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Whitewater: The Foster Report
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(Part V Continued)

5. Contents of Bodily Fluid

During the 1993 investigation, the Laboratory of the Virginia Division of Forensic Science found that the blood, vitreous humor, and urine were negative for alcohols and ketones. The Laboratory did not detect "phencyclidine, morphine, cocaine, [or] benzoylecgonine"; "other alkaline extractable drugs"; or "acidic [or] neutral drugs."

The FBI Laboratory later conducted more sensitive testing and determined that the blood sample from Mr. Foster contained trazodone. Trazodone was an antidepressant medication prescribed as Desyrel by Mr. Foster's physician on July 19, 1993, and Mr. Foster took one tablet that night, according to his wife.

C. Review by Pathologists

Because of the importance of the forensic evidence to the conclusion about cause and manner of death, the OIC retained Dr. Brian Blackbourne as an expert pathologist to assist the investigation. Dr. Blackbourne reviewed the relevant reports, photographs, and microscopic slides; toured Fort Marcy Park; and interviewed Dr. Beyer, Dr. Haut, and FBI and Virginia laboratory personnel. He provided a report to the OIC summarizing his work on the forensic issues and setting forth his analysis.

Dr. Blackbourne concluded that Mr. Foster "died of a contact gunshot wound of the mouth, perforating his skull and brain." Dr. Blackbourne based that conclusion "upon the autopsy report, diagrams and photographs and my examination of the microscopic slides of the entrance wound in the soft palate and posterior oropharynx which demonstrated extensive soot."

Dr. Blackbourne concluded that Mr. Foster was alive at the time the shot was fired. Dr. Blackbourne based this conclusion

upon the autopsy report and photographic evidence that there was bleeding beneath the scalp about the gunshot exit wound and beneath the fractures of the back of the skull. Such bleeding requires the heart to be beating at the time these injuries occurred. The autopsy report and my microscopic observation that blood was aspirated into the lungs requires that the person be breathing in order to suck the blood into the small air sacks of the lung. Dr. Blackbourne concluded that Mr. Foster "fired the gun with the muzzle in his mouth, his right thumb pulling the trigger and supporting the gun with both hands and with both index fingers relatively close to the cylinder gap (the space between the cylinder and the barrel)." Dr. Blackbourne reasoned that ''the dense deposit of soot on the soft palate and oropharynx indicated that the gun was discharged in close proximity to the soft palate." In addition, the DNA from the muzzle of the gun was consistent with that of Mr. Foster. Furthermore, "[t]he right thumb was entrapped within the trigger guard by the forward motion of the trigger after the revolver was fired." Finally, Dr. Blackbourne stated that "[w]hen a revolver is fired, smoke issues out of the space between the cylinder and the barrel. This smoke will be deposited on skin, clothing or other objects close to the cylinder gap. The autopsy report documents that smoke deposits were noted on the radial aspect of both right and left index fingers. Dr. Beyer told me that there was more deposit on the right as compared to the left index fingers."

Dr. Blackbourne concluded that "[a]t the time of his death Vincent Foster was not under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, [or] cocaine." Dr. Blackbourne based this conclusion upon the toxicology reports of the Virginia Division of Forensic Science Toxicology Laboratory and the FBI Laboratory; a meeting with the personnel of the FBI Laboratory; and a discussion with the toxicologist for the Virginia Division of Forensic Science who performed work on the Foster case in 1993.

Dr. Blackbourne concluded that the gunshot wound that caused Mr. Foster's death occurred in Fort Marcy Park at the location where his body was discovered. Dr. Blackbourne based this conclusion

upon the fact that he would be immediately unconscious following the gunshot wound through the brain. Movement of the body, after the gunshot, by another person(s) would have produced a trail of dripping blood and displaced some of his clothing. If he had been transported from another location, such movement would have resulted in much greater blood soilage of his clothing (as was seen when he later was placed in a body bag and transported to Fairfax Hospital and later to the Medical Examiner's Office). No trail of dripping blood was observed about the body on the scene. His clothing was neat and not displaced. The blood beneath the head and on the face and shoulder is consistent with coming from the entrance and exit wounds. Dr. Blackbourne concluded that the blood draining from the right nostril and right side of the mouth, as documented by Polaroid scene photographs, suggests that an early observer may have caused movement of the head. Dr. Blackbourne based this conclusion upon the fact that blood will pool in the mouth and nasopharynx while the heart is still beating following a gunshot wound of the back of the mouth. This blood may drain toward the dependent side of the head if the volume of blood exceeds the capacity of the mouth. There will be a thin trickle. The broad area of blood covering the right lower face, chin and right side of his neck and extending over the right shoulder and right collar of his shirt would result from the sudden drainage of all of the blood in his mouth. . . . This event occurred prior to taking the Polaroid scene photographs. Based on all of the above evidence, analyses, and conclusions, Dr. Blackbourne concluded that "Vincent Foster committed suicide on July 20, 1993 in Ft. Marcy Park by placing a .38 caliber revolver in his mouth and pulling the trigger. His death was at his own hand."

Foster Report Table of Contents

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