A medical examiner in Mississippi with a checkered past has caused officials in that state to review the case of a Black man found dead hanging from a tree.
Frederick Jermaine Carter, 26, was found hanging in a tree near Greenwood, Miss. in December. However, according to reports, his death was ruled suicide at the time due to his history of mental illness and previous suicide attempts.
However, the Associated Press reported that the medical examiner in the case, Dr. Adel Shaker, falsified information in a 1998 case involving the death of Julie Ward, a British tourist killed in Kenya, where Shaker was working as a pathologist.
Shaker claims that his boss at the time changed the report to make it look like Ward was killed by wild animals instead of a person. At a 2004 British inquest about the incident, Shaker described how his boss saw the language Shaker used in his report and immediately changed it.
“I heard him say, ‘No, no, no’, and saw him underline through the words,” Shaker said according to The Guardian newspaper. “I knew he was intent on changing my report by his voice and body language.”
Mississippi’s chief medical examiner stands by Shaker, saying that the incident in Kenya should not raise questions about Shaker’s conduct in the Carter case.
“In the Mississippi Medical Examiner’s Office deaths are investigated individually on a case-by-case basis, then reviewed daily,” Dr. Mark LeVaughn told the Associated Press. “This should not be a credibility issue.”
Questions about the nature of Carter’s death have arisen since his body was found. State Rep. Willie Perkins, a Democrat who is also president of the Leflore County, Miss. NAACP chapter, wondered why Carter would travel so far from his home to hang himself.
“There are a lot of concerns there, number one is that this individual could not have himself without the assistance of someone, if it’s being declared a suicide,” he told USA Today. “Why would someone from Sunflower County come to North Greenwood, the predominantly White housing area of Greenwood? Why would someone that far away come and hang themselves in North Greenwood by a river? That does not pass the smell test to me.”