From her house in Baltimore final year, Tawanda Jones watched police officerstand trial in a Minneapolis courtroom for the homicide of George Floyd. While the content material of the extensively televised proceedings in 2021 was disturbing, for Jones probably the most troubling half was the testimony of professional pathologist Dr. David Fowler.
Appearing on behalf of the officer accused in Floyd’s loss of life — documented within the notorious video exhibiting Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck —that the trigger of loss of life couldn’t be decided: “This is one of those cases where you have so many conflicting manners,” Fowler mentioned. “So I would fall back to undetermined.”
Fowler testified it was unattainable to say what killed Floyd.
Jones watched in disbelief. “I wanted to knock my TV off the wall,” she mentioned.
Jones had seen Fowler log off on an analogous conclusion within the case of her brother, who died in police custody in 2013 in Baltimore after a site visitors cease. As Maryland’s chief medical examiner for over 17 years earlier than leaving in 2019, Fowler oversaw greater than 1,300 circumstances involving deaths in custody.
Outrage about Fowler’s testimony on the Chauvin trial was felt each at house in Maryland and inside the medical group. Dr. Roger Mitchell, who was chief medical examiner in Washington, D.C. for seven years, wrote a letter to the Department of Justice and the Maryland Attorney General’s office accusing Fowler of “obvious bias” and “malpractice” within the Floyd case.
Mitchell instructed CBS that he felt compelled to behave. “To have that type of analysis being proffered on the stand, I was appalled,” he mentioned. “I knew I had to do something.”
Mitchell referred to as for an unbiased overview of the medical examiner’s determinations in 1,300 loss of life in custody circumstances that occurred throughout Fowler’s 17-year-long tenure in Maryland. More than 400 different medical professionals signed Mitchell’s letter.
“There is a culture of deciding when there is an altercation with law enforcement, that their manners of death are called accidents and undetermined,” Mitchell defined, including that prosecutors usually will not pursue making an attempt officers in circumstances the place the trigger of loss of life was dominated unintended or undetermined.
Those questions have given rise to an uncommon — if not unprecedented — overview of autopsies inby which individuals have been restrained and died within the custody of police or corrections officers in Maryland. In response to the letter, the Maryland Attorney General’s office determined it ought to take a better look to verify the post-mortem reviews precisely mirrored the causes attributed to the a whole bunch of deaths in police custody throughout that point interval.
“When you get a letter from 400 experts saying, ‘Something’s wrong,’ there’s a pretty good chance that they have something that you should take a hard look at,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh mentioned. “The big question for us was: What happened in Maryland?”
Fowler didn’t reply to a number of requests for remark from CBS News. He beforehand mentioned in a statement that he’s “confident that any fair review will confirm that the Office met or exceeded all applicable professional standards.”
Frosh has proceeded with an audit of some 1,300 circumstances, using specialists from across the nation. That effort has since narrowed to focus on about 100 circumstances by which somebody died whereas in bodily restraint, and the medical examiner’s office discovered the trigger of loss of life undetermined. He mentioned whenever you couple the questions on Fowler’s posture on the Floyd case “with the complaints of families of people who died in police custody saying ‘the same thing happened to my kid,’ or ‘my father,’ or ‘my brother’ … it becomes obvious that something ought to be looked at.”
Jones believes her brother’s case is among the many 100 being reviewed, though neither Frosh nor others concerned would verify which circumstances have been chosen. She says the case warrants a overview.
While chief medical examiner for Maryland, Fowler had signed off on a ruling that the way of loss of life “could not be determined” in her brother’s case. Tyrone West died in July 2013 after a site visitors cease resulted in an altercation with police. According to the autopsy report from Fowler’s office, West ended up “prone on the ground,” however reportedly continued to withstand officers makes an attempt “to restrain and subdue him with the use of handcuffs and baton strikes.”
The battle continued till West “suddenly became unresponsive.”
“They just said that my brother had some type of health issue and died in police restraint. That was their words. And we’re like, ‘What health issue? Like, what are you talking about?'” Jones mentioned. “They were covering up.”
Jones and her household needed a second opinion. An post-mortem commissioned by the household concluded that her brother died from an officer’s knee in his again leading to positional asphyxia. That’s the identical manner George Floyd died.
None of the officers in West’s case confronted legal fees after an inner investigation cleared them of wrongdoing. In 2014, Jones, on behalf of her brother’s property, filed a wrongful loss of life lawsuit and reached a settlement settlement with the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland. Because the settlement contained a non-disparagement clause, Jones mentioned she eliminated herself from the case so she may proceed to talk out. She instructed CBS News that she didn’t financially profit from the settlement, however the money from the settlement went to West’s kids.
Frosh, who’s leaving office in January, wouldn’t verify whether or not West’s case was amongst these being reviewed, however West’s sister stays hopeful that he won’t be forgotten. Frosh mentioned his motive for not confirming the names related to circumstances beneath overview is that the method should stay uninfluenced by grieving households or cops. If any errors are present in these put up mortem rulings, officers concerned in these circumstances may very well be topic to legal fees.
Frosh’s successor, Congressman Anthony Brown, will take over as legal professional normal in January. He declined a request from CBS News to remark on the continued overview.