Conspiracy theories that Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered on Saturday are circling the internet.
The predominantly right-wing conspiracy theorists who believe foul play might have been involved point out that Scalia’s cause of death has not been officially determined, as an autopsy was not ordered.
Some have noted that Scalia, who died at 79, was pronounced dead over the phone and was allegedly found later with a pillow over his head, while others point out that Scalia had declined a security detail for his weekend visit to the Cibolo Creek Ranch in Texas.
The theories first began to swirl after John Poindexter, who owns the ranch Scalia was staying at, said he found the jurist under a pillow, although he looked “as if he was taking a nap. “
“We discovered the judge in bed, a pillow over his head. His bedclothes were unwrinkled,” he told the San Antonio Express-News.
Scalia was alone at the time of his death because he had declined a security detail from US marshals, which provide security for Supreme Court justices.
GOP presidential front-runner and business mogul Donald Trump is among those who have fanned flames on the theory.
“I’m hearing it’s a big topic,” Trump said in a Monday interview with conservative radio host Michael Savage.
“It’s a horrible topic but they’re saying they found the pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.”
“I can’t give you an answer,” he continued. “It’s just starting to come out now.”
Without having seen the body, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara pronounced Scalia dead over the phone and told The Associated Press that he died of a “myocardial infraction,” known as a heart attack. Later, however, she told the Washington Post she was only aware that his heart had stopped, not that he suffered a heart attack. She then said Scalia underwent an MRI last week and was suffering from multiple conditions.
It’s allowed in Texas to pronounce a person legally dead without seeing his or her body. Indeed, a US marshal on the scene said it wasn’t necessary to observe the body in person, Vox reported, and law enforcement officials made clear to Guevara that no foul play was evident.
A manager at the funeral home Scalia’s body was taken to, moreover, told the Post that his family didn’t want an autopsy performed — a choice that has been heavily scrutinised.
“If it had been me…I would want to know,” Juanita Bishop, a justice of the peace in Presidio, told the Post.
The former head of criminal investigations for Washington DC police, William O. Ritchie, further fueld the conspiracy in a Facebook post he wrote Sunday, per the Post.
“As a former homicide commander, I am stunned that no autopsy was ordered for Justice Scalia,” he wrote.
“You have a Supreme Court Justice who died, not in attendance of a physician,” he continued. “You have a non-homicide trained US Marshal tell the justice of peace that no foul play was observed. You have a justice of the peace pronounce death while not being on the scene and without any medical training opining that the justice died of a heart attack. What medical proof exists of a myocardial Infarction? Why not a cerebral hemorrhage?”
“My gut tells me there is something fishy going on in Texas,” he added.
Ed Whelan, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and former clerk for Scalia, called the conspiracy theories “baseless” on Twitter.
“To those peddling baseless claim that Scalia might have been murdered: STOP!!! This is poisonous and grossly irresponsible rhetoric.”
Scalia’s death, which opened a seat on the Supreme Court, is now at the heart of the 2016 election. Republicans are demanding that the Senate refrains from confirming US President Barack Obama’s eventual appointment to the court, while Democrats are lambasting Republicans for obstructing a constitutional right of the president.
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