Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Medical examiner in boot camp case gets interim appointment

Posted on Tue, Jun. 19, 2007

An embattled medical examiner was granted an interim appointment Tuesday, days after the state Medical Examiners Commission voted to remove him from his post as medical examiner for six Panhandle counties.

Dr. Charles Siebert, will keep his job for roughly 90 days while a search committee looks for a replacement, State Attorney Steve Meadows ruled.

"I will not sacrifice Charles Siebert on the altar of political expediency or correctness," Meadows said Tuesday. "Despite what amounts to a reckless character assassination by some media outlets and, regrettably, even some members of our government, I believe Dr. Siebert to be a competent and thorough medical examiner - not beholden to anyone or any cause. Quite simply, Dr. Siebert is a well-qualified doctor doing his best to serve the people of this district."

The state Medical Examiners Commission voted last week to remove Siebert from his post as medical examiner for the six Panhandle counties, saying it had concerns about his honesty. The panel voted last month not to recommend his reappointment.

Siebert said he plans to reapply for his job and appeal the commission's decision to remove him from office.

"It's going to be a difficult road, but I'm going to give it a shot," Siebert told The Associated Press.

The Medical Examiners Commission will review candidates and make a recommendation to Gov. Charlie Crist for approval.

Siebert was criticized for his disputed autopsy on a teenager who died after an altercation with guards at a juvenile boot camp last year.

"The local support has been tremendous. The people I work for and with have been supportive all along and that's what keeps me going everyday and that's what I want to come back for," Siebert said.

Siebert performed the first autopsy on 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, who died after being roughed up by guards at the Panama City boot camp. A report presented to the commission said Siebert likely made several missteps in his initial assessment of Anderson's death.

Siebert ruled that the teen died of natural complications of sickle cell trait. But a second autopsy found he died because the guards covered his mouth and held ammonia capsules to his nose. Siebert has stood by his initial opinion.

Seven guards and a nurse employed at the camp face manslaughter charges for Anderson's death. Trial was scheduled to begin Oct. 3 and last two weeks, Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet ruled Tuesday. Jury selection was set for Sept. 24 and 25.

The Legislature last month awarded Anderson's family $5 million in compensation.

Last year, the commission, in an administrative complaint, found Siebert was negligent in performing 39 of 698 autopsies it reviewed.

A telephone call to the state attorney's office was not immediately returned Tuesday night.

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