Thursday, July 2, 2015

Assuming the Suicide Position: The Significance of Vernon J. Geberth's Testimony in Soaked In Bleach

The significance of Vernon J. Geberth's testimony in Soaked In Bleach really can't be understated.

As his biography indicates, Mr. Geberth “is a retired Lieutenant-Commander of the New York City Police Department with over 40 years of law enforcement experience.  He retired as the Commanding Officer of the Bronx Homicide Task Force, which handled over 400 murder investigations a year.”  In addition:  “He has personally investigated, supervised, assessed and consulted on over eight thousand death investigations” and served as a Homicide Instructor for the Police Training Division of the New York Office of the FBI.  He is also the author of Practical Homicide Investigation, which is recognized as the leading Homicide investigation textbook and is otherwise known as “The Bible of Homicide Investigation.”

Given this background and experience – and this is only a portion of it – there can be no doubt as to the credibility and significance of his claim in Soaked In Bleach that the Seattle Police Department “assumed the suicide position,” which means that a determination of suicide was made prior to any meaningful review of the evidence.  As Commander Geberth explains in the film:  “As a homicide commander, I would not be making any proclamations that the case was a suicide without the evidence having been processed, [such as] the victimology, the medicolegal process, [and] toxicology.  It's a death investigation.”  He continues adamantly:  “The reason we call things death investigations is that we don't want to prematurely make them homicides, suicides, or accidents.  It's a death investigation.

Commander Geberth's point, of course, is backed up succinctly in the film by Dr. Cyril Wecht, a leading forensic expert and former President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, who passionately emphasizes:  “They knew nothing about the drug level; they knew nothing about fingerprints; they knew nothing about anything else at that time except that they had found him with a shotgun.”

In sum, Commander Geberth's assertion that the Seattle Police Department “assumed the suicide position” is a devastating charge, as it means the investigation into Kurt Cobain's death was corrupted from the outset.  And as a consequence, various and vital pieces of evidence were discarded and/or destroyed, such as the deceased, who was permitted to be cremated less than a week after being discovered.

This “assumption of suicide” and the Departmental shame associated with it is essentially why there has been a twenty-one year public battle wrought with disinformation and ongoing attempts to thwart a re-opening of the case.  It is the reason that the Seattle Police Department insincerely reaffirmed its suicide verdict in 2014 and why certain media spectacles are concocted.  And, worst of all, it's the reason why there have been so many kids that have taken their lives under the misinformed impression that that's what their hero did.

The sooner a re-investigation is commenced by an impartial team of professionals, the sooner we can move on from the past and really begin, in full, to celebrate the life of Kurt Cobain.  For as Norm Stamper concludes:  “It's about right and wrong.  It's about honor. It's about ethics.”


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