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Whitewater: The Foster Report
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A. Scrutiny

The gunshot death of a high-ranking White House lawyer who had been a law partner of the First Lady of the United States and friend to both the President and the First Lady was bound to be heavily scrutinized -- and it has been. Many persons have publicly identified specific issues regarding Mr. Foster's death that, in their view, might raise broader questions about the ultimate conclusion that Mr. Foster committed suicide in Fort Marcy Park. Those questions have arisen and to some extent persisted for many of the same reasons that numerous suicides are questioned. In this case, as in many suicides, no identified eyewitness saw Mr. Foster commit suicide, and Mr. Foster apparently did not leave a suicide note (that is, a note that specifically refers to or contemplates suicide).

The primary issues that have been raised regarding the cause and manner of Mr. Foster's death can be grouped into several broadly defined categories: (1) forensic issues; (2) apparent differences in statements of private witnesses, Park Police personnel, and Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department (FCFRD) personnel regarding their activities and observations at Fort Marcy Park on July 20; (3) physical evidence (such as the fatal bullet) that could not be recovered; and (4) the conduct of the Park Police investigation and the autopsy.

B. OIC Personnel

To ensure that these issues were fully considered, carefully examined, and properly assessed in analyzing the cause and manner of Mr. Foster's death, the OIC retained a number of experienced experts and criminal investigators. The experts included Dr. Brian D. Blackbourne, Dr. Henry C. Lee, and Dr. Alan L. Berman.

Dr. Blackbourne has been County Medical Examiner for San Diego County, California, since 1990. He was Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from 1983 to 1990; Deputy Chief Medical Examiner in Washington, D.C., from 1972 to 1982; and Assistant Medical Examiner in Metropolitan Dade County, Florida, from 1967 to 1972. He has taught and written widely, and has testified in court on numerous occasions. He has performed over 5,500 autopsies, over 700 of which have involved gunshot wounds. The autopsies have included over 800 homicides and over 700 suicides. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a  member of the National Association of Medical Examiners.

Dr. Lee has served as Director of the Connecticut State Police Forensic Science Laboratory since 1980. He has numerous professional affiliations and has served as a consultant to a variety of organizations. He has received over 400 awards and commendations, including a 1986 Distinguished Service Award and a 1994 Distinguished Fellow Award from the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. He has been qualified in many state and federal courts as an expert witness or an expert involved in forensic science, forensic serology, bloodspatter analysis, crime scene investigation, crime scene profiling, crime scene reconstruction, fingerprints, imprints, and general physical evidence. He has written or edited many books and articles, including Physical Evidence (1995), Crime Scene Investigation (1994), Physical Evidence and Forensic Science (1985), and Physical Evidence and Crime Scene Investigation (1983).

Since 1995, Dr. Berman has been Executive Director of the American Association of Suicidology. He was President of that Association in 1984-85. From 1991 to 1995, he was Director of the National Center for the Study and Prevention of Suicide. Since 1971, he has engaged in the private practice of psychotherapy and psychological consultation. In 1982, he received the Edwin S. Shneidman Award for outstanding contribution in research by the American Association of Suicidology. He has taught and written extensively on the subject of suicide, and has testified before committees of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. He is a Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the American University in Washington, D.C., and was a tenured professor in the Department of Psychology from 1979 to 1991. He was co-editor of Assessment and Prediction of Suicide (1992). He has been a Consulting Editor of the journal Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior since 1981.

OIC investigators who worked with these outside, independent experts included an FBI agent detailed from the FBI-MPD Cold Case Homicide Squad in Washington, D.C. Agents with the Cold Case Squad work with MPD homicide detectives in reviewing and attempting to solve homicides that have remained unsolved for more than one year. Another OIC investigator has extensive homicide experience as a detective with the MPD in Washington, D.C., for over 20 years. Two other OIC investigators assigned to the Foster death matter have experience as FBI agents investigating homicides of federal officials and others.

