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Whitewater special prosecutor to study Foster suicide ruling

The special prosecutor in the Whitewater case has decided to re-examine the conclusion that White House deputy counsel Vincent Foster committed suicide and will hire pathologists to review the evidence.

In court filings this week in New York, special counsel Robert Fiske revealed that "forensic experts and pathologists will be retained" as part of his Foster inquiry. They will make an independent analysis of the evidence that led U.S. Park Police to conclude Foster shot himself in a suburban park July 20, a government official familiar with the probe said Wednesday.

Fiske made the decision to reopen the issue because "questions have been raised in the press and elsewhere about whether it was a suicide," the official said.

Previously, Fiske had only said that "all the events" related to Foster's death would be reviewed.

News media reports have questioned some of the Park Police procedures and quoted paramedics who found the body as expressing some doubt about the suicide ruling.

But there has been no change in the Park Police conclusion, which was supported by the FBI. A Virginia medical examiner ruled that Foster's wounds were consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot.

Fiske's letter was filed Monday in U.S. District Court, where the Wall Street Journal is suing to force the Justice Department to release the Park Police report on Foster's death and an FBI report on the handling of a note found later in his briefcase. Fiske made clear he would object to any release of either report while he is investigating the Foster matter.

"The public disclosure of all or any part of the Park Police and FBI report at this time would substantially prejudice the ability of the Office of the Independent Counsel to conduct its investigation," Fiske wrote.

The newspaper is seeking the documents under the Freedom of Information Act, which allows the government to withhold documents whose release could interfere with an investigation.

Fiske has opened a Washington office, headed by Roderick Lankler, an experienced New York homicide prosecutor, to look into the Foster matter.

Fiske told the court Lankler is being assisted by two lawyers in Fiske's Little Rock, Ark., office and "a number of experienced FBI agents from the Washington area."

Fiske also is probing President and Mrs. Clinton's investment in the Whitewater real estate venture in Arkansas and the failure of an Arkansas savings and loan.

Whitewater documents were found in Foster's White House office after his death, but White House counsel Bernard Nussbaum refused to let investigators see them last July. Later, they were turned over to investigators.

A torn-up handwritten note by Foster was belatedly found in his briefcase several days after Nussbaum searched it. Some 30 hours passed before it was turned over to investigators.

The note made vague allegations that the FBI had lied to the attorney general. Those were being investigated at the Justice Department when Fiske took over the investigation.