensic pathologist (such as WMed's Joyce deJong) happened to differ from the opinion of the on-scene Investigator (think Kai Cronin). That's 8.25 percent of the time - roughly one out of every 12.

Why is this significant? I have no idea. It wasn't my study. Perhaps we'll learn more together as we crunch the numbers.

For example, out of those 1,908 little tiffs, 107 of them were ruled Homicide by the forensic pathologist (FP). In those instances, the Investigator was unable to determine the actual cause of death 87 times - "Undetermined". The rest were divvied up between other causes, such as Accidental death or Natural death. (In none of these cases did the Investigator believe that a determined Homicide was instead a Suicide - interesting.)

In the majority of disputed cases, 900 of them, the FP ruled death by Natural causes; of those, the Investigator ruled it a death by Accident 135 times. 10 were labeled Suicide, 10 were ruled Homicide, and the rest (745 of them) were Undetermined. So in 20 out of these 900 cases, the Investigator suspected foul play, but that was dismissed by the person doing the autopsy - a shade more than 1 out of every 50.

Of the 755 fatalities ruled Accidental by the FP, out of step with the on-scene findings of the Investigator, Undetermined was the Investigator's claim 718 times - Natural death was cited in 16 of those, Homicide in only 8, and Suicide 13 times. So Investigators' findings of Suicide were corrected, in a sense, in 13 out of 755 cases... Statistically speaking, 1.3 times per year.

In 70 cases, the FP ruled that the cause of death was Suicide despite the assessment of its own Investigators, which considered 9 of them to have been Accidental, 9 more to have been Natural, 3 to have been Homicide... And 49 of them Undetermined.

In 61 cases wherein cause of death was listed as Undetermined by the FP, the Investigator's call went like this: 25 Natural, 13 Accidental, 17 Homicide, 6 Suicide. Six. Suicide is, by far, the least likely category for all contested Undetermined deaths as ruled by the pathologist. Less than one-tenth.

The study was conducted in 2000 in Fulton County, Georgia (the Atlanta area). Its co-author is Joyce deJong.

***

Her views have most likely evolved since she counted up all those dead beans in Atlanta. Here in Michigan, there is never any reason for the Investigator to differ from the Medical Examiner above him or her, thanks to a law basically assigning ownership of all Investigator actions and protocols to the M.E., Joyce deJong... That eliminates those pesky gray areas.

Of course, deJong's take on this whole study is that, even with a "high" level of "concordance" between FPs and their on-scene Investigators (at least the autonomous kind), the M.E. should always dig as deeply as humanly possible into any corpse they want. This approach is why so many attorneys have begun to label the work done by medical examiners across the country as "junk science".

Joyce deJong knows a lot about the disagreements that exist between such professionals. After all, she was still a trainee in Fulton County there in 2006 when she went right over her teacher's head in a murder case, oh, yes... We have the data.

***

Joyce's attitude about never being wrong was already in full bloom when she was allowed to work on the case of Carisa Ashe. Ashe gave premature birth to her daughter Destiny in 1998. Destiny spent her first four weeks in the hospital, followed by just two days at home before she died. No overt signs of trauma were noted by ER doctors, who ruled the cause of death to be Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Under the supervision of a Dr. Michael Heninger, Joyce got to perform the autopsy. In the course of her work, she detected subdural bruising above the baby's ear (but no skull fracture), and commensurate bruising of the brain itself. While there was no bleeding in the eyes, there was some blood detected around the optic nerve sheath. There was no other damage to bones or soft tissue. No one in her home ever witnessed any abusive behavior.

But there you have it, she said, Shaken Baby Syndrome. Murder. Joyce deJong would go on to a long career of putting taxpayers behind bars for that same crime (real or imagined.

In fact, her zeal to do so up in Cadillac, Michigan has now landed her in court as a defendant in a federal lawsuit. Her slop-job there was so handily refuted by another pathologist that the prosecutor dropped the charges - hence the lawsuit brought on by the wrongly accused and imprisoned David Ferris II up in Cadillac, Michigan.

Atlanta detectives were so dubious that they did not arrest Carisa Ashe; rather, they served her with a murder citation at her home. The fact that deJong's instructor, Heninger, disagreed with her findings (he concurred with the initial SIDS diagnosis, a fact that was not disclosed to the jury in Ms. Ashe's trial) did not bother the prosecutor... It bothered the judge, though.

After years of delay, and facing the possibility of life in prison, Ashe took the "Alford Plea" in 2005 - attracting such delicate headlines as "Baby Killer Goes Free!". This got her a 5-year stint on probation... And the deal also included Carisa Ashe voluntarily undergoing a tubal ligation.

That's right. The government sanctioned the sterilizing of a woman. Straight-up eugenics, just like the Nazis... All due to the insistence of rogue pathologist in training Joyce deJong.

***

Isn't there some intersection, I ask the publisher's assistant, where raw data and language can actually meet? Are there not words to sum up or convey the meaning of these numbers? Or one word? I don't care if the editors get rid of it later. I'm saying it here and now about WMed, their quasi-public employees and their macabre brand of junk science, which conspire to torment my family:

It's just evil. That's all it is. Nothing new or different.

Pretty much, it's all one can expect when any amount of power is given to an apparently raging narcissist like this one... Pure evil, and nothing less. In this space, I will continue to treat it accordingly.

pH 6.2o.16

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