As word of renowned conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death spread throughout the media this past Saturday, rumors of foul play were not far behind, and it isn’t difficult to understand why.
At the time of his sudden death, Scalia was vacationing at the Cibolo Creek Ranch in Presidio County, Texas, near the Mexican border. The location is so remote that it took hours for law enforcement officials to find a justice of the peace who could certify as to the cause of death. They were finally able to contact Judge Cinderela Guevara, who, acting on information received from investigators on the scene and after speaking with Scalia’s personal physician – yet without actually seeing the body – determined that Scalia had died from natural causes and that no autopsy was warranted, even though it was later reported that Scalia was found with a pillow over his face. Scalia was then taken to a funeral home in El Paso on Sunday morning and embalmed, once his family advised that they also did not feel that an autopsy was necessary.
Was Scalia murdered, possibly by someone interested in seeing the balance of the Supreme Court turned in a decidedly more liberal direction while Democrats still control the White House? We may never know for certain, but the circumstances surrounding his death do seem to lend themselves to an atmosphere of suspicion.
To start with, the timing and location could hardly have been more ideal for an assassination. Cibolo Creek Ranch is located in remote southwestern Texas, hours from any large town or city. As a result, no medical personnel that we know of were on hand to examine the body before it was removed from the scene and embalmed. Had Scalia died in an urban setting, an experienced medical examiner would almost certainly have been called to the scene, thereby significantly increasing the chances that even subtle signs of foul play would have been recognized. Furthermore, Scalia had declined a security detail, leaving him both isolated and vulnerable.
And then we have a quick determination of the cause of death, issued by a person who is not a medical professional and did not see the body, followed by the announcement that there would be no autopsy, and, finally, the rapid removal and embalming of the body. All of this seems a little too quick, a little too open-and-shut, a little too swept under the rug for my taste, especially when considered in light of Justice Scalia’s significance in the public sphere. One would think that the sudden death of a high-ranking public official – one found with a pillow over his face, no less – would warrant a bit more scrutiny on the part of law enforcement.
Still, none of this is definitive, by any means, and there is also the fact that even Scalia’s family opted against an autopsy. I’m sure some will argue that whoever is allegedly responsible for Scalia’s death is forcing his family to cooperate in the subsequent cover-up, but, needless to say, the burden of proof necessary to sustain this charge is a bit demanding. Anyone who seriously advocates this notion in the public arena will be laughed to scorn. In fact, if you think about it, how likely is it that conspirators, who already have a tremendous burden of maintaining secrecy in the wake of having just assassinated a sitting justice of the Supreme Court, would expose themselves to potential disaster by openly confronting Scalia’s family, which may choose to not cooperate even when threatened? Would it not be more likely that the conspirators would simply lie to the family, convincing them that Scalia did die peacefully and that an autopsy request would unnecessarily fire the public imagination, cast a pall of scandal over Scalia’s legacy, and bring harm to the family during its hour of mourning? If I were a conspirator, I would certainly choose the latter, much safer, option.
Still, I do not say that there is nothing to see here. As I’ve already commented, much about the circumstances surrounding Scalia’s death does seem a bit too convenient, especially with the possibility of landmark Supreme Court decisions yet to come. From what we’re seeing this campaign season, it’s more than likely that Democrats will lose the White House in 2016. So, if someone did want to assassinate the Court’s reigning conservative justice in order to allow Obama to replace him with an activist liberal, now would certainly be the time to act.
In fact, something occurred to me today as I was thinking about the upcoming battle over Scalia’s successor, and I must confess that it made me sit up a bit straighter. It goes back to remarks Scalia made in his dissent from the majority decision in the Court’s recent ruling on gay marriage. Scalia writes:
If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,” I would hide my head in a bag. The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.
“I would hide my head in a bag,” Scalia said. And he was found dead with a pillow over his head, with his head effectively hidden.
Was this a message?
I can’t help but wonder.
Robert Hawes is the author of One Nation Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution, as well as In Search of God: A Look at Life’s Most Essential Question. As a writer, he focuses on history, politics, science, philosophy, and faith. Originally from Northern Virginia, he now lives in South Carolina with his wife and three children. He is available for hire for freelance writing projects and may be contacted at [email protected]
The Washington Post: “The death of Antonin Scalia: Chaos, confusion, and conflicting reports”
World Net Daily: “Firestorm of Theories in Wake of Scalia’s Death”