Some things just get to you, straight to the heart, and this is
one of them:
The videotape of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson, knees buckling,
falling to the ground, gasping for breath.
Martin Lee Anderson, dying.
Anderson died after running laps and collapsing at a sheriff's
boot camp near Panama City. The boy apparently complained of
shortness of breath, but camp instructors egged him on, roughly
insisting he continue.
A boot camp videotape later obtained by attorney Benjamin Crump
shows the horrible treatment of Martin Lee Anderson.
"They started doing all these illegal maneuvers," said Crump, the
attorney for the boy's parents. "Knee in the back. Pressure points
behind his ears. Takedowns, which look like body slams to me."
Crump said it went on for 40 minutes. Anderson died the next day
at the hospital.
The case is back in the news this week after they exhumed
Anderson's body and redid the autopsy. The original medical
examiner's report said Anderson, a healthy boy at 5-feet-9 and 140
pounds, suffered internal bleeding, pulmonary swelling, lacerations
on his scalp and cut and swollen lips.
But the Bay County medical examiner, Dr. Charles Siebert, ruled
Anderson's death as "natural," due to "complications of sickle cell
The second autopsy, done Monday, indicates it wasn't that simple.
Dr. Joshua Perper, Broward County's chief medical examiner, said
Wednesday he's studied the original ME report, which is available
"What's interesting is that the sickle cell trait is not
mentioned in the diagnosis, at all," Perper said. Yet, it's the
cause of death.
Hemorrhage not cited as a cause
Perper said Siebert listed "retroperitoneal hemorrhage" in the
first autopsy finding, then ignored that bleeding in his cause of
death. A retroperitoneal hemorrhage occurs "behind the abdominal
organs, just behind the kidneys," Perper said.
The tape shows Anderson being punched in his belly.
"In this case, the major question mark is: How can you find
significant bleeding and the significant bleeding is not mentioned
in the cause of death?" Perper said.
After the family hired Crump — a black Tallahassee attorney who
handles many cases involving uninfluential black clients — Gov. Jeb
Bush named a special prosecutor to review this case.
Anderson was not the perfect child, and it was during a long
afternoon at church that he took a fateful turn. Anderson, his
younger sister, a cousin and two friends left services in his
grandmother's car. Grandmother was still inside church, worshiping,
unaware of what they were doing.
Parents opted for boot camp
There was an accident, and police came. Crump said the boy's
grandmother didn't want to file charges, but "they told her she
wouldn't get any money for her car unless she signed the papers,"
Grand theft auto. All five of them, he says.
Anderson was on probation the night he left his job at Burger
King — where his mother also works — and visited his cousin at
school. This was clearly against the rules, and when he was caught,
he was charged with trespassing, a violation of his probation. His
parents, who are divorced but who, Crump said, were involved in his
life, were given a choice.
They could send him to a juvenile detention center in
Jacksonville or Daytona Beach, or a sheriff's boot camp 10 minutes
from his mother's Panhandle home.
They chose the boot camp.
"As you can imagine, the parents feel terrible," Crump said
Wednesday. "The mama thought she was doing the right thing."
Crump said Anderson liked rap music, made the honor roll and had
recently joined the chess team at school. But he was a kid,
sometimes feisty about the rules. "He was an average little boy. No
greater, no less," Crump said. It's hard to watch the final images
of that average little boy. "His mother can't watch the video
either," Crump said.
Why would someone do these things to a 14-year-old child?
But seeing is believing. Rodney King. The Zapruder film. The
Broward County homeless man beaten for kicks.
And Martin Lee Anderson, knees buckling, falling to the ground,
gasping for breath, feeding a public outrage that shouldn't end