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Not With The Band: On The Importance Of Releasing Autopsy Reports

Fifteen years after his death, the autopsy of rapper notorious B.I.G. was released by the LAPD and made public. The LA Times is reporting that the LA County coroner’s office made the report public last Friday and was immediately criticized by the rapper’s family for failing to tell them beforehand that the report was about to be made public; the police answered that it was due to an administrative error, and that they intended to warn the family first.


Whatever happened, the autopsy report is out and – you can read it on the LA Times webpage – Wallace was shot four times in March 1997 on Wilshire Boulevard, and 3 out of the 4 gunshots were not fatal: gunshot #1 struck Wallace in the left forearm and traveled down to his wrist, gunshot #2 struck him in the back, missed all vital organs, and exited through his left shoulder, gunshot #3 struck him on his outer left thigh and exited through his inner left thigh, and the fatal bullet was gunshot #4 … which entered Wallace's body through his right hip and ripped its way through several vital organs (colon, liver, heart and the upper lobe of his left lung) … before coming to rest in his left shoulder area.


Ouch! But what did you expect? Autopsy reports are of course crude and graphic, and the astonishing detail in all this is that he didn’t have any trace of drug and alcohol in his system! But one unrelated thing is very important: The LAPD opted to release the autopsy ‘as an investigative tool’, they are hoping that releasing ‘the report would stimulate additional interest or bring forth witnesses or clues in the case’.


And that’s very intriguing, as in high-profile investigations, autopsy results are usually withheld while the case is under investigation, and so the police, in the hope to re-launch the case with this document, has done an unusual move since Wallace’s case has remained unsolved.


Curiously, the 23-page document is signed by Dr. Lisa Scheinin, the same doctor who performed the autopsy on Elliott Smith, and who has to be the autopsy-specialist for celebrities! And this led me to this thought: Elliott Smith’s autopsy was released on line just a few months after he died, it was posted on the Smoking Gun website on January 8th, and has remained available since, whereas the case is still open. Now that I know this, I wonder whether this was not done in the same intention, in the hope to bring witness or clues to help solve the case. When Elliott died on October 21st 2003, numerous articles announcing his suicide were published, but things took another turn when the coroner report was made public. Even CNN reported then ‘An autopsy report appears to leave the nature of Smith's death, which was initially called a suicide by Los Angeles police, an open question’.


Which brings the question of the importance of autopsy reports made public. They may be gruesome, they may be graphic, but they tell the crude and raw truth. I really hated it when certain fans said they were outraged to see Elliott’s autopsy posted online, that it was out of respect for him and his family! In the same way, Notorious B.I.G. family should not have complained, this is a new chance for the case, I just wonder why they haven’t released the document earlier!If And when I am on the subject, every document held by the police should be made available to the public when a case hasn't been solved after 10-15 years!


People who protest against releasing autopsy reports could not be more wrong, making a report public is the biggest respect you can have for someone whose circumstances of death are not clear, since the report is our best chance to learn what happened to a person, and our best opportunity to know the truth. But most people are not interested by the truth, I have realized this over the years,… most people prefer to stay away from the brutal and harsh reading of an autopsy report, they prefer to continue looking at reality through their pink glasses without realizing they are avoiding reality. Autopsy reports remind us that life is hard and cruel, but they should not be ignored.



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