As the world continues to mourn the sudden death yesterday of Prince, the nagging question remains: what killed the superstar?
In the face of rampant speculation, Minnesota authorities held a press conference this afternoon to update the public on the status of the investigation into the iconic performer’s death.
The autopsy for Prince was completed Friday mid-day local time in Minnesota, where the iconic multi-instrumentalist died a day earlier. The exam took longer than normal “because of the gravity of the individual,” an official with the coroner’s office told The Hollywood Reporter.
Additional details about the passing were revealed by authorities on Friday, including that the artist was alone at home at the time of the passing, there were “no obvious signs of trauma” and “no reason to believe at this point that this was a suicide,” Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson said. There was no cell phone in “close proximity” to Prince when his body was found.The artist’s body will be released to his family. Results from the examination will likely not be released for several weeks, Martha Weaver, spokeswoman for the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office had told THR.
“Nothing will be released until everything is complete. Nothing can be reported with a pending status,” she said.
Speculation on the cause of Prince’s death is just that, speculation, Weaver said. Nothing will be known until the autopsy is complete and toxicology results come back to the office, she adds.
Sheriff Olson acknowledged that because Prince’s was an “unwitnessed death,” it necessitated the full investigation. He assured the public that they will leave “no stone unturned on this” investigation to determine what caused the death of this musician whom many are calling the “greatest of a generation.”
While many open questions will remain until we get the final determination from the investigation, today’s press conference begged one big question in my mind. Why does pop star Prince’s death receive this kind of care and thoroughness, while the recent death of another icon in his realm — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — is, quite literally, just phoned in?
Of course, you’ll recall that Scalia’s death was unwitnessed as well and, like Prince’s, discovered when colleagues began to worry. But whereas authorities came onto the scene immediately in Prince’s case — at first, because they were hoping to revive him, despite the 911 call saying he was already deceased — in Scalia’s case, it took hours for authorities in West Texas to find a justice of the peace to oversee the situations. And when they did, she pronounced Scalia dead of natural causes without seeing the body and decided not to order an autopsy. She simply took the word of Scalia’s physician, who wasn’t there, that he believed it was due to natural causes. The body was embalmed without an autopsy being performed.
Many investigators — along with interested American citizens — seriously questioned this decision, especially given Scalia’s role on the Supreme Court — and especially since he died away from his home, without security detail.
William Ritchie, the former homicide commander of D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, said an autopsy would put all these questions to rest.
“If you’re called to the scene to investigate a death, you will assume that death is a homicide until your investigation proves otherwise,” Ritchie said. “If the death scene was handled in an appropriate manner, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”
Our questions will likely never fully rest surrounding the death of Antonin Scalia, whereas, presumably, at least cause of death will be revealed — and speculation thereby removed — in Prince’s death.
Now, I understand these two deaths took place in different jurisdictions, where different rules and procedures may apply. And therein may lie at least part of the problem.
As Judy Melinek wrote for CNN following Scalia’s death:
Any speculation would have easily been put to rest by an autopsy. We need to change our laws so that all jurisdictions have the same guidelines for staffing, funding, accreditation and certification of personnel trained in death investigation. This is a matter of public health and justice.
Now that a murky, rushed death certification has marred the passing of one of the very highest legal figures in the United States, shouldn’t we do something about it?
[Note: This article was written by Michelle Jesse, Associate Editor]