Court TV/AP Photo
Dr. David Fowler testifies in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis.
Court TV/AP Photo
Former Maryland medical examiner David Fowler testified Wednesday in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. As a witness for the defense, Fowler offered his interpretation of the cause of George Floyd's death. However, the testimony comes as Fowler is facing a lawsuit regarding his handling of the medical records of Black man who died in police custody in Maryland.
In the Chauvin trial, Fowler, who retired in 2019, said Floyd's cause of death should be considered "undetermined," rather than ruled a homicide. He said other health conditions, carbon monoxide from vehicle exhaust, and "fentanyl and methamphetamine" were contributing factors.
Dr. Andrew Baker, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy on Floyd, concluded that the death was a homicide. "In my opinion, the law enforcement subdual, restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take, by virtue of those heart conditions," Baker told the court last week.
In Maryland, Fowler is among the parties being sued by the family of Anton Black, a 19-year-old Black man who died in police custody on the Eastern Shorein 2018. Fowler, who served as state medical examiner at the time, said Black's death was an accident, and that Black's heart condition and bipolar disorder were contributing factors. Attorneys with Maryland's American Civil Liberties say video of the incident showed three white police officers and a white civilian "chasing [Black], tasing him, and pinning him face down after he was handcuffed and at which point he stopped breathing."
The family alleges in the lawsuit that Fowler and others at the medical examiner's office "covered up and obscured police responsibility for Anton Black's death." They claim excessive force and racial bias led to Blacks death by "positional asphyxiation" when officers pinned him down to the ground. The family also says the medical examiner's report caused the State's Attorney to refuse to prosecute or convene a grand jury.
"Medical examiners hugely impact our ability to end police violence. When medical examiners and others downplay the role of police actions in causing a death, they are both protecting police and hiding information that could prevent avoidable deaths," Sonia Kumar, an ACLU attorney said in a statement.
Earlier this month, Maryland's Attorney General's office, who represents Fowler, Dr. Russell Alexander, who performed the autopsy, and Dr. Victor Weedn, current chief medical examiner, filed a motion to dismiss the family's lawsuit.
The motion to dismiss states that the toxicology report that the plaintiffs were looking for is protected from not being released under Maryland law. It concedes that Black did not have drugs in his system at the time of the incident. The motion also states that the medical examiner's report did not cover up the "43 blunt force trauma wounds" found on Black's body and "acknowledges that 'the stress of the struggle contributed to his death.'"
On Saturday, Maryland lawmakers overrode Hogan's veto on multiple pieces of police reform legislation. One bill, dubbed "Anton's Law," makes changes to Maryland's Public Information Act to allow for police disciplinary records to be released to the public. The officer involved in Black's killing had 30 use-of-force reports filed against him during his career with police in Dover, Delaware.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.