Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Closing the Atchison Book

The Detroit News today reports that "autopsy results released Monday by the Washtenaw County Medical Examiner" give cause of death for John David Roy Atchison as "asphyxiation" caused when Atchison committed suicide by tying a bed sheet to a shower head.

As in the last few weeks of his life, so also in the circumstances of his death the Gulf Breeze federal prosecutor left too many questions unanswered.
Federal prison officials have not said how Atchison, an inmate on suicide watch due to an earlier suicide attempt, managed to hang himself, and they have declined to say whether Atchison died in a cell equipped with a shower or in a separate shower facility.

If they put him in a cell with a shower, that was totally foolish," said Daniel Manville, a Ferndale lawyer specializing in prisoner rights lawsuits and visiting professor at the University of Denver's Sturm College of Law.

"If they allowed him to walk from a cell to a shower, with sheets, you really have to start wondering. You have to ask serious questions about where was the failure in the system. There had to be in this case based upon what we know."
* * *
A prison spokeswoman initially said Atchison was found in his cell, but a second spokeswoman later said officials could not say exactly where he was found.

Most folk in Gulf Breeze express sincere and deeply-felt sympathy for Atchison family members who are still trying, no doubt, to come to grips with all that has happened. But there is also a palpable community desire to close the book on the Roy Atchison story and to focus on the future.

Today, with so many unanswered questions -- not to mention continuing investigations both here and in Michigan -- that seems impossible to imagine. Some day? Perhaps.

Most likely only time will bring peace to those most deeply affected. There always will be unanswered questions. The book will have no ending we can know.


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