Odd Social Media Theory: Bland Is Dead in Mugshot

People seem particularly fixated on the background color
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2015 6:39 AM CDT
Odd Social Media Theory: Bland Is Dead in Mugshot
This undated handout photo provided by the Waller County Sheriff’s Office shows Sandra Bland.   (Waller County Sheriff’s Office, via AP)

One forensic expert tells the Daily Beast the claim is "ridiculous." But being ridiculous never stopped the Internet before: A theory has been making the rounds on social media (and covered by outlets like USA Today and Buzzfeed) that Sandra Bland was actually dead in her mugshot photo. The argument being put forth: the background's photo looks like the cell floor; she's wearing an orange jumpsuit, while most mugshots taken at the jail feature street clothes; her eyes look "flat," as USA Today puts it. But Buzzfeed observes that "mugshots of other inmates at Waller County Jail ... were taken against a similar background." And a two-page statement from the Waller County Sheriff's Department released Thursday explained the jumpsuit.

"Depending on how many inmates are being processed at this time, an inmate's photograph may be taken in their original clothing, or the inmate may be dressed out in orange," it read. Forensic pathologist Michael Baden shot down the theory in comments to USA Today. The eyelids of the dead typically droop when open, he says, while her eyes appear "purposefully open." He continues to the Daily Beast, "To say that she’s dead from the photo is ridiculous because you can say that about almost any head photo. You have to use evidence." And another forensic pathologist says a low-resolution photo will never be capable of providing that evidence. "From just looking at a photo, there are no signs." (More Sandra Bland stories.)

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