A former medical examiner who testified for the defense in the Derek Chauvin case should have his career scrutinized because he reached the conclusion that the former Minneapolis police officer didn’t kill George Floyd, according to a state attorney general’s office and 431 doctors who weren’t even involved in the case.
According to a Baltimore Sun report Friday, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office announced Friday it wants to look at “in custody” death reports by Dr. David Fowler, formerly with the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
The retired forensic pathologist, who was acting as a consultant to the defense, said in his sworn testimony that an abnormal heart rhythm, cardiovascular disease, drug intake and carbon monoxide poisoning “all … combined to cause Mr. Floyd’s death,” according to an April 14 Associated Press report.
The Maryland AG’s announcement was prompted in part by a letter to the office from the former medical examiner of Washington, D.C., Dr. Roger A. Mitchell, which was signed by 430 other doctors.
“Dr. Fowler’s stated opinion that George Floyd’s death during active police restraint should be certified with an ‘undetermined’ manner is outside the standard practice and conventions for investigating and certification of in-custody deaths,” Michell’s letter argued. “This stated opinion raises significant concerns for his previous practice and management.”
Fowler’s 17-year tenure as Maryland’s chief medical examiner started in 2003, according to a 2019 Sun article announcing his retirement.
Among the reasons Mitchell stated that Fowler’s in-custody death reports during his career leading the office was that Fowler’s testimony during the Chauvin trial included speculation.
“The cause of death opinion, particularly the portion that suggested open-air carbon monoxide exposure as contributory, was baseless, revealed obvious bias, and raised malpractice concerns,” the letter stated, according to WTOP-TV.
There’s some irony in the fact that 431 doctors who weren’t part of the case are now opining on what counts as “baseless” and supposedly reveals “obvious bias.” But never mind that, because it’s a blatant mischaracterization of Fowler’s testimony in the Chauvin trial.
Fowler said that carbon monoxide, which replaces oxygen in the bloodstream, wasn’t tested for during Floyd’s autopsy. However, given the video showed Floyd was facing an open tailpipe of a running motor vehicle while he was on the ground, Fowler said, it could have conceivably been one of the factors leading to Floyd’s death.
In addition, an abnormal heart rhythm wouldn’t necessarily show up on an autopsy, according to the AP report. Other factors — such as Floyd’s clogged arteries, a history of hypertension and the level of drugs in his bloodstream — were noted on the death report.
However, because of Fowler’s testimony, the undersigned in the letter demanded the Maryland Attorney General’s Office look into in-custody death reports where Fowler classified the death as an “accident” or “undetermined.” Why? They claimed he could be protecting police officers from legal repercussions.
Based on this scanty speculation, the attorney general’s office concurs with the need for a review.
“We agree that it is appropriate for independent experts to review reports issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) regarding deaths in custody,” Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Democrat Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, said in a statement, according to the Sun.
“We are already in conversations with the Governor’s Office about the need for such a review, and have offered to coordinate it.”
This is problematic in a few ways, because the evidence for the review — outside of the fact Fowler testified in support of the most unpopular defendant in the media since Orenthal James Simpson — is practically nonexistent, and the impact isn’t just theoretical.
The Baltimore Sun’s reporting on Fowler’s testimony is a masterpiece of a media node forgoing all objectivity. For instance, in its story, the Sun mentioned how Fowler’s testimony “contradicts” or was “contradicting” the prosecution; try to recall any other case where the prosecution’s arguments were construed by the media as so close to the gospel truth that anyone who presented an opinion to the contrary was said to be “contradicting” them.
The Sun also apparently tried to justify the probe by asserting “Fowler had come under scrutiny more than a decade ago due to the medical examiner’s office finding the cause of death ‘undetermined’ in hundreds of cases, mostly drug-related, each year.”
The evidence for this is a linked 2008 column in the Sun that deals almost entirely with how Fowler would classify overdoses as “undetermined” rather than “accidental.” (The column is largely sympathetic toward Fowler’s methods.)
This practice was “a standard that predates his arrival in the office in 1993,” the column noted. The only speculation that something was amiss was “accusations that surface from time to time that the city is hiding bodies. How? By convincing the state’s chief medical examiner to keep them in the ‘pending’ or ‘undetermined’ category to either delay their entrance into the murder count or keep them off permanently.”
Yes, unattributed “accusations that surface from time to time.” Now I’m convinced the letter from Mitchell and is 430 co-signers has absolutely everything to do with a history of questionable death categorization and nothing to do with pillorying a man for daring to aid in Derek Chauvin’s defense.
While this accusation may be entirely theoretical, the impact of an investigation won’t be. Fowler, along with the state and others, is being sued by the family of Anton Black, a 19-year-old who died in police custody in 2018 after he struggled against arrest and was pinned down for six minutes. Fowler ruled Black’s death a cardiac event brought on as a result of the struggle.
This isn’t “undetermined” in the least, but it provides a fairly ominous subtext for the review. There’s a larger issue, however: The agency responsible for Fowler’s defense is the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, which is currently calling for a review of Fowler’s in-custody death reports. The office insists there’s no conflict of interest.
“We have taken steps to wall off those in our office who are representing the [Office of the Chief Medical Examiner] and its current and former employees, including Dr. Fowler, from those who might be involved in any review of [the examiner’s] reports,” Coombs said in her statement, according to the Sun.
That shouldn’t be the most worrying part of this, though.
The Maryland Attorney General’s Office set a perilous precedent by this review, opening a Pandora’s box of wokeness that threatens due process, potentially cutting unpopular criminal defendants off from experts who could provide exculpatory evidence. This is anything but justice.
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