The Death of a Supreme Court Justice

Antonin Scalia died on late on Friday, February 12, 2016, or early Saturday, February 13, 2016.  He was an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States since 1986.  Scalia was appointed by President Ronald Regan and was a strong-hold on the Court’s conservative wing.  Additionally, he had ties to Chicago as he was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School from 1977 until 1982, where he became the first faculty adviser for the University’s chapter of the Federalist Society.

The death of Scalia not only leaves an open seat ripe for speculation, but also has created controversy and conspiracy theories.

Scalia was staying at Cibolo Creek Ranch in remote West Texas when he was found dead in his bed on Saturday, February 13th, by the resort owner John Poindexter.  Cibolo Creek is a luxury compound less than an hour from the Mexican border.  Poindexter related that he first knocked on Scalia’s door at about 8:30am, but the door was locked and the Justice did not answer.  Three hours passed and Scalia had still not exited his room.  Poindexter said, “We discovered the judge in bed, a pillow over his head.  His bed clothes were unwrinkled.  He was lying very restfully.  It looked like he had not quite awakened from a nap.  His hands were sort of almost folded on top of the sheets.  The sheets weren’t rumpled up at all.”  However, Poindexter later maintained that he meant that Scalia “had a pillow over his head, not over his face as some have been saying.  The pillow was against the headboard.”

To add more mystery to the death, it took hours for authorities in Shafter, Texas, to find a justice of the peace.  When they did, Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara pronounced Scalia dead of natural causes without seeing the body and without ordering an autopsy.  Both decisions are technically legal under Texas law, but surprising choices when it comes to the death of a Supreme Court Justice.

Guevara acknowledged that she pronounced Scalia dead by phone, without seeing his body.  She added that she spoke to law enforcement officials at the scene who assured her “there were no signs of foul play” and that Scalia, per his doctor in Washington, suffered from a host of chronic conditions.  Guevara was forced to rebut a report by a Dallas TV station that quoted her as saying that the Justice died of myocardial infarction.  In an interview with The Washington Post, she maintained that she meant only that his heart had stopped.  She stated, “It wasn’t a heart attack.  He died of natural causes.”

Scalia’s family later declined an autopsy and his body was carried into the Great Hall this afternoon to lie in repose.  A total of 180 law clerks lined the steps of the Supreme Court to pay their respects in a grand ceremony.

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