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Second autopsy likely in camp death

The family of a 14-year-old who died last month after he was kneed, struck and dragged by guards at a Panama City, Fla., juvenile boot camp hopes to exhume his body for a second autopsy, an attorney said Friday.

Martin Lee Anderson's family is disputing the conclusion that he died from hemorrhaging caused by sickle cell trait, a normally benign condition, and not from the 30-minute altercation, which was captured by a camp security camera and later broadcast nationally.

"We are working on the arrangements," attorney Benjamin Crump said. "Saying (Anderson) died of sickle cell trait is like saying a man who was lynched died because he had a weak neck."

Crump said the family and the NAACP have asked that Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist who reviewed the medical evidence in the slaying of civil rights leader Medgar Evars, be involved in the second autopsy. Baden could not be reached for comment.

Anderson died early Jan. 6 at a Pensacola hospital, hours after he collapsed while doing push-ups, sit-ups, running laps and other exercises that were part of his admission to the Bay County Sheriff's Office Boot Camp.

The security video shows as many as nine guards kneeing, hitting and dragging Anderson around the exercise yard. The Sheriff's Office has said the guards were trying to get Anderson to participate after he became uncooperative.

An autopsy performed by Dr. Charles Siebert, the medical examiner for Bay County, found Anderson died of hemorrhaging caused by sickle cell trait, a normally benign blood condition that affects about one in 12 black people.

Siebert said physical stress caused a cascade of events ending in Anderson's red blood cells changing shape and causing him to bleed internally. Numerous experts have opposed the finding.

This week, Gov. Jeb Bush agreed to appoint a new state attorney to review evidence in the case after State Attorney Steve Meadows, the prosecutor whose jurisdiction includes Panama City, asked to be transferred to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. Bush gave the case to Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark A. Ober.

Ober's office has declined to comment on the case, but Crump said the family has discussed exhuming Anderson's body with Ober.

Also Friday, the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America added its voice to the growing number of experts questioning the original autopsy findings.

Dr. Willarda Edwards, president of the Baltimore-based association, said she wanted to "clarify miseducation in the public about sickle cell" that has resulted from the Anderson case.