- Hello Jeff: Well, this is one for the books. Dr. Smith
was the coroner who investigated and autopsied Dr. Don C. Wiley case, yet,
no mention of that fact. He worked the Wiley case just 6 months before
the incident. This is really bizzare. Why would he fake such an attack?
- Patricia Doyle
- Coroner Faces Indictment In Connection With
- By John Branston
- MEMPHIS, Feb. 11 " A
federal grand jury on Tuesday accused the Shelby County medical examiner
of faking an attack in which he was wrapped head to toe in barbed wire,
strapped with a homemade bomb around his neck and bound to window bars
in his office here.
- The incident, which the authorities say was staged by
the examiner, Dr. O'Brian C. Smith, occurred in the middle of the night
on June 1, 2002. The coroner was found by a security guard who notified
the police bomb squad. Seventeen federal, state and local law enforcement
agencies including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms responded,
the authorities said, and the case was featured on television on "America's
- The 18-month investigation originally pursued the theory
that Dr. Smith had been attacked by a religiously motivated extremist who
left a bomb in his office three months earlier. A year before that, the
police and a reporter received threatening letters saying, "The evil
one is in the body of O. C. Smith," and adding that he was trying
to kill an inmate on death row in the Nashville state prison, Philip Workman.
Investigators theorized that the same person was responsible for the bombs
and the letters. No attacker was found.
- By last summer, the investigation turned to Dr. Smith.
- The indictment charges him with lying to agents and unlawful
possession of a bomb. It offers no clue as to why Dr. Smith, 51, might
have faked the attack.
- Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, the chief medical examiner in Pittsburgh
and president of the American Board of Legal Medicine, said the indictment
could taint cases in which Dr. Smith had given critical evidence and cause
them to be appealed.
- "If he could fabricate a story like this that a
Hollywood screenwriter on LSD would have difficulty coming up with, who
can believe him in a courtroom?" Dr. Wecht asked.
- The bombs could have killed several people, the authorities
- The United States attorney for the Eastern District of
Arkansas, H. E. Cummins, said in a statement that Dr. Smith had "exposed
a variety of first responders and members of the M.P.D. bomb squad to significant
danger in what they believed at the time to be Dr. Smith's `rescue.' "
- The United States attorney for the Western District of
Tennessee, Terrell Lee Harris, recused himself.
- Dr. Smith appeared in federal court on Wednesday for
an initial appearance. His lawyers entered a plea of not guilty, and Dr.
Smith was released on his own recognizance.
- A lawyer for Dr. Smith, James Garts, called him "a
stand-up guy" who has testified for the prosecution and defense for
more than 20 years.
- Asked whether the doctor continued to think that he was
in danger, Mr. Garts said: "Look, there's somebody out there. So yes."
- A few hours before the plea and a few hours after the
indictment had been handed up, Dr. Smith testified here in a murder case.
- "This is a very serious charge," the district
attorney, William L. Gibbons, said. "But at the same time, there is
no reason to believe that it undermines the validity of his opinions as
a medical expert. They are two different issues."
- Mr. Gibbons said he might use Dr. Smith in more trials.
- "When we were informed last summer that he was the
focus of a criminal investigation," the prosecutor said, "we
took steps to use alternative expert testimony when possible. We will continue
to do this. But that is not to say we will not use him at all."
- Defense lawyers and medical examiners who testify for
them expressed shock at the indictment and Mr. Gibbons's reaction.
- "This casts a pall over the entire criminal justice
system," said Robert Hutton, a lawyer who represented Mr. Workman,
who was convicted of killing a police officer in 1981. When it became known
in September that the grand jury was investigating Dr. Smith, Gov. Phil
Bredesen issued an 11th-hour stay of execution because Dr. Smith had testified
for the prosecution in a postconviction hearing.
- Hickman Ewing Jr., who was a federal prosecutor here
for 15 years, said most prosecutors would probably try to work around Dr.
Smith until he went on trial.
- "I would think a prosecutor would be hesitant to
call him as a witness," Mr. Ewing said. "Let's say it goes to
trial, and he is acquitted. I would think the state on past cases could
defend that. But is there potential for affecting a lot of cases? Probably
- Dr. Smith did not speak to reporters Wednesday and has
given few interviews. This week, he offered to resign immediately or remain
in his post until a replacement could be found. Mayor AC Wharton of Shelby
County has started looking for a successor.
- "When a prominent figure in law enforcement such
as the medical examiner is charged with a crime, it strikes at the heart
of our criminal justice system," James M. Cavanaugh, the agent from
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who was in charge
of the case, wrote in a statement. "But our responsibilities here
are clear, to follow the facts and to enforce the law without fear or favor."
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- Patricia A. Doyle, PhD Please visit my "Emerging
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