A 14-year-old boy who died after a severe beating from guards at a Florida boot camp was suffocated, according to a medical examiner who performed a second autopsy on the child’s body at his family’s request.
But Dr. Charles Seibert, who initially ruled that Martin Lee Anderson died of natural causes says that he stands by his report. Anderson collapsed during an exercise session on his first day at the boot camp. Guards said that they beat him because he had become uncooperative.
Seibert said Anderson died because the exercises he was being compelled to do activated his sickle cell trait, depriving his blood cells of oxygen. According the Sickle-cell Center at Emory University, most people with sickle-cell trait can participate in strenuous exercise without complications, except in unusual situations such as high altitude. This webpage has more information.
According to this Feb. 2006, article from the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, "Justice authorities have misused sickle cell trait to explain away ten sudden deaths, often associated with forced restraint, of African-Caribbean people in custody." The deaths studied by the researchers occured in the US and the United Kingdom.
For Kaffie Sledge of the Cinncinnati Enquirer, Seibert’s argument is sadly familiar. Recalling the death of two local men under controversial circumstances, Sledge opined, "We seem to be able to find ways to rationalize questionable incidents that happen to people who are not from society’s top tier."
Authorities say the investigation into Anderson’s death is continuing.