Amid competing conspiracy theories and official explanations, we finally learned last week that the coroner ruled Jeffrey Epstein’s death to be suicide by hanging. Fair enough. If that’s the case, it still doesn’t answer the question of how and why he was taken off suicide watch in less than a week and if his guards were literally asleep at the switch when he wrapped a sheet around his neck. Nor do we know why he was alone in his cell.
Addressing the question of the suicide watch, we have another tidbit of official claims this weekend. NBC News is reporting that Epstein was interviewed by a “high level psychologist” who made the decision that he was no longer a danger to himself.
Jeffrey Epstein, the multimillionaire financier who died by suicide while in federal jail on sex-trafficking charges, had been taken off suicide watch by a doctoral-level psychologist, the Justice Department said in a letter to Congress…
He had been placed on suicide watch in July after he was found in his cell semiconscious with marks on his neck.
But he “was later removed from suicide watch after being evaluated by a doctoral-level psychologist who determined that a suicide watch was no longer warranted,” the Justice Department said in a letter Friday to the House Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and its ranking member, Doug Collins, R-Ga.
I remain unsure what to make of all this. Officials at that jail have now been shown to have falsified official records and broken standard protocol on multiple occasions in the handling of Epstein while he was there. I’m not saying I’m buying into the idea he was murdered, but at some point, you’ve got to wonder how much of the conflicting stories are the result of bad management and not actual malfeasance.
Then again, there’s truth to Hanlon’s razor, which advises us to never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. But the real villain (or screwup) in this story is quickly shaping up to be the as-yet-unnamed “doctoral-level psychologist” who was responsible for evaluating Epstein. Anyone can make a mistake, and I’m certainly living proof of that, so I feel rather bad pointing fingers here. But how good of a snow job would Epstein have had to deliver to pull the wool over this doctor’s eyes?
Keep in mind that the decision to take him off suicide watch came after only six days. He’d very recently attempted to take his own life according to prison officials. There was a mountain of evidence against him and he was almost certainly on his way to dying behind bars. He had fallen from the heights of wealth and power to the lowest of lows. The guy pretty much had nothing left to live for. How does a doctor take all of that into consideration and decide that he wasn’t a suicide risk?
Unfortunately, the only person who could ever have fully answered that question is no longer among the living. (I only say “unfortunately” in terms of the public being able to get to the bottom of this and, to a lesser extent, for the victims who will never see him face his day in court.) And we still probably have years to go until we know the fate of his very valuable estate.