How an Innocent 26-Year-Old Got Sold Into Guantanamo Hell for a $5,000 Bounty
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That's not entirely unusual, said Dr. Cyril Wecht, a world-renowned forensic pathologist who has performed more than 15,000 autopsies and consulted on 35,000 postmortem examinations, many of which were high-profile cases.
"You can't make a ruling on manner of death until you make a ruling on cause of death," Wecht said in an interview with Truthout.
"The failure to release a cause of death is likely due to the fact that they have not found anything of a traumatic nature on the body and they haven't found anything on the microscopic slides yet either," he said. "There aren't many things to discover microscopically when you don't have any evidence in the gross autopsy: He probably does not have heart disease, a tumor and so on. So it is a sudden, unexplained death of a young man."
Remes said he does not recall Adnan ever mentioning any of the pre-existing medical conditions Wecht described.
As for the head injury Adnan suffered in the car accident, Wecht said, "You cannot look at someone when they are dead and look at their brain and say what the extent of their neurological damage was and to what degree motor coordination, cognitive functions, sensory perception would have been compromised."
So, even in death, Adnan is unable to undercut the US government's challenge to his claims about the injury he endured in 1994.
However, "to some extent you can, depending upon how severe and well-defined changes are in the brain and where they are located; you can do some retrospective correlations," Wecht said.
"Another thing to keep in mind that can be a real problem is that some people who have brain injuries go on to have convulsions from time to time. And if you have a convulsion, sometimes you can die. Sometimes epileptics do die. Doesn't happen very often, but it can happen and you don't find a single thing in the autopsy. That's something else to keep in mind as a possible explanation for his death."
Remes said he does not recall Adnan ever mentioning convulsions or seizures. Still, if Adnan had suffered a seizure or convulsion severe enough to kill him, wouldn't it have been noticed by the guards monitoring him around-the-clock before he became unresponsive?
That leads Wecht to speculate that Adnan's death may have been the result of drugs - specifically, drugs that cause brain depression like opioids, benzodiazepines, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety sedatives - the kinds of drugs that seem to have been a routine part of life at Guantanamo for the recalcitrant detainee.
"You said he was monitored. There is apparently nothing of a physical nature on his body. He doesn't have heart disease or a tumor. But there has to be a cause of death. Usually the thing that leads to a death like this are drugs." Wecht said. "That's been my experience."
If Adnan were given drugs a day or two - or hours - before his death, some traces would likely show up in the toxicology tests. But beyond that timeframe, any drugs that Adnan may have been administered would have already been excreted from his body, Wecht said.
Neither Durand nor Breasseale would say if Adnan had been administered drugs in the hours prior to his death. However, Truthout and investigative blogger Marcy Wheeler have jointly filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking Adnan's medical records, which should answer that question.
Wecht suspects the government already has a pretty good idea what happened to Adnan "considering he was a prisoner at Guantanamo and monitored regularly."