Medical Witnesses subject to coercion and retaliation.
Former Minneapolis police officers charged in Floyd’s death filed a motion for sanctions against the prosecution that alleges that the Hennepin County Med.
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Examiner Andrew Baker’s testimony in Chauvin’s case “was directly and indirectly coerced by the State and its agents.” Also, added that the former chief med. Examiner for the State of Maryland’s testimony has been subjected to threats against his Med. License. The expert testified in Chauvin’s defense, saying that Floyd’s cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia.
On May 26, 2020, Dr. Becker, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, made an autopsy of Mr. Floyd. Then, he advised the attorneys that “[t]he autopsy revealed no physical evidence suggesting that Mr. Floyd died of asphyxiation. Mr. Floyd did not exhibit signs of petechiae, damage to his airways or thyroid, brain bleeding, bone injuries, or internal bruising.”
On May 29, 2020, the criminal complaint against the former police officer Chauvin stated that the report from the Med. Examiner was pending. However, some preliminary findings revealed,” no physical results that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.”
Before June 1, 2020, Dr. R. Mitchell, a former medical examiner for Washington D.C., wanted to discuss with Dr. Baker the preliminary findings. It cited an “Exhibit 1”, paragraphs 5 and 6 of the motion:
5. Dr. Mitchell spoke with Dr. Baker before Dr. Baker finalized his findings on June 1, 2020. Id. During the conversation between Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Baker, the following transpired:
a. Dr. Mitchell “called Baker and said first of all Baker should fire his public information officer.” Id.
b. “Then Mitchell asked [Baker] what happened because Mitchell didn’t think it sounded like Baker’s words.” Id.
c. “Baker said that he didn’t think the neck compression played a part … ” Id.
6. Over the weekend, Dr. Mitchell thought about Dr. Baker more. Id. After the phone conversation between Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Baker, Dr. Mitchell decided he was going to release an op-ed critical of Dr. Baker’s findings in the Washington Post. Id. Dr. Mitchell first called Dr. Baker to let him know. Id. The following transpired:
a. Dr. Mitchell called Dr. “Baker first to let him know that he was going to be critical of Baker’s findings.” Id. “In this conversation, Mitchell said, you don’t want to be the medical examiner who tells everyone they didn’t see what they saw. You don’t want to be the smartest person in the room and be wrong. Said (sic) there was a way to articulate the cause and manner of death that ensures you are telling the truth about what you are observing and via all of the investigation. Mitchell said neck compression has to be in the diagnosis.” Id. (Emphasis in original.)
From the motion, we can see that Dr. Baker had a press conference, saying that the “final autopsy findings included neck compression,” which opposes what Baker stated before the conversation with Dr. Mitchell.
Later, the motion elaborated the purported actions of Mitchell regarding the statements of Dr. David Fowler. According to Fowler, the death of Mr. Floyd was undetermined. Dr. Flowler testified that Floyd died while being restrained by the police of cardiac arrhythmia.
Eight days after his testimony, Dr. Mitchell wrote an open letter to Maryland’s attorney general, the director of the Maryland DOH, the U.S. attorney general, and the director of the Centers for Disease Control. He was asking for an “immediate investigation into the practices of the physician [Dr. Fowler] as well as the practice of the Maryland State Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) while under his leadership.”
”Our disagreement with Dr. Fowler is not a matter of opinion. Our disagreement with Dr. Fowler is a matter of ethics. The disingenuous testimony of Dr. David Fowler exposes the frailty of the current Medical Examiner/Coroner System and illustrates the lack of existing oversight and uniformity of practice. If forensic pathologists can offer such baseless opinions without penalty, then the entire criminal justice system is at risk.” the letter added.
Among all other things, the letter calls for “Investigation into the medical license of [Dr. Fowler] for possible ethical violations associated with death in custody diagnosis.”
It circulates online and also has a feature click to sign. The Baltimore Sun announced that the letter signed 431 doctors worldwide.
The motion asks for disclosure of evidence purportedly in possession of the prosecution, so they can “determine whether Dr. Mitchell was a state-actor/agent when he threatened Dr. Baker and/or Dr. Fowler.”
Moreover, the question is still open if the defense can prove that Dr. Mitchell committed the crime of coercion by threatening Dr. Bake’s trade if he doesn’t change his autopsy findings.
In his open letter, Dr. Mitchell purported ethical violations, and he demands an investigation of Fowler’s medical license.
“Dr. Mitchell has set the stage that he will threaten the trade and professional reputation of any physician who suggests that Mr. Floyd’s death could be labeled as “undetermined.”… Dr. Mitchell has essentially stated that any medical expert who wants to testify that Mr. Floyd’s death could be undetermined should, and will, face penalties by him. Dr. Mitchell’s accusations and spurring of legal fallacies create a chilling effect for Mr. Thao and violates his due process rights in that it has become extraordinarily difficult to find medical experts who are willing to state that Mr. Floyd’s death was undetermined in fear of their professional reputation and licensure.”
Considering the threat towards Barry Brodd, the retired police officer, it was reasonable and met the accepted police protocols’ standards.
After a few days of his testimony, Brodd’s home in California was vandalized. The New York Post shared that three women, Rowan Dalbey, Kristen Aumoithe, and Amber Lucas, ended up behind bars and charged with felony vandalism of home.
Lucas is a self-professed BLM member who was part of the BLM protests for Floyd’s murder.
According to the police, the women were at the property on April 17, a couple of days after Brodd’s testimony.
“It appears the suspects in this vandalism were targeting Mr. Brodd for his testimony,” the police spokesperson said. “Mr. Brodd has not lived at the residence for a number of years and is no longer a resident of California.”
From all this, we can conclude that it’s not enough to force Thao and the remaining police defendants to stand a case in a place where people cannot expect to have a fair and impartial jury unaffected by the mob threat.