Foster felt 'immense' pressure, says report on his suicide Late Clinton lawyer wept at dinner, endured 'grind'

October 11, 1997|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Deputy White House Counsel Vincent W. lTC Foster Jr., depressed in the days shortly before his suicide in 1993, cried at dinner with his wife, sought legal advice from attorneys and told his mother he was unhappy because work was "a grind."

The poignant portrait of Foster is sketched in a newly issued report by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, who concluded that the longtime friend of President Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton took his own life.

The report cites a suicide expert's opinion that "to a 100 percent degree of medical certainty," Foster killed himself.

Starr announced his conclusion about the cause of Foster's death July 15, agreeing with a string of investigators, including .. the previous independent counsel, Robert B. Fiske Jr. But the special court that oversees independent counsels did not issue Starr's report until yesterday.

The 114-page document provides details about Foster's state of mind before his death and crime scene evidence. The conclusion that Foster committed suicide is based on analyses by experts and criminal investigators retained by Starr's office, including Dr. Brian D. Blackbourne, a forensic pathologist who is medical examiner for San Diego County; Dr. Henry C. Lee, director of the Connecticut State Police Forensic Science Laboratory; and Dr. Alan L. Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology.

In stating his certainty that Foster committed suicide, Berman observed: "No plausible evidence has been presented to support any other conclusion."

Starr said in the report that he knows of no "single, obvious triggering event that might have motivated Foster to commit suicide." But he cited evidence that Foster's state of mind was consistent with suicide.

The report quoted from a letter Foster wrote a friend in March 1993 that said, "I have never worked so hard for so long in my life. The legal issues are mind boggling and the time pressures are immense. The pressure, financial sacrifice and family disruption are the price of public service at this level."

Starr's report answers in detail some questions about the crime-scene evidence that critics had said cast doubt on previous conclusions about suicide.

L One question dealt with the lack of fingerprints on the gun.

The report quoted FBI laboratory scientists as saying a lack of fingerprints "is not extraordinary," because the handle of the weapon was textured and lacked "a surface that is receptive" to prints.

Other skeptics had claimed that there was relatively little blood where the body was found, indicating death may have occurred elsewhere.

But Starr reported there was "a large amount of liquid blood in the body bag, and in Mr. Foster's body," which he said "further indicates that the location where the body was found is consistent with the primary scene [and] therefore unlikely that Mr. Foster's body was moved."

Starr discounts the significance of the fact the fatal bullet was never found. The park was thoroughly searched, but because of the angle in placing a gun in his mouth "the bullet could have cleared the tree tops in Fort Marcy and landed well outside the park."

While agreeing with Starr's conclusions, Foster's sister, Sheila Foster Anthony, criticized him for taking so long.

"I believe that the investigation could have been completed and the report issued months, if not years, sooner," she told the Associated Press. "It was unconscionable for Mr. Starr for so long to allow the American people to entertain any thought that the president of the United States somehow had complicity in Vince's death."

Pub Date: 10/11/97

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