The ghost of Vincent Foster still haunts President Clinton.
Documented contradictions in a newly released medical report — which
does not match a previous, publicly available copy — are raising
renewed questions about Foster’s death.
Los Angeles attorney Allan Favish obtained the report from the Office
of Independent Counsel through the Freedom of Information Act. Favish
has additional information about the Foster death at his website.
Foster was found dead in Virginia’s Fort Marcy Park on July 20, 1993,
his death officially labeled a suicide. However, major inconsistencies
and contradictions cast doubt on the government’s “suicide” ruling, and
a cloud of controversy has hung over the matter ever since.
Favish’s interest, and the purpose of his FOIA request, was to
inspect the original version of the report for alterations, to see if it
had been improperly changed to conceal evidence of a neck wound, the
existence of which the government denies.
His interest was piqued by the fact that the official record of the
Foster death investigation contains unresolved contradictory information
about the nature of a reported exit wound. Dr. Donald Haut, the only
medical doctor to examine Foster’s body where it was found, wrote a
two-page “Report of Investigation by Medical Examiner,” apparently
signed on the day of death.
Page one of Haut’s report states the death shot was “mouth-head,” but
page two of the report states that the death shot was “mouth to neck.”
Although Haut’s report is not reproduced in any publicly available
government publication, it is available from the National Archives, and
it is quoted in the Senate Banking Committee’s January 1995 report on
the Foster death. The Senate Committee’s report quotes from both pages
of Haut’s report and fails to note that the quoted language is
contradictory, i.e., “mouth-head” and “mouth to neck.”
The Committee report states, “In his report, Dr. Haut wrote that the
cause of death was a ‘perforating gunshot wound mouth-head.’”
In the narrative of his report, Haut wrote, “July 20, 1993 After
anonymous call was received at 18:04 hours U.S. Park Police officers
found 48 yrs Caucasian male with self-inflicted gunshot wound mouth to
neck on a foot path in Marcey Park [sic]. His car was parked in the
parking lot but no note was found.”
“MEDICAL HISTORY Unknown,” wrote Haut.
The Senate never explained why it failed to further address this
important contradiction in Haut’s report.
A “mouth to neck” description is significant because it contradicts
the official autopsy conclusion of “mouth to head” and the conclusions
of Independent Counsels Robert Fiske and Kenneth Starr. Starr’s report
on the Foster death says the autopsy report “indicates ‘backward’ and
‘upward’ as the direction of the bullet through the head”.
The doctor who performed the autopsy said the exit wound was “three
inches from the top of the head.”
The Starr report also states the “autopsy report and the reports of
the pathologists retained by the OIC and Mr. Fiske’s office demonstrate
that the cause of death was a gunshot wound through the back of Foster’s
mouth and out the back of his head.”
A drawing from the autopsy report, as published by the U.S. Senate,
shows an exit wound on the back of Foster’s head, just above an
imaginary line connecting his ears. Thus, officially, there was no
“mouth to neck” shot.
The difference between a mouth-to-head shot and a mouth-to-neck shot
is significant. A typical gun-in-the-mouth suicide will result in a
mouth to head shot-entrance wound in the roof of the mouth and exit
wound in the back or top of the head — because this ensures sufficient
blood loss and brain destruction to induce death.
A potential gun-in-the-mouth suicide victim does not want to cause an
exit wound in the back of the neck because that increases the chances of
survival, most likely as a quadriplegic.
Haut’s report of a neck wound takes on even more significance in
light of additional evidence: One such wound was reported to be an
entrance wound on the side of the neck. Starr said that paramedic
Richard Arthur, “initially said he saw what ‘appeared to be a bullet
wound, an entrance wound’ on the neck.”
Not mentioned by Starr is that Arthur testified he was only two to
three feet away from Foster when he observed the apparent bullet wound
on the right side of Foster’s neck, around the jaw line and underneath
the right ear.
But even Starr’s expert, Dr. Brian Blackbourne, said an autopsy photo
showed there was “dried blood” at the neck location, although he said
the photo did not show any injury to the neck.
Starr did not explain why Blackbourne’s interpretation of an autopsy
photo (as opposed to a photo taken at the park) is more reliable than
Arthur’s personal viewing of the body. Nor did Starr ever say whether
Blackbourne was shown all the photos of Foster’s neck that were taken at
the park at about the same time Arthur saw the body.
A flaw or alteration in the Haut report found at the National
Archives in 1997 uncovered the controversy about a possible neck wound.
Non-government researcher Hugh Sprunt, along with Patrick Knowlton, a
Fort Marcy Park witness who has filed a federal lawsuit alleging illegal
intimidation by federal agents, made the Foster neck wound public from
According to Sprunt, the “mouth-head” language on page one appears to
have been altered with correction fluid or tape in order to conceal what
appears to be a four-letter word. The area is replaced with the word
“HEAD” typed to the right of and slightly higher on the page than the
remnants of the possible partially-obscured word.
This observation fueled speculation that the possibly-obscured word
is “NECK,” as appears on page two of Haut’s report. However, the word
“neck” on page two was left unaltered.
The report is on a two-sided, single-sheet form. Did someone alter
page one, unaware that the form continued on the backside? Given that
the front page of Haut’s report appears to be complete with a signature
and a date, it is possible that somebody unfamiliar with such a form
could have missed a back page.
The issue of possible alteration raises serious questions, because it
is improper to alter a medical record that completely obscures words.
According to a leading textbook on medical record-keeping, “Mastering
Documentation,” proper alteration of a medical record is done by lining
out any words that need to be corrected so that all the original words
can be recognized, and then initialing and dating the change.
In a declaration submitted in response to the Haut report FOIA
lawsuit, Associate Independent Counsel Julie A. Corcoran states that the
office of the independent counsel does not have the original version of
the Haut report. She states, “at the time of the FOIA request” the
independent counsel had “a certified copy of the report sought, not the
- The copy released by Corcoran is a two-sided, single-sheet
document bearing the independent counsel’s document control numbers on
the lower right corner of each page. Corcoran also states that the
newly released copy is a “true and correct copy of the certified copy of
the document in the OIC’s files.”
- Close inspection of the “mouth-head” language on the copy
provided by the independent counsel’s office shows a perfectly clean
white area. However, the same area on the National Archives copy shows
the possible remains of a four-letter word.
- The copy in the National Archives and the copy from the
independent counsel were both certified by the autopsy doctor, James
Beyer, who was assistant chief medical examiner at the time. Beyer’s
certification on the National Archives copy is dated November 2, 1994.
However, his certification on the independent counsel copy is dated
January 30, 1995. In addition, Beyer certified both pages of the
National Archives copy, but only the first page of the Independent
Neither Fiske nor Starr addressed the inconsistency with Haut’s
report, except by hiding them from the public. Fiske’s report failed
to mention Haut’s medical report. And Starr’s report, released publicly
in October 1997, quotes from the possibly altered language on page one
of Haut’s report that states “mouth-head,” but does not quote the “mouth
to neck” language on page two.
According to Favish, the independent counsel was made aware in
February 1998 that the copy of the Haut report found at the National
Archives might have been improperly altered.
“I explained the matter to a federal district court during my FOIA
lawsuit against the OIC (Office of Independent Counsel) seeking
photographs of the body. The OIC has never publicly stated that it
inspected the original version or told the public why the National
Archives copy is different from the OIC’s copy,” said Favish.
Favish made an oral request for inspection of the original Haut
report to Virginia’s office of the chief medical examiner. Carol Nance
of Virginia’s office of the attorney general later denied the request.
Although a written request under Virginia’s FOIA has been made, no
response has yet been received.