Baden disappointed

Famed New York forensic pathologist says what killed Craig Burdine obvious despite conflicting opinions from others
Melissa Topey
Jul 24, 2014

topey@sanduskyregister.com

Dr. Michael Baden was disappointed when he saw the news come across his e-mail that a grand jury reviewing the 2007 jailhouse death of Craig Burdine found no criminal wrongdoing in the events leading up to his death on Aug. 7, 2007.

Baden reviewed the autopsy report and other results and findings from Lucas County deputy coroner Cynthia Beisser, who conducted the autopsy. He also reviewed surveillance video and other reports and witness statements.

Baden determined Burdine's death was a homicide. He suffocated — according to Baden — due to compression of his airway and fractured cartilage in his neck.

“My opinion has been the same this many years,” Baden said. The injured cartilage points clearly to the cause of death and it's confirmed in the emergency room doctor's report. 

Baden was a guest at noon today on "Between the Lines Live" at sanduskyregister.com. 

Baden would not discuss his thoughts on the grand jury finding the opinion of Dr. Kent Harshbarger as the more likely reason for Burdine's death.

Harshbarger's opinion was that Burdine's death was caused by an irregular heartbeat from an enlarged heart that was strained by drug use and the exertion of the events leading up to his death.

Beisser determined Burdine died as a result of acute combined drug intoxication that brought on excited delirium. It's not clear what information she reviewed prior to making that call. O'Connell and another Fremont police officer attended the autopsy and talked with her while she performed it, Beisser said during a 2010 deposition. 

Baden refused to speculate why local officials opted out of investigation, or what led to Beisser's inaccurate conclusions and Harshbarger's conflicting finding the injuries did not contribute to his death.

“Forensic pathologists can disagree," he said. "(But) it is unusual to disagree about a fractured windpipe. That affects the ability to breath.”

What killed Burdine seems pretty straightforward to Baden.

"This is typical restraint asphyxia," Baden said.

Baden sits on a five-panel review board in New York that reviews all deaths in New York prisons. He's reviewed prison deaths for the state since the 1970s after the Attica prison riots. 

"We found you can not depend on local people to conduct independent investigations," Baden said.

Local authorities — the Fremont police and the county sheriff's office — both neglected to conduct any criminal investigation after Burdine died. Police chief Tim Wiersm and Sheriff Kyle Overmyer have refused to provide an explanation why no investigation was ordered. 

O'Connell told Jess Burdine the day Craig was killed there would be a criminal investigation, and he told the Register earlier this year he did conduct a thorough investigation, but in a 2010 court deposition he acknowledged he wasn't investigating Burdine's death. He was only reviewing the involvement of the Fremont police officers, he testified, and he cleared them after reading their prepared statements. 

He did not officially speak to or ask the officers or guards any questions as part of his review, O'Connell testified, but likely had "off-the-record" conversations with them. 

O'Connell has politely refused to comment on the discrepancies, or what he might have discussed with the eye-witnesses that he kept from the record. 

It appears likely that DeWine's investigators also never questioned or interviewed the eyewitnesses. DeWine agreed in August 2013 — six years after Craig Burdine died — to conduct a criminal investigation. The Bureau of Criminal Investigation, an arm of the AG's office, in a report to lead prosecutor Matt Donahue, stated they relied on depositions from the witnesses from a previous civil case. It's not clear if any of the eyewitnesses were ever subpoenaed, or ever invoked the Fifth Amendment right to not testify. 

Some testimony in the depositions conflicts with other information prepared immediately after Burdine died, and with video surveillance from the jail and from police cruiser dash cameras. 

The deputies and guards prepared statements immediately after the death that all contended Burdine was being combative. It appears clear in the surveillance video, however, that Burdine is just semi-conscious or already unconscious through every frame of the encounter with police, and would have been physically incapable of being combative.

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Comments

Please

Baden states "its pretty obvious despite conficting opinions from other pathologists"....hmmmm, so other pathologists (plural) ruled that it wasn't from the windpipe, but baden (singular) ruled that it was.......everyone else must be wrong and baden is right! Call the president, there is a cover up! One Dr. ruled differently than multiple Dr's.

Babo

The two other doctors work for the state and they too disagreed with on another, while the ER doctor's findings upon delivery of the body are consistent with Dr. Baden's opinion, i.e. He died of respiratory arrest. So two independent Doctors concur that the cause of death was respiratory arrest, while the two state employed doctors give two other reasons.

I would put more credence in the latest opinion if DeWine would have obtained a truly independent forensic pathologist to review the case.
So for me the only explanation that makes any sense is Dr. Baden's as crushed cartilage in the windpipe would get anybody else indicted unless it happens in police custody.

BTW, the State's second expert disagrees with their first expert which was the opinion relied upon for the past seven years.

Laughingatwttb

Then explain why he said the injuries to his neck DID NOT cause his death? That's what he told the courts. So now is he saying he was wrong and that the injuries did cause the death?

Please

Babo-Just because baden says it, doesnt make it true! So the Jury was in on the conspiracy also...wow a lot of people in on this one....a jury, doctors, prosecutors, AG, police, ems...seems like a large conspiracy, and Baden and register are on to them! Lol when will this end? I know, when justice is served! Its already been served, just not the way a select few wanted it.

Babo

You misapprehend my point. The Grand Jury was not "in" on anything as the Grand Jury was not given complete access to all relevant evidence including eyewitness accounts. Moreover, the Grand Jury can only offer a True Bill (Indictment) or NO Bill a case. It isn't supposed to offer reports.

In this case the Grand Jury said they felt the third "theory" of cause of death was closest to what happened. That's not a finding of fact but an opinion from some lay people on cause of death and reasonable people can and do disagree with them.

My point is the ER Doctor, a person with no stake in the outcome stated Craig Burdine died of respiratory arrest as he was cyanotic upon arrival at the ER. To me that's the best indication that Dr. Baden's opinion on cause of death is the correct.

Julie R.

Dr. Baden, a well-known forensic pathologist from New York, didn't have any stake in the outcome, either. On the other hand, it's a proven fact that OHIO is the most corrupt state in the country with the most corrupt prosecutors, judges, attorneys, & other public officials.

Laughingatwttb

Julie do a little research on the crap you spew. Ohio isn't even in the top 20 of corrupt states. You've obviously dealt with the courts and things didn't happen the way you wanted and now all courts and LEO's are corrupt and inept. If you think things are better elsewhere, please move there.