In a field trip to the Richmond County Mortuary, some Staten Island teenagers made a ghastly discovery: their former classmate's brain on display in a jar. Jesse Shipley, 17, died in a car crash in 2005, and medical examiner Dr. Stephen de Roux took the license to keep the teen's brain. It was discovered on the field trip months later, and the Shipley's have now gotten permission to sue the city, even though they're saying they did nothing wrong.
One of the students told the Daily News, "There was a case that you could see through, and there were brains in jars and names on the jars. One said 'head trauma, Shipley, J.'" Jesse's girlfriend also happened to be on the trip and "went outside and was flipping out. She started crying and called her mom and said, 'Mom, Jesse's brain is here! I can't be here.'" However, de Roux stands by his decision to keep the brain for testing, saying, "I wait months, until I have six brains, and then it's kind of worth while to make the trip to Staten Island to examine six brains. It doesn't make sense for him to come and do one."
Justice William F. Mastro called the incident "a surreal coincidence," but ruled, "While the medical examiner has the statutory authority to ... perform an autopsy ... and to remove and retain bodily organs for further examination and testing ... he or she, also has the mandated obligation ... to turn over the decedent's remains to the next of kin for preservation and proper burial once the legitimate purposes for retention of those remains have been fulfilled." The Shipley's lawyer, Marvin Ben-Aron, was disappointed that the ruling implies the ME has "an unfettered right" over the organ, and the court denied his motion to sue for damages over the brain's public display. The suit alleges the jar was labeled, "This is what happens when you drink and drive," even though alcohol was not involved in the accident, and Shipley was the passenger, not the driver.