Apr 25, 2021 - Health

Maryland to review in-custody deaths after Chauvin trial testimony

Maryland chief medical examiner Dr. David Fowler in a medical room.
Retired Maryland chief medical examiner David Fowler. Photo: Marvin Joseph/The The Washington Post via Getty Images

Maryland officials announced they'll review cases of deaths in police custody overseen by retired state chief medical examiner David Fowler, who testified in Derek Chauvin's trial that George Floyd's cause of death was "undetermined."

Why it matters: As Chauvin was convicted last Tuesday on murder and manslaughter charges in Floyd's death, D.C.'s former chief medical examiner Roger Mitchell wrote a letter signed by over 450 other doctors calling for a review into in-custody deaths during Fowler's tenure.

  • It also called for Fowler's medical license to be investigated following his testimony, saying: "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."

What they're saying: Raquel Coombs, a spokesperson for Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, said in an emailed statement Saturday: "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. 

  • "We are already in conversations with the Governor’s Office about the need for such a review, and have offered to coordinate it."
  • Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesperson for the chief medical examiner’s office, said in a statement to news outlets the agency was "committed to transparency and will cooperate fully with an inquiry."

The other side: Fowler told the Baltimore Sun he wasn't aware of plans for a review and defended his office, saying: "There's a large team of forensic pathologists, with layers of supervision, and those medical examiners always did tremendous work."

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