Medical examiner in boot camp death is ordered to work under supervision


Published: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 11:55 p.m.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — A medical examiner who performed a disputed autopsy on a teenager who died after an altercation with guards at a Panama City boot camp can continue working under supervision the remaining months of his contract, the state's Medical Examiner's Commission said Wednesday.

The commission unanimously approved a quality assurance program under which Dr. Barbara Wolf, a medical examiner in Fort Myers, will review all Dr. Charles Siebert's work. She may then gradually reduce the amount of supervision down to 10 percent. She will also review all his autopsies on homicides and undetermined deaths until his contract ends in June. Wolf and Siebert began the peer review program in November, about three months after the commission first met to discuss Siebert's fate.

The review of cases by the commission did not include Siebert's findings in the autopsy of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, who died in January 2006 after he was roughed up by guards in a videotaped encounter at a Bay County sheriff's boot camp.

Siebert, the medical examiner for six Panhandle counties, ruled Anderson's death was caused by natural complications of sickle cell trait, a genetic blood disorder. After an outcry from Anderson's family and the public, his body was exhumed and a second autopsy by another doctor found he died from suffocation.

"I'm happy with the outcome," Siebert said. "It's been a difficult year. ... Politics has played a part in this."

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a commission member, said he would like Siebert to be held accountable for the problems.

"Mistakes were made and somebody needs to own up to the fact that mistakes were made," Judd said.

Siebert still stands by his original Anderson autopsy report.

"I have the data to back it up," he said after the meeting.

Siebert said he would like for Gov. Charlie Crist to reappoint him to another three-year term. He earns $180,000 a year.

In April, Crist, who was then attorney general, called for an investigation into Siebert's past autopsies after the disputed Anderson case raised concerns.

The commission in August found Siebert was negligent in performing at least 35 of 698 autopsies it reviewed.

Siebert said most of the problems came from typographical errors or mistakes in transcription and that they did not affect the outcome of the autopsies.

Under the plan approved Wednesday, Siebert does not admit or deny any of the allegations and he must pay for the services of Wolf at a rate of about $50 an autopsy.

Seven former guards and a former nurse have been charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child in the Anderson case, which led to the dismantling of Florida's military-style detention system for young offenders. If convicted they could get up to 30 years in prison.

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