Only days after an autopsy report concluded that Chavis Carter was killed by a gunshot blast to his head while handcuffed in a police car, the lab that conducted the analysis admits that they did not do all the tests they were ordered to complete.
New questions are now being asked in the case of Carter, the 21-year-old Arkansas man whose mysterious death last month has attracted attention around the country. The Jonesboro Arkansas Police Department maintains that Carter committed suicide on July 28 while handcuffed in the backseat of a patrol car. And while the crime lab results publicized earlier this week confirm that it was indeed a gun shot that ended Carter’s life, the officials who oversaw the autopsy say that their report has been misconstrued to suggest that their final ruling pointed towards a suicide.
When the Associated Press acquired the autopsy report several days ago, they reported that the crime lab claimed Carter "was cuffed and placed into a police car, where apparently he produced a weapon, and despite being handcuffed, shot himself in the head.” In an update to their story published Thursday, the AP reports that the crime lab involved in the investigation can no formally declare the death a suicide or homicide.
The crime lab, in fact, never performed a gunshot residue test on Carter, despite the autopsy being performed amid country-wide outrage over the man’s death.
According to the AP, Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates ordered the lab to conduct a gunshot residue test, but the chief criminalist that oversaw the procedure, Lisa Channell, tells AP that her lab doesn’t even perform those analyses.
Gunshot residue tests, says Channell, can indicate if a suspect was in the general vicinity of a firearm when the trigger is pulled. “It cannot,” however, “tell you whether the person pulled the trigger or not."
Now only days after the lab report led many to suggest that Carter was officially responsible for his own death, his case is yet again attracting criticism.
Before a Tuesday night meeting in Jonesboro where community members were provided a forum to talk openly about the investigation, Commission on Religion and Racism member Maxine Thomas participated in a march across the city, during which she told the AP, “Jonesboro Arkansas stinks with injustice and the world is watching.”
Benjamin Irwin, a lawyer representing Carter's family in the case, tells the AP that he was taken aback after learning that the crime lab didn’t complete their police-ordered analysis.
"To me, that's horrible," Irwin says.
In recent days, renowned civil rights activist Jesse Jackson has involved himself in the case as well. Commenting to AP this week, Jackson says, "We are convinced the explanations given so far are not credible ones," and is insisting that the US Justice Department opens up an investigation of their own.