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Barksdale autopsy showed injuries

By Jay Reeves
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM — A medical examiner said Tuesday that Farron Barksdale, who was convicted of murdering two Athens policemen and died days after entering state custody, had bruises on his upper body and hips when he died, contrary to prison officials' public claims that there was no evidence of injuries.

Corrections officials said any mistake they made in interpreting the autopsy findings was unintentional.

Some of the bruises found on Farron Barksdale's body after his death in August were related to medical treatment in a hospital and his deteriorating health, said Dr. Kenneth Snell of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.

Unexplained bruises

But other bruises on his hips were older and larger and could not be explained, Snell said. Whatever the cause of the marks, the examiner said, the bruising was not linked to the death of Barksdale, 32, who had a history of mental problems and pleaded guilty in the officers' slayings.

"Was it real? Yes. Was it significant? No. It did not contribute to the cause of death," Snell said.

Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen said the department did its best to explain the findings of Snell's autopsy report. While detailing the various old and new bruises, the report on one page states Barksdale had no significant injuries and on a later page says he had no sign of injuries, period.

"We quoted what was in the body of the report," Allen said.

An attorney for the Barksdale family, Jake Watson, said he was troubled by the discrepancies.

"It's bothersome," said Watson. "We want to think he wasn't abused or beaten; that's natural. Hopefully there's a logical explanation."

A prison system news release that said the autopsy found no sign of injuries could have been the result of a misunderstanding. At one point, Snell wrote that he found "no significant external or internal trauma," while on the next page he wrote there was "no evidence of external or internal trauma."

In the interview, Snell said the word "significant" was crucial.

Sentenced to life without parole after pleading guilty in the murder of two Athens police officers, Barksdale arrived at Kilby prison near Montgomery on Aug. 8. Prison officials say he was found unconscious in his one-person cell three days later, so they took him to a hospital.

Barksdale died at the hospital on Aug. 20, and Snell examined the body two days later.

The prison is not air conditioned, and the temperature in Montgomery reached 106 degrees the day Barksdale was found in his cell. The autopsy indicates the excessive heat played a role in his health problems.

Snell's report said that when Barksdale arrived at the hospital he was suffering from hyperthermia — an extreme overheating of the body — along with pneumonia; a blood-clotting problem called coagulopathy; upper gastrointestinal bleeding; breakdown of muscle tissues; and an altered mental state.

Pneumonia caused Barksdale's death, along with hyperthermia and the blood problem, Snell concluded. The hyperthermia was likely linked to medication Barksdale had been given, he found.

Allen said Barksdale was packed in ice by prison medical staff in an attempt to lower his body temperature before he was sent to the hospital.

In his autopsy report, Snell noted several fresh bruises to Barksdale's arms, chest, and abdomen. Those marks were likely the result of medical procedures performed on Barksdale during the time he was in the hospital, he said in an interview.

Barksdale also had larger, older bruises on his right and left hips, according to the report. One measured 8 inches by 41/2 inches and was still purple in places, it said.

Snell said he could not determine whether Barksdale bruised himself or if someone else inflicted the marks.

Barksdale was sentenced to life without parole after he admitted shooting Athens police Officer Tony Mims, 40, and Sgt. Larry Russell, 42, on Jan. 2, 2004. The defense claimed Barksdale was a paranoid schizophrenic with a history of mental illness, but doctors found him mentally competent to stand trial.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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