Storage Locker Of Former Florida Medical Examiner Found To Contain Human Brains, Lungs, and Hearts

For Storage Wars star Dave Hester, this might be one that deserves more of a “Yuuuk” than a “Yuuup. When a storage locker in Florida was auctioned off, the new owner found the interior that an unpleasant odor. He then uncovered a gruesome scene of human organs in drinking cups, Tupperware and other containers saturated in formaldehyde. Police say that the locker belonged to former medical examiner in Florida, Dr. Michael Berkland. Berkland was fired from the Medical Examiner’s Officer in Pensacola in 2003 after working there since 1997.


The locker contained human brains, hearts and lungs in soda cups and plastic food containers, including a 32-ounce drink cup with a cracked lid holding a heart. The remains appear to belong to at least one hundred people.

What is fascinating is that police say they are looking into whether any crimes have been committed. Really? Storage human parts and embalming fluids in a storage locker is not clearly a crime in Florida?

It is actually closer than one would think due to the curious way Florida criminal provisions are written. The specific categories are fairly limited:
872.01 Dealing in dead bodies.
872.02 Injuring or removing tomb or monument; disturbing contents of grave or tomb; penalties.
872.03 Cremating human bodies; limitation.
872.04 Autopsies; consent required, exception.
872.05 Unmarked human burials.
872.06 Abuse of a dead human body; penalty.

Since there is no evidence that he was selling the organs, he is probably outside of Florida code 872.01 (“Dealing in dead bodies”). The most likely category of “abusing dead bodies” turns out to involve sexual abuse:

872.06 Abuse of a dead human body; penalty.

(1) As used in this section, the term “sexual abuse” means:

(a) Anal or vaginal penetration of a dead human body by the sexual organ of a person or by any other object;

(b) Contact or union of the penis, vagina, or anus of a person with the mouth, penis, vagina, or anus of a dead human body; or

(c) Contact or union of a person’s mouth with the penis, vagina, or anus of a dead human body.

(2) A person who mutilates, commits sexual abuse upon, or otherwise grossly abuses a dead human body commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. Any act done for a bona fide medical purpose or for any other lawful purpose does not under any circumstance constitute a violation of this section.

Section two has the most promise despite the exception for a “bona fide medical purpose.” However, it is possible that he could argue that the organs were removed in a legitimate autopsy and this is simply a storage violation. Prosecutors could argue however that this constitutes “grossly abus[ing]” a dead human body.

There is also the simple question of theft if these organs came from the medical examiner’s office since they have value. There is also the theft question for the family though organs are often disposed in in the course of medical examinations.

There is also the issue of storing hazardous material in a storage locker and discharging such chemicals.

As for tort liability, the suspicion is that these organs belonged to people who were taken to the medical examiner’s office, but he was also reportedly performing private autopsies in the area. That would raise obvious claims of intentional and negligence emotional distress, negligence, and abuse of corpses. Medical Examiner Dr. Andi Minyard captured the gist of the claim when he noted “It’s a horrible thing to know that your uncle’s brain is sitting in some storage shed that got sold at an auction.”

I do see much liability for Uncle Bob but I expect Dr. Berkland’s lawyer is going to be quite busy.

A spokesman for Uncle Bob’s Self Storage says that Berkland told them that he wanted to store furniture in the unit.

Berkland’s license was previously revoked in Missouri where he worked as a contract medical examiner in 1996 in Jackson County. Despite that record, he was hired in Florida. He insisted that his termination in Missouri were politically motivated. This was before we got a glimpse into Dr. Berkland’s storage locker.

Source: <a href=”http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-57502038-504083/human-body-parts-found-in-florida-storage-unit/”CBS

15 thoughts on “Storage Locker Of Former Florida Medical Examiner Found To Contain Human Brains, Lungs, and Hearts

  1. BarkinDog here. I was in a rest stop in Georgia and heard the following from some guy on a pay phone.
    “I was out of town and just heard this news. I hope those idiots did not destroy the evidence! That heart is the central piece of evidence in a murder case in that county. It has the dna of dead guy. It also has evidence of arsenic and old lace. I am out of town and driving back to get to the courthouse. My client’s life is on the line over this.
    Lawyer Diddly.”

    I hope lawyer Diddly got there in time to preserve the evidence.

  2. A source I have in Jackson County is incredulous this guy was hired by anyone. “He would have to greatly improve to be a joke.”

  3. I would opin the M.E. could be held liable under the state’s biomedical waste statute.

    http://law.justia.com/codes/florida/2011/titlexxix/chapter381/section381.0098/

    TITLE XXIX – PUBLIC HEALTH
    Chapter 381 – PUBLIC HEALTH: General Provisions

    381.0098 Biomedical Waste

    (4) PERMITS AND FEES.—

    (a) All persons who generate, store, or treat biomedical waste shall obtain a permit from the department prior to commencing operation, except that a biomedical waste generator generating less than 25 pounds of biomedical waste in each 30-day period shall be exempt from the registration and fee requirements of this subsection.

    (7) ENFORCEMENT AND PENALTIES.—Any person or public body in violation of this section or rules adopted under this section is subject to penalties provided in ss. 381.0012, 381.0025, and 381.0061. However, an administrative fine not to exceed $2,500 may be imposed for each day such person or public body is in violation of this section. The department may deny, suspend, or revoke any biomedical waste permit or registration if the permittee violates this section, any rule adopted under this section, or any lawful order of the department.

  4. I dont see a problem with this guy having all of these items. The boss should have a heart to heart with him to see if they see eye to eye and if the parts are in order and hope that no one has a beef about anything and if all is ok then give the guy a thumbs up.

  5. As a postscript to this case, allow me to add a few points that might have been included, but were not:

    1. Michael Berkland, MD had already been identified by the highly reputable Public Citizen, as well as the National Practitioner Data Bank, years before he skipped across state lines to dodge his dodgy reputation. Both his name and his penchant for weirdness was well documented, so much so, in fact, that the Health Research Group saw fit to file his behavior under the “Dangerous.” It isn’t exactly a lonely club – they’ve 60,000 other docs under the same category.

    Now, you can fault the state of Florida all you want – but the fact is their Board of Medicine did pretty much what any other state would have done – they ignored his freaky history and re-licensed him anyway.

    For those unaware, it is common practice nationwide, for physicians to be re-licensed, even following their release from prison for Murder, Rape and Child Molestation. So compared to the lab coat lunatics already running around out there, Berkland’s practically a Boy Scout.

    Which leads to perhaps the most lurid point of all:

    2. It doesn’t matter what he may be found guilty of, he will continue to play with human bodies legally, somewhere.

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