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I asked our team to pause for family time this week before kids return to school. The homepage is updated daily. The Digest returns on Monday, August 2. —Mark Alexander

Arnold Ahlert / Apr. 29, 2021

Chauvin Trial Expert Witness in Mob Crosshairs

Why would any expert ever again testify in a politically charged case?

As Americans are about to discover, the contemptible appetite for mob justice will extend beyond a defendant being tried for a crime.

Despite former police officer Derek Chauvin’s conviction, the mob has turned its attention toward Dr. David Fowler, an internationally renowned forensic pathologist who served as the state of Maryland’s chief medical examiner from 2002 to 2019.

Why? Because Fowler offered his services as an expert witness for the defense, and he had the “temerity” to offer a somewhat differing opinion on the cause of George Floyd’s death than that of other experts. Fowler testified that the primary cause of Floyd’s death was a sudden heart rhythm disturbance occurring while he was restrained by police precipitated by an underlying heart disease. He also testified that the fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s system, along with possible carbon monoxide poisoning from auto exhaust, were contributing factors.

That testimony contradicted other experts who insisted Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen. Yet the most likely reason he is now being targeted is because he classified Floyd’s manner of death as “undetermined,” unlike the Hennepin County medical examiner, who called it a homicide.

Such testimony was a bridge too far for Washington, DC’s former chief medical examiner Roger Mitchell and 431 doctors from around the country. They penned a letter to the Maryland Attorney General’s Office asserting Fowler’s opinions were so far outside the acceptable boundaries of forensic practice that his entire career should be called into question.

“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,” the letter states. “This stated opinion raises significant concerns for his previous practice and management.” The letter also called for state- and federal-level investigations of his 17-year tenure as chief medical examiner — and his medical license itself.

Less than 24 hours after receiving the letter, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced they would accommodate the mob.

Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Frosh, insisted internal discussions about investigating Fowler’s work had been going on for weeks, and she contacted the governor’s office regarding how to move forward. “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,” Coombs said in a statement. “We are already in conversations with the Governor’s Office about the need for such a review, and have offered to coordinate it.”

Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, concurred, asserting, “It is appropriate for the Office of the Attorney General to coordinate the work group.” He added that the governor “has designated his chief legal counsel to serve as a liaison for this effort.” Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the chief medical examiner’s office, said the agency is “committed to transparency and will cooperate fully with an inquiry.”

Inquiry? Witch hunt is more like it, and Fowler put the lie to this vendetta, explaining that he wasn’t solely responsible for all the conclusions in the cases under review. “There’s a large team of forensic pathologists, with layers of supervision, and those medical examiners always did tremendous work,” Fowler stated. When asked about the review? “People need to do what they need to do,” he added.

Ironically, Coombs said the review will not involve any state officials or staff connected to a lawsuit filed against Fowler by the family of Anton Black, a 19-year-old who died in police custody in 2018 after being restrained for six minutes. Fowler ruled that Black died due to a sudden cardiac event that occurred while he was struggling with police, not because they pinned him in a prone position. “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 wrote.

Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, who covered the Chauvin trial extensively, notes some damning realities attached to this vendetta. As ever, media malfeasance was part of the mix. “The complaints against Fowler are based on distortions of his testimony,” McCarthy explains. “He did not, as the Baltimore Sun reports, claim that Chauvin bore no responsibility for George Floyd’s death. Nor did he, as the New York Post reports, testify that the cause of Floyd’s death was merely his inhalation of ‘exhaust fumes,’ in combination with other medical problems.”

More important, McCarthy notes that Fowler’s chief “sin,” as in daring to state the cause of Floyd’s death was “inconclusive” rather than a “homicide” as stated by Hennepin County medical examiner Andrew M. Baker, was a medical opinion, not a criminal-law determination. “The forensic pathologists, like other medical experts, were competent to testify only about medical conclusions in their area of expertise,” McCarthy adds. “They were not qualified to render a legal judgment about whether Floyd had been murdered, or whether the culpable negligence of the police caused his death.”

McCarthy also offers the nation an ominous warning: “We have reached a dangerous pass if people are to be deterred from testifying on the ‘wrong’ side of politically fraught cases.”

Not “deterred.” Intimidated. Doxed. Threatened with unrestrained mob violence ginned up by thugs and abetted by abhorrent politicians seeking to destroy anyone and everyone who refuses to abide their bankrupt worldview and all the distortions and all the lies necessary to sustain it.

And it’s not over. Police officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane were with Chauvin at the time of George Floyd’s arrest, and all three have been charged with aiding and abetting unintentional second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Beginning on August 23, they will stand trial in court together in Hennepin County.

After seeing the orchestrated effort against Dr. Fowler, why would any medical expert testify on their behalf? After watching the spectacle of a trial tainted by a $27 million civil settlement during jury selection, the Star Tribune’s publication of juror backgrounds extensive enough to compromise their safety, the failure to sequester a jury that was undoubtedly made aware of the accidental killing of Daunte Wright and the rioting that followed, as well as Maxine Waters’s despicable calls for the mob to be “more confrontational,” why would anyone present any contrary opinion, medical or otherwise, that could potentially put them, and perhaps their families as well, in harm’s way?

In a sense, the entire nation is on trial. If we allow the mob to orchestrate the outcome, the Rule of Law will give way to anarchy. Once again: It’s what Americans get when they elect people who hate the nation to run it.

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