Less than 24 hours after the first breaking news reports of the sudden, shocking death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, officials in Texas have already declared that the 79-year-old jurist died of a heart attack that killed him during his sleep. A county judge in the Lone Star State — a woman named Cinderela Guevara — has reportedly told a TV station that Scalia’s death certificate will list the cause of death as myocardial infarction (The news station’s web report actually misspelled the cause as “myocardial infraction”
The report by WFAA also notes that, apparently prior to an autopsy being performed, Scalia’s body was embalmed. The extent of the embalming was not immediately disclosed, so its potential impact on any autopsy that might have been, or will be, authorized is not clear at this time.
The TV station notes of Scalia’s body: “After arriving at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, the Sunset Funeral Home embalmed Scalia’s remains, according to Chris Lujuan, a funeral home manager. Embalming is required by Texas law before a body can be transported out of state.” Scalia’s body may be flown to Virginia as soon as Monday.
Scalia — considered by many to have been the most prominent and principled conservative justice on the high court — reportedly passed away in his sleep, alone in his room without any witnesses to his death, while visiting a ranch resort in a remote part of West Texas.
The Presidio County judge contacted as part of the death-reporting process — Judge Cinderela Guevara — said that, after several phone conversations with investigators on the scene of the death, she pronounced Scalia dead over the phone at 1:52 pm on Saturday.
Then, according to the WFAA report: “She planned to drive to the ranch — about 30 minutes south of Marfa — but returned when a U.S. Marshal told her by phone: ‘It’s not necessary for you to come, judge. If you’re asking for an autopsy, that’s what we need to clarify.’”
USA Today, relying largely on the WFAA report, says that law enforcement authorities at the ranch where Scalia died said there were absolutely no signs of foul play. Justice Scalia’s personal physician also reportedly spoke with Judge Guevara, who said the doctor did not mention any indication of Scalia’s having suffered from heart problems.
ABC News reporter Jim Avila notes that the county judge was told by Scalia’s family that they are “adamantly against” an autopsy, though earlier reports as to what that judge said to the media did not contain that vital piece of information.
Predictably, the surprise, out-of-the-blue death of key conservative Justice Antonin Scalia has fueled a number of conspiracy theories about whether his death was, in fact, the result of natural causes — a reported heart attack. Scalia’s abrupt absence from the high court just as a number of critical cases impacting President Obama’s legacy are about to be decided has added an enormous amount of chatter to the conversations of those suspecting foul play.