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Scalia Suffered From Variety Of Health Problems Before Death

A Texas district attorney said information from the Supreme Court justice's doctor contributed to the decision to declare his death to be from natural causes.

Last updated on February 23, 2016, at 9:54 p.m. ET

Posted on February 23, 2016, at 5:44 p.m. ET

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia suffered from a variety of health problems before his death in Texas earlier this month at age 79, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Presidio County District Attorney Rod Ponton told the AP that he had reviewed a letter from the justice's doctor outlining Scalia's medical history. The information — along with a sheriff's statement that there were no signs of foul play — led a county judge to certify that Scalia died from natural causes.

Ponton told the AP that Scalia had suffered from a number of ailments, including sleep apnea, degenerative joint disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, obesity, and diabetes before his death. The justice also smoked, his doctor noted. No autopsy was performed after Scalia was found dead at a rural ranch resort, and the judge made the death declaration over the phone.

Ponton received a copy of the letter from Scalia's doctor, and there were no signs of anything suspicious about the Feb. 13 death, he told the news agency.

The district attorney was not immediately available for a BuzzFeed News request for comment.

Scalia was found in bed, facing up, with the sheets pulled to his chin, according to a Presidio County Sheriff's Department report. The report, obtained by the Washington Post through a public records request, said that three pillows were stacked to elevate his head, and one appeared to have shifted to slide down and cover his eyes.

"The position of the pillow did not seem to have inhibited Scalia's breathing," the report said.

The sheets and pillows were still creased from the day's housekeeping, the report said, indicating there had not been a struggle. A breathing apparatus with a hose and mask — a possible treatment of sleep apnea — was switched off, and the hose was not attached to Scalia. Nothing in the room appeared to be out of of place, the report said.

Border Patrol agents arrived on the scene to offer any assistance, and the U.S. Marshals also arrived. Based on reports from the Marshals, the FBI declined to get involved in the investigation.


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