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Tarrant County jail death spurs an independent autopsy

The dark wood doors of the Tarrant County Courthouse. There's the county emblem printed on the glass.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA
Doors at the Tarrant County Courthouse in downtown Fort Worth.

Robert Miller died in the Tarrant County Jail in 2019. A Fort Worth Star-Telegram report found his initial cause of death may have been incorrect.

Tarrant County will hire an independent forensic pathologist to review the autopsy of jail inmate Robert Miller, who died in 2019 after being pepper-sprayed multiple times during intake at the county jail.

At Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting, county leaders voted unanimously to hire consultant Dr. J. Scott Denton to review Miller’s autopsy.

Denton has been used as an FBI expert and is the chief forensic pathologist in McLean County, Illinois. He’s also worked with other agencies on cold cases and autopsies where questions were raised about the findings.

The county’s initial autopsy concluded that Miller died of natural causes from a sickle cell crisis.

But a Fort Worth Star-Telegram investigation found that Miller may not have had the disease, and suggested he more likely died from his treatment at the jail.

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.