Meet the Boot Camp Trial Blogger

Tony Simmons, online editor at the Panama City News Herald, has been assigned an interesting task this week. For the past three days he’s been at the Bay County Juvenile Justice Courthouse, keeping a minute-by-minute record of absolutely everything that’s happening in the “boot camp trial” in which eight instructors stand accused of killing 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson. Some might file his notes in a folder labeled “Too Much Information,” but I, for one, am very grateful for the service. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s been happening in the courtroom, made possible by that most unsung of heroes, the diligent court stenographer:

The minutes from Day One summarize the opening statements and let you see how attorneys on both sides are shaping their arguments. The prosecution immediately played the surveillance video, and it’s not hard to understand why: it has a strong emotional impact on the jury, and attorneys for the defense will surely have a tough time justifying their clients’ actions. The defense, meanwhile, aims to make its case a matter of medical forensics: Anderson’s death, they’ll argue, did not come as the result of criminal negligence but rather as a consequence of Anderson’s debilitating sickle-cell trait.

Day Two was almost entirely dedicated to debating Anderson’s autopsy and medical condition. Witnesses included: Dr. Jason Foland, a pediatric critical care physician who tended to Anderson at Sacred Heart Hospital; Dr.Thomas Andrew, chief medical examiner for the state of New Hampshire, who consulted on the first autopsy, which found cause of death to be related to sickle-cell trait; Dr. Samir Ebid, who had been Anderson’s pediatrician; and Dr. Nikolaus Gravenstein, who chairs the anesthesiology department at the University of Florida.

Day Three just wrapped up a few minutes ago. Dr. Vernard Adams, the medical examiner for Hillsborough County who performed the second autopsy on Anderson and found that the cause of death was suffocation, took the witness stand this morning. He was cross-examined for a few hours about Anderson’s respiratory condition and whether he felt any external pressure–from the media, from the governor–as he performed the high-stakes autopsy. After lunch the state called Dr. Cynthia Lewis-Younger, a toxicologist, who answered questions about the possible effects of Anderson’s exposure to ammonia.


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