C. Methodology

The OIC devoted substantial effort to gathering, examining, and analyzing evidence to render as conclusive a determination as possible of the cause and manner of Mr. Foster's death. In this kind of investigation – a reconstruction based in part on evidence gathered and tested during prior investigations -- the important information in assessing the cause and manner of death includes testimonial, documentary, and photographic evidence relating to the scene and the autopsy; physical and forensic evidence gathered at the scene and the autopsy; a variety of tests and analyses of the evidence; and testimonial and documentary evidence revealing the decedent's activities and state of mind in the days and weeks before his death.

In particular, the OIC obtained information gathered during the prior investigations of Mr. Foster's death, including physical evidence; photographs taken at the scene and the autopsy; and incident reports, interview reports, and other documents produced or gathered by the Park Police, the FCFRD, the FBI, and Mr. Fiske's Office. The OIC questioned the known and identified civilian witnesses who were in Fort Marcy Park in the late afternoon of July 20, the Park Police and FCFRD personnel who responded to Fort Marcy Park, and the medical personnel who were involved in the Foster matter. Many of these persons were questioned before the federal grand jury.

As to forensic information, the OIC attempted to obtain certain physical and forensic evidence in addition to that which had been gathered in prior investigations. Experts retained by the OIC reviewed and examined the evidence. Dr. Lee reviewed and studied scene and autopsy photographs and documentation; studied, re-examined, and tested physical evidence; reviewed FBI Laboratory tests and the autopsy results; met with FBI Laboratory personnel and Dr. Beyer, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy; and toured and examined the Fort Marcy Park scene. Dr. Lee submitted a report summarizing his work on the physical and forensic evidence and setting forth his analysis.

Dr. Blackbourne reviewed the relevant reports and the scene and autopsy photographs; reviewed microscopic slides; examined the Fort Marcy Park area; and interviewed Dr. Beyer, Dr. Haut (the medical examiner who responded to the Fort Marcy scene on July 20), and FBI and Virginia laboratory personnel. Dr. Blackbourne prepared a report summarizing his work on the forensic issues and setting forth his analysis.

As to information regarding Mr. Foster's activities and state of mind before his death, the OIC both re-interviewed certain persons who had been interviewed during prior investigations and interviewed persons not previously interviewed. These individuals included a variety of family members, friends, and associates who could potentially shed light on Mr. Foster's activities and state of mind. The OIC reviewed documents gathered in prior investigations, and sought and reviewed new documents.

The OIC provided Dr. Berman with relevant state-of-mind information (the bulk of which consisted of interview reports and transcripts), which he studied and analyzed. Dr. Berman submitted a report to the OIC summarizing his work and providing his analysis.

The OIC legal staff in Washington, D.C., and Little Rock, Arkansas, participated in assessing the evidence, considering the analyses and conclusions of the OIC experts and investigators, and preparing this report.

D. Report

This report will describe the factual background; the forensic evidence and analyses, including the autopsy findings; the analysis of Dr. Lee; and the analyses and reports prepared by Dr. Blackbourne and the pathologists retained by Mr. Fiske's Office. Above all, the Foster death case is a forensic matter, and the forensic evidence and analyses provide the foundation for the ultimate conclusion. The report then will discuss investigative work conducted with respect to other, specific issues. Finally, the report will summarize Dr. Berman's conclusions regarding Mr. Foster's state of mind.

The OIC has filed this summary report with the Special Division of the United States Court of Appeals. Because of the secrecy restrictions of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), the OIC has not submitted the report to the Congress or released it directly to the public. The Special Division retains discretion to authorize public release of this report, and the OIC has prepared the report with the assumption that the Special Division, consistent with past practice, would see fit to authorize public release. While some descriptions of forensic evidence are necessarily graphic, the OIC has sought to comply with the 1994 Independent Counsel Reauthorization Act regarding the contents of reports.

Some of the best evidence of the condition of Mr. Foster's body at the time of his death is contained in photographs taken by Park Police officers at Fort Marcy Park and in photographs taken at the autopsy. However, based on traditional privacy considerations, this report does not include death scene or autopsy photographs. The potential for misuse and exploitation of such photographs is both substantial and obvious.

Foster Report Table of Contents

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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