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General News    H3'ed 4/1/10

Did Prominent Attorney Really Commit Suicide?

By       (Page 1 of 3 pages)   3 comments
Message Roger Shuler
Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
One week has passed since the death of prominent Birmingham attorney Major Bashinsky was ruled a suicide.

In that time, the only substantive information available to the general public about the suicide finding came from an article in last Thursday's Birmingham News.

According to the article, the 63-year-old Bashinsky waded into a pond at the Highland Park Golf Course, mouth and hands loosely bound, and shot himself in the side of the head. "All of our evidence supports that," Jefferson County Chief Deputy Coroner Pat Curry said.

But when you read the article closely, how much evidence is presented that clearly points to suicide? Answer: Zero.

The article, written by Carol Robinson, is a classic case of "trust me" journalism. The reporter presents a case that Bashinsky committed suicide, but we see no sign that she examined any documents or asked any tough questions of public officials. (Note: Robinson has the reputation of being one of the News' better reporters. It's possible her piece was highly edited and sanitized by higher-ups at the paper. It's also possible that Robinson knew it would be good for her job standing at the paper to write a weak story and not ask any questions.)

The final version of the News' coverage is not available online. But you can read the article in its entirety at the bottom of this post.

First, let's consider what the article does not include:

* No quotes from either Dr. Robert Brissie or Dr. Gary Simmons, of the Jefferson County Coroner/Medical Examiner's Office. The quotes come from Pat Curry, who is a former sheriff's deputy. Brissie and Simmons are pathologists, but the story includes no quotes from them. (Note: Both Brissie and Simmons serve on the Department of Pathology faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB]. They work under the umbrella of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees, whose ex oficio president is Governor Bob Riley. Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls, who almost certainly played a hand in the investigation, is a Riley appointee.)

* No reference to a medical examiner's report, signed by Brissie or Simmons.

* No reference to an autopsy.

* No reference to a toxicology report.

* No reference to scientific information of any kind that points to cause of death--homicide, suicide, accident, what have you.

Now, let's consider what the article does say:

* Authorities say they believe Bashinsky died March 3, the day he disappeared from his Mountain Brook office.

Why do authorities believe this? The story does not say. Shouldn't a scientific examination of the body be able to provide an estimate regarding time of death? Why isn't this information presented?

* Authorities say Bashinsky went into a Southside coffee shop and bought coffee and then went to a nearby hardware store to purchase rope and duct tape.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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