The brother of deceased Alabama attorney Major Bashinsky wrote last week that family members should not have to feel concerned for their safety now that the death has been ruled a suicide.
But what if you don't buy the ruling that Major Bashinsky waded into a golf-course pond and shot himself in the head, trying to make it look like a homicide? What if incompetence or corruption, or a combination of both, caused Jefferson County law-enforcement officials to get it wrong? Given what we know about the "justice system" in Alabama, is there reason to believe it can get anything right?
Sloan Y. Bashinsky Jr., Major's older brother, has written on his blog goodmorningfloridakeys.com that he accepts the suicide ruling. But we have followed news coverage of the case closely, and it has left us with serious doubts about the findings of the coroner's office. And we suspect some members of the Bashinsky family share those doubts.
So does that mean family members still should be concerned for their safety? We doubt it. If Major Bashinsky was murdered, it probably was a gruesome "calling card," a threat of the most terrifying kind. The message, we suspect, was, "If certain information remains under wraps, there will be no more unfortunate incidents such as this one. But should you consider divulging certain information, this should be taken as notice that serious repercussions could occur."
If Major Bashinsky was murdered, our guess is that only a small handful of people connected to his family know about the existence of the hot-button information. Most of the family members have no way of revealing what they don't even know. Given what happened to Major Bashinsky, we suspect the few in the know will remain extremely tight-lipped.
We already have pointed to several issues that cause us to question the finding of suicide. Many other puzzling questions remain:
* Why did authorities wait until after Bashinsky's memorial service to announce their findings?
The body was recovered on March 15, the memorial service was held on March 23, and the suicide ruling was made on the morning of March 24. Public statements from law-enforcement officials indicate they considered it a pretty clear suicide, a case that did not require extensive investigation. So why the delay? One take might be that it was out of respect for the family. Another take might be that officials knew the finding would be viewed as questionable, and they didn't want anyone speaking out before the television cameras that were sure to be present at the memorial service.
* What was the purpose of a second dive and investigation at the golf course on March 24, nine days after the original dive and investigation? And why was it delayed until the morning after the memorial service?
In a post at 8:30 a.m. on March 24, al.com reported that authorities had found a set of Toyota car keys, scissors, and a roll of tape in the pond. In a post at 9:40 a.m., just 1 hour and 10 minutes later, al.com reported that the death had been ruled a suicide?
Boy, that didn't take long. A cause of death had been unknown for nine days, but the entire mystery was solved only 1 hour and 10 minutes after car keys, scissors, and a roll of tape had been found? Seems that somebody was in a rush to wrap this case up. And press reports do not indicate that the keys matched Major Bashinsky's car. But hey, case closed.
So why the second investigation/dive? Here's a theory: It seems clear that someone on the original investigation/dive team had loose lips. Sloan Bashinsky reported on his blog, accurately it turns out, that Major had been shot in the head and that his hands had been bound. Was the purpose of the second investigation to make sure that any loose lips had been purged from the team and a finding could be a released before a new set of loose lips could develop?
* Why did law-enforcement officials rely on a blurry photo of Major Bashinsky in an effort to get identification from a hardware-store employee who said he had sold scissors and duct tape to a customer?
Recent, crystal-clear photos of Major Bashinsky are all over the Internet. Why did officials use a blurry photo, taken from a security camera, to try to get identification? As it turns out, the store employee told a reporter he could not identify the customer as Major Bashinsky.
But authorities proceeded to treat it as established fact that the man was Bashinsky? "All of our evidence supports (suicide)," Jefferson County Chief Deputy Coroner Pat Curry said.
Really? A key part of your story is that Major Bashinsky walked into a hardware store and bought duct tape and scissors. But the man who sold the items said he could not positively identify the man as Bashinsky.
Sounds like your evidence isn't all that strong, Mr. Deputy Coroner. But hey, case closed.
* Who identified Major Bashinsky at a coffee shop, and how did that identification come about?
Authorities say Bashinsky stopped at a Southside coffee shop and bought coffee before going to a nearby hardware store. How do authorities know the man at the coffee shop was Bashinsky? Did they use the same blurry photo they used to try to identify the man at the hardware store? If the clerk at the hardware store was uncertain about Bashinsky's identity, how can we be certain about the man at the coffee shop? Is it common for a person to stop for a cup of coffee before proceeding to "off" himself?
The case is a long way from being closed in our book. We might eventually learn that Major Bashinsky committed suicide--and why. But the "proof" we've seen so far is a long way from being convincing.
And here is the No. 1 reason we have doubts about the findings in this case: Since we started this blog in June 2007, we have presented a mountain of evidence that raises doubts about the integrity of our justice system--in Alabama and beyond.
Just in Alabama, we have shown that federal prosecutors in Montgomery and Birmingham have acted corruptly, that federal judges in Montgomery and Birmingham have acted corruptly or in highly irregular ways, that federal juries have reached questionable conclusions, that state judges in Shelby and Jefferson counties have acted unlawfully, that the sheriff of Shelby County makes little effort to hide his unlawful actions, and domestic-relations court in Jefferson County is a sleaze pit of monstrous proportions.
To top it off, our governor appears to be bought and paid for by Mississippi gambling interests, he has documented ties to disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, his family treats Alabama like their personal piggy bank, and substantial evidence indicates the governor is in office only because of a stolen election in 2002. This governor, who might go down as the most corrupt chief executive in our state's history, has considerable sway over the state's justice apparatus.
This is the environment in which we learned last week that Major Bashinsky supposedly killed himself--even though his widow, Leslie Hewett Bashinsky, had stated publicly that such a notion was beyond her "realm."
We're supposed to believe that authorities in Alabama got it right?