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Medical Examiners Commission backs Volusia ME in Marlon Brown case
Family wants corrected Medical Examiner's report
By Pat Andrews
posted Jan 31, 2014 - 4:06:22pm
The Medical Examiners Commission found Volusia County Medical Examiner Dr. Marie Herrmann violated no laws or practice guidelines last year when she wrote that a DeLand police cruiser did not strike Marlon Brown.
Brown died after an attempted traffic stop in Spring Hill around 12:30 a.m. May 8. A DeLand police cruiser driven by Officer James Harris ran over Marlon Brown after Brown jumped from his car and was crossing a vacant lot on foot.
The state commission’s decision came in a Jan. 27 letter from Medical Examiners Commission Staff Director Margaret A. Edwards. The letter was sent to Brown family attorney Benjamin Crump. After Crump and the Brown family filed complaints about inaccuracies in the ME report, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement asked the Medical Examiners Commission to look into it.
Marlon Brown’s former wife, Krystal Brown, is not satisfied with the commission’s response. She notes that video from the police car's dashboard camera clearly shows Marlon Brown being struck, then run over by the police car.
Dr. Russell S. Vega, a member of the Medical Examiners Commission, reviewed the case.
"... [I]t is clear that the entire course of the investigation by the Volusia County Medical Examiner's Office is thoroughly documented, and that the investigation was meticulous and complete,” he wrote in a memo to the commission.
Vega also reviewed the dash-camera videotape, and concluded that Dr. Herrmann's statement — "There is no evidence that he was struck by the vehicle" — was an attempt to distinguish between what happened, and a different scenario in which Brown had been struck while upright, thrown to the ground, and then suffered blunt-impact injuries, and was "then" [italics and bolding are Vega's] run over and compressed by the vehicle.
Vega backed up Herrmann's determination that Marlon Brown died as a result of suffocation from the weight of the vehicle on top of him, not from being struck by the patrol car.
The video shows Marlon Brown running across an uneven vacant lot, slipping, and turning to look at the cruiser bearing down on him as he tries to get up. His face is visible above the cruiser's hood, then a thump is heard.
DeLand Police Chief Bill Ridgway fired Harris after watching the video.
Vega found Herrmann's reasoning "reasonable," he said, and found no evidence that she "materially misrepresented any data that informed her opinions."
James Cusack, the funeral director who prepared Marlon Brown's body for burial, said the man's neck was either broken or suffered severe trauma. Cusack also said he saw a number of broken bones on Marlon Brown's body, contradicting the Medical Examiner's report of no broken bones.
Krystal Brown said it appeared the Medical Examiner's intent was to protect the police officer.
Members of the grand jury, who received Herrmann's report and found no reason to bring charges against the officer, are lay people, she said. Expecting them to come up with Vega's interpretation of the report is unreasonable, and the report is misleading, she added.
"Why not just be clear … . Mean what you say, and say what you mean," Krystal Brown said.
She is still asking the Volusia County Medical Examiner's Office for an amended report. She hasn't yet been able to speak to anyone at that office, Krystal Brown said Jan. 29.
"The video speaks the truth," Krystal Brown said.
The Florida Highway Patrol's preliminary report on the crash stated the police cruiser struck and killed Marlon Brown. It's that simple, Krystal Brown said.
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