Monday, October 01, 2007

Okay, I don't mean to sound skeptical...

...but how in the hell do you strangle yourself to death accidentally with handcuffs? I keep trying to game it out, but I can't seem to picture the requisite contortion.


Anonymous said...

First of all, that may have crossed the line between snarky and evil.

But wow, talk about your reasons to not freak out at the airport!

NotClauswitz said...

New Yorkers must really Hate Phoenix in the summertime. I think you gotta be real impatient, demanding, and believing it possible to twist anything to your advantage, as she evidenced.

Anonymous said...

We're talking about the same airport where they confiscated General Joe Foss's Medal of Honor, because it had sharp points.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Stephens, as I recall, some silly dork TRIED to take Gen. Foss's Medal of Honor, and some other related memorabilia.

The good General refused to give them up, and did not board that flight.

If I'd had my druthers, said TSA and others would have been detailed to set up and man the new security stations at McMurdo air strip. Unfortunately, as I was informed, there was no need for TSA at McMurdo.

breda said...

I'd like a diagram.

Anonymous said...

I'm having a really hard time believing the strangulation story.

The Gen. Foss story is at

phlegmfatale said...

As I've said before, WTF is up with these New Yorkers who don't have the chutzpah to chew their own paw off to get out of a sticky wicket?

Zendo Deb said...

You don't believe she did it to herself? You think that the authorities did it to her? Without video evidence, don't you ALWAYS give the benefit of the doubt to the authorities (they would never lie - except of course when they do lie).

This cop was accused of brutality 50 times. I am sure that they were 50 liars - even the woman who called police and then refused to sign a blank incident report was a liar, and I'm sure she just fell down. And the fact that he was caught with credit cards he stole from someone in his custody, well, whatever... /sarcasm

As long as police get the benefit of the doubt, people will be brutalized and killed by police when there are no witnesses and no cameras.

Matt G said...

There's clearly much more to this.

Anonymous said...

...but how in the hell do you strangle yourself to death accidentally with handcuffs?
the only thing I can come up with – besides murder – is some type of position asphyxia.

Anonymous said...

In Ohio, we couldn't get a legal review of red-light cameras until a lawyer's wife got a ticket. This woman was related to a NYC attorney. Gosh, even that gunsmith kid "knew somebody."

Both evil and accidents can occur anywhere. Justice after the sale, not so much. Sallust and Cicero didn't get along, but they agreed on what the word "client" meant. And it wasn't pretty.

Oh, tempora o'mores, etc.

BobG said...

In order to move handcuffs around to the front, you have to basically step backwards (with both feet) through the loop formed by your arms; they don't go anywhere near your upper body during the process. I say there is definitely something fishy about the case.

Paul Simer said...

I figured positional asphyxia was just kind of assumed here. Just because something isn't around the most vulnerable link in the respiratory system (the neck) doesn't mean that a poor "posture" won't kill you just as dead. (See: Roman Crucifixion)

BobG said...

Positional asphyxia I could understand, but according to the article:

""According to investigators, it appeared as though Ms. Gotbaum had possibly tried to manipulate the handcuffs from behind her to the front, got tangled up in the process, and they ended up around her neck area," he said."

How did they end up around her neck?

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Yes, clearly we don't have all the details. This is strange and convoluted enough that I hope the details are forthcoming.

Anonymous said...

Well, there have been a few cases, IIRC, of people dying of asphyxia due to being hog-tied. Want to bet those 'handcuffs' were flex-cuffs, and she was hog-tied?

BTW, this is why I don't fly any more: some TSA jack-booted storm trooper tries to feel up my wife, and they'd have to kill me to keep me from putting HIM down.

Tam said...

Oh, I doubt it's anything quite so dramatic as the airport police doing her in. For starters, cui bono? Number two, they've all watched CSI: Miami.

I'm putting my early bets on a "look at me!" suicide attempt gone horribly right, but you never know.

Tam said...

...unless she was flipping out and some nimrod tried to choke her out and screwed up badly, in which case her family will soon own a shiny new airport.

phlegmfatale said...

I read somewhere that she was on her way to rehab in Tucson, so she may have been strung out/drunk/last big hurrah, etc., and mightn't she have been more easily asphyxiated than usual, with an amount of depressants in her system? Pitiful, in any case...

Anonymous said...

Clearly, you're not kinky enough, Tamara...


I can sorta see how it could be done, but one would have to try

Anonymous said...

"I keep trying to game it out, but I can't seem to picture the requisite contortion."

"Clearly, you're not kinky enough, Tamara..."

I had a sort of betting pool going on this line of commentary. 20 posts in: pretty good, considering.

