Boot Camp Trial: Helms Takes the Stand

Defendant Charles Helms, the most senior member of the group of seven boot camp guards who are charged with killing Martin Lee Anderson, didn’t do himself any favors on the stand today.

Asked how Anderson could have avoided the beat-down the boot camp guards gave him, during which they forced his mouth shut and shoved ammonia tablets in his face, Helms replied, “At any time he could have walked, got up, finished the run.”

But I wonder: If Anderson’s death was caused by sickle-cell trait and not suffocation, as the defense has argued, then that would strengthen the argument that his medical condition caused his initial collapse during the run. (The disorder, after all, causes blood cells to shrivel and limit their ability to carry oxygen.) But if, as Helms claimed today, Anderson was faking it and could have stood up at any time during the incident, then wouldn’t that strengthen the prosecutor’s argument that the guards killed him? Another way to ask the same question: Why would sickle-cell trait complicate Anderson’s ability to take in oxygen during his last moments but not during the run or during his altercation with the guards? (Medical experts: Any insight you might have on this point would be helpful.)

Another question: When the ambulance arrived, why didn’t Helms tell the paramedics how many times Anderson had fainted or provide the obviously crucial information about how the guards had tried to revive him with ammonia? And why did he leave these details out of his report on the incident?

“At the time you wrote this report you knew Martin Lee Anderson’s death would be investigated, you knew the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would be involved. Obviously everyone was going to have questions,” prosecutor Mike Sinacore said today. Helms replied that he “had no excuse for that form,” and then proceeded to offer one: he couldn’t conjure up all the details when he wrote the report because he was tired.

After his testimony, Helms broke down and cried.


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