SEPTEMBER 7, 2012 10:01AM
Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
A former medical examiner rented a storage unit in Pensacola, Florida, where human remains were discovered recently. It's the same ME who essentially closed the books 11 years ago on the death of a woman whose body was found in the office of then Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough.
The grisly discovery should raise new questions about an ugly chapter in Scarborough's past--a chapter that probably is unknown to many viewers who now tune in to catch the host on MSNBC's Morning Joe.
All of this has strong ties to us here in Alabama. Scarborough is a University of Alabama graduate and is close to former Governor Bob Riley and his son, Homewood attorney Rob Riley. In fact, Scarborough used his platform on Morning Joe to shamelessly plug Bob Riley as a potential GOP presidential candidate--despite evidence of monstrous corruption on Riley's watch.
Perhaps cover ups are nothing new in the Scarborough story. That's why many Americans are unaware that a 28-year-old woman named Lori Klausutis, a staff member for the then Congressman, was found dead in Scarborough's north Florida office in 2001. A medical examiner named Dr. Michael Berkland ruled it an accidental death, finding that Klausutis suffered a cardiac arrhythmia that caused her to faint and hit her head on a desk.
That's the same Dr. Michael Berkland who was found to have rented a storage unit where the remains of more than 100 humans were found on August 24. From the Pensacola News Journal:
Human remains found in a storage unit in Pensacola last week were being kept in covered plastic containers, trash bags and specimen cups, the director of the Medical Examiner’s Office said Tuesday.
The latest revelation came as authorities continued trying to unravel why Dr. Michael Berkland, a former associate medical examiner who is no longer licensed, stored the organs in the unit at Uncle Bob’s Storage, 195 E. Fairfield Dr.
Parts from more than 100 people — including lungs, hearts, tissue samples and 10 brains — were found on Friday in the air-conditioned unit that Berkland had rented, Medical Examiner’s Office Director Jeff Martin said.
“It’s very bizarre,” he said.
No kidding. The story is so bizarre that it caught the attention of the UK Daily Mail. From the newspaper's account:
No charges have been filed against Berkland but officials are trying to determine if he broke any laws regarding biomedical waste and the storing and disposing of human remains.
Medical Examiner Dr. Andi Minyard told the Pensacola News Journal the remains appear to be from private autopsies Berkland performed at local funeral homes between 1997 and 2007.
'It’s a horrible thing to know that your uncle’s brain is sitting in some storage shed that got sold at an auction,' Dr. Minyard said.
This all raises questions about both Berkland's sanity and his competence when he served as a medical examiner. As we reported in a post titled "The Ugly Story in Joe Scarborough's Political Closet," the accidental-death finding in the Lori Klausutis case has never added up:
A report at onlinejournal.com, stated that such a fall in a healthy person is unlikely to cause death. Berkland's determination of an accidental death, however, brought the investigation to a virtual halt:
"According to the medical literature, simple falls in young, healthy people, virtually never cause death. Berkland’s claim that injury opposite to the site of impact is observed only when a person’s head hits a stationary object is also contradicted by the literature.
"The autopsy describes the prolapsed mitral valve in great detail, claiming that the medical literature sustains the notion that this is likely to be fatal.
"Dr. Berkland contends in lengthy autopsy comments that “there are only about three entities that generally cause one to drop in midsentence or in midstride . . . pulmonary embolus . . . a ruptured aneurysm . . . and most common, is a sudden cardiac arrhythmia.” Yet, the medical literature suggests that neither pulmonary emboli nor aneurysms are likely to cause immediate loss of consciousness. A blow to the head is a common cause of loss of consciousness. . . ."
Did Lori Klausutis really die from a blow to the head and not from a fainting spell? If so, who was responsible for her death?
In the wake of recent discoveries about Dr. Michael Berkland, perhaps those questions need to be asked anew. Perhaps the public should demand a serious investigation into what happened in Joe Scarborough's office 11 years ago.