Does it always have to be...
why yes, sometimes it does.

ravenshrike said...

According to the article in the Chicago Tribune the handcuffs were chained to an eyehook up on the wall.

Tam said...

"the handcuffs were chained to an eyehook up on the wall."


Now it gets clearer.

Anonymous said...

Seen this yet?
Accounts Differ in Mother's Airport Death
By JOHN SULLIVAN,The New York Times
Posted: 2007-10-04 10:04:21
(Oct. 4) - Carol A. Gotbaum was supposed to fly directly to Tucson last Friday to enter an alcohol rehabilitation program, but she delayed her departure to see her children off to school, her family said. The delay and the resulting nondirect flight were part of a series of circumstances that led to Ms. Gotbaum’s confrontation with the police at the Phoenix airport, and to her subsequent death in police custody.
The events surrounding her arrest are now under investigation, and the Phoenix Police Department said yesterday that it had a videotape of the arrest itself. But according to her family members and their lawyer, if the day had gone as planned, Ms. Gotbaum would not have been there at all.

Ms. Gotbaum, 45, the stepdaughter-in-law of New York City’s public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, was originally scheduled to fly directly to Tucson for an alcohol rehabilitation program. But Ms. Gotbaum, who lived on the Upper West Side, delayed her flight because she wanted to say goodbye to her three children, two of whom were attending a new grammar school.

The change meant a connection through the busy Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Her husband, Noah, was apparently comfortable letting her fly alone because she was to meet a couple she knew at a stopover in Phoenix, the family said.

But Ms. Gotbaum arrived too late to make the connecting flight to Tucson, the family’s lawyer, Michael C. Manning, said.

According to a spokesman for Mesa Airlines, which operates the flight Ms. Gotbaum was to take, she arrived at the gate after boarding was completed. The passageway to the airliner was closed, and the plane was about to take off, said Paul Skellon, a spokesman for Mesa.

According to the Phoenix police, Ms. Gotbaum began arguing with the ticket agents, insisting that she be allowed to board the plane. The police were called, and officers saw Ms. Gotbaum “yelling and screaming” and running through the concourse, said Sgt. Andy Hill of the Phoenix police.

Sergeant Hill said that the officers tried unsuccessfully to calm Ms. Gotbaum, finally handcuffing her and arresting her on charges of disorderly conduct. But that account is now disputed by Mr. Manning.

Mr. Manning said yesterday that his office had interviewed three witnesses to the confrontation.

“The police approached her, according to witnesses, made no effort to speak to her, calm her or assess the situation,” he said. “Two of them immediately took her to the ground.”

Mr. Manning said witnesses recounted that Ms. Gotbaum was not threatening anyone, and instead was yelling, “I am not a terrorist, I am not a criminal, I am just a sick mother, I need to get help.”

Sergeant Hill said tersely yesterday that the account of Mr. Manning’s witnesses was “not true.”

“The officers did try to calm her down,” he said, adding that the arrest followed police procedure. “When we release the video, everyone will see.” He did not say when the video would be released.

Ms. Gotbaum was placed in a police holding cell at the airport; her hands were cuffed behind her, with a metal chain about two feet long attaching the handcuffs to a bench, Sergeant Hill said. She continued yelling in the cell, he said, and was left alone for 5 to 10 minutes. After she stopped shouting, the officers looked in the cell, he said, and found Ms. Gotbaum unconscious with the chain stretched across her neck. Attempts by the police and medical workers to revive her were unsuccessful.

Mr. Manning also criticized the officers’ actions in the holding cell, saying they should have obtained a medical evaluation for Ms. Gotbaum and should not have left her alone.

“You don’t leave an emotionally disturbed citizen shackled with that kind of potential weapon or device they could use to hurt themselves,” he said.

The cause of death is under investigation, and an autopsy was performed on Tuesday evening by the Maricopa County medical examiner. David Boyer, a spokesman for the medical examiner, said the results of the autopsy would not be released until laboratory results were completed in a few weeks.

A pathologist hired by the Gotbaum family, Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, was allowed to perform a separate examination, Mr. Manning said. He said yesterday that Dr. Wecht would wait for lab results before announcing his conclusion. But he added that a private investigator who also attended the exam said Ms. Gotbaum exhibited signs of “very serious trauma,” including bruises and a mark on her neck from the metal chain.

Eric Konigsberg contributed reporting.

Copyright © 2007 The New York Times Company

Anonymous said...

anyone even marginally close to law enforcement and incarceration
knows that it is not permitted to
place a prisoner in a cell while
cuffed UNLESS that person is under constant-continuous surveilance.

the video released by police does not show her under any surveilance
while locked up. no matter what the situation, no new coverage has covered this aspect of what is routine.