What does a broken hyoid bone tell us about Jeffrey Epstein’s sudden demise in federal custody? The Washington Post stoked speculation about homicide and nefarious plots yesterday morning with its report on initial findings from the medical examiner, writing that the fracture was “deepening the mystery about the circumstances around his death.” How an inmate who had already reportedly attempted suicide once was left alone for hours on end to try again was already the cause of much speculation, but the report that hyoid fractures are “more common in victims of homicide by strangulation” sent speculation skyrocketing.
CNN’s Oliver Darcy spent the day collecting opinions from other experts, who say it’s not at all an indication of something other than suicide — at least not on its own. That testimony comes from the one and only expert cited by the Washington Post in its report:
Jonathan Arden, the sole forensic expert WaPo quoted in its Epstein report, has put out a press release saying hyoid bone fractures are “well recognized” to occur in suicidal hangings, and stresses importance of interpreting things in “context of the totality of all the findings” pic.twitter.com/KxVajCml71
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) August 16, 2019
This seems to be a tempest in a media teapot, at least if one reads the entire Post report. Arden’s points in the letter are included in the report from Carol Leonnig and Aaron Davis, and the article repeatedly notes that hyoid fractures occur in hangings as well. Besides, the speculation had started immediately on the news of Epstein’s death, and it didn’t really need a hyoid fracture for people to start spinning theories about Clinton body counts or Trump plots.
Where Darcy and the other experts he cites on his Twitter thread are correct, though, is the decision to report on the hyoid fracture at all. On its own, it really didn’t mean anything, as the Post article hints throughout. Why use anonymous sources to report factoids from an incomplete examination and posit them as “deepening” a mystery in the first place? Especially in an environment already rife with conspiratorial thinking? We could have just as easily waited for the medical examiner’s full report and gotten a clearer story from its full context.
Not that it would end the speculation, anyway. There are too many other mysteries surrounding Epstein’s supposed suicide, and we’re not getting any answers on those yet either:
Five days after Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide, federal Bureau of Prisons officials are struggling to establish even rudimentary facts of what happened over several key hours inside a prison rife with greater problems than previously known.
Many questions remain, among them:
- What does surveillance video show, which cameras were operational and do the logs of inmate checks match the video that exists?
- Who found Epstein: Was it a staffer making rounds delivering breakfast? Or did that staffer arrive to find someone already administering aid?
- Why was Epstein’s cellmate moved out on Friday, the day before Epstein died?
- What were the two guards who were supposed to monitor Epstein doing during the hours before he was found? Were they napping or did they simply fail to make the required checks every 30 minutes?
A confluence of missteps and what the Justice Department says were irregularities at the Manhattan Correctional Center have created a puzzle that FBI investigators are still trying to unravel.
Are we sure these were just “missteps”? That’s also assuming some facts not yet in evidence. Individually, the easiest assumption to make is incompetence. Collectively — especially the discrepancies already reported between surveillance video and the guard logs — suggest something more than just incompetence in play. That doesn’t mean Epstein didn’t hang himself, but given his status and the arguments left to try, it all seems rather suspicious even apart from a hyoid fracture that may or may not mean anything.
It might take lawsuits to get to the answers of these questions. Two more plaintiffs filed today, asking for $100 million out of Epstein’s estate:
Two more women who claim financier Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused them have filed a $100 million lawsuit against his estate and his “recruiter.”
The lawsuit, filed Thursday night in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, claims the unidentified recruiter lured the two into Epstein’s mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where he would “sexually touch them against their will and force them to watch him masturbate.” …
“Though Epstein is recently deceased, the trauma and pain he caused Plaintiffs remains,” the new lawsuit says. the two women are unidentified in the filing; they are referred to as Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. Their age at the time of the alleged incidents was not immediately clear from the filing.
Their lawyer, Lisa Bloom, said on Twitter that “We are talking to five other victims currently and vetting their claims.”
Courts will eventually need to consolidate these claims in order to divide up Epstein’s estate. In the meantime, their discovery processes might be the only way to force some answers into the open — along with other perpetrators.
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