Thursday, January 25, 2001

Morgue photos were attempt at artistry, attorney says

But prosecutor calls posed corpses 'sick'

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The attorney for a Cincinnati photographer says his client took photos of bodies in the morgue because he was attempting to “artistically portray death.”

        The lawyer, H. Louis Sirkin, said Thomas Condon did not intend to harm or show disrespect to anyone when he took the photos at the Hamilton County coroner's office.

        The controversial photos are the subject of a police investigation that will determine whether criminal charges should be brought against Mr. Condon.

        Mr. Sirkin said his client's only goal was to produce a work of art.

        “This kid didn't mean anything to be disrespectful,” Mr. Sirkin said Wednesday. “It was just an individual curiosity.”

        Prosecutor Mike Allen said the photos may be many things, but art is not one of them.

        “They are sick. They are disgusting,” Mr. Allen said. “To call these photos art is ludicrous.”

        He said the pictures are especially disturbing because they were taken without the consent of the coroner or the subjects' families. The pictures are of bodies in various stages of autopsy, photographed with props such as sheet music, a key or a snail shell.

        Mr. Allen said the investigation could be complete as early as next week. At that time, he said, prosecutors will present evidence to a grand jury.

        The most likely charge — abuse of a corpse — hinges on whether the photographs “offend the sensibilities” of just the families involved or the entire community, as judged by a jury. If the photos are found to offend the entire community, the possible penalty could be more severe.

        Police also are trying to determine how the photographer got access to the morgue. Prosecutors say he had spoken to the coroner about producing a documentary of an autopsy procedure, but that plan did not work out.

        Mr. Sirkin would not discuss how Mr. Condon got access to the office, other than to say “he did not break into the morgue.”


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