The Maryland Attorney General’s Office has invited the public to comment as part of the review of in custody death investigations that were conducted by the office of Dr. David Fowler, who served as the chief medical examiner of Maryland.
Dr. David Fowler was a key defense witness in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-Minneapolis police officer who was convicted in the murder and manslaughter of George Floyd. Dr. Fowler testified that Floyd died of a sudden heart rhythm problem due to his heart disease while being restrained by the police. He testified that Floyd’s cause of death was “undetermined” and not a homicide. Dr. Fowler’s testimony was contradicted by several other experts who said that Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen.
Following Dr. Fowler’s testimony at Chauvin’s trial, the former medical director of Washington, D.C., Roger A. Mitchell wrote a letter to Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, saying that Dr. Fowler’s testimony and conclusions were so far outside the bounds of accepted forensic practice that all his previous work could come into question. This letter was signed by 431 doctors from around the country.
The letter stated, “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. This stated opinion raises significant concerns for his previous practice and management.”
Attorney General Response
After receiving this letter, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh made the decision to review all cases from 2003 to 2019, which fell under Dr. Fowler’s tenure.
Frosh’s office released the following statement, “My office, in consultation with Governor Hogan’s Chief Legal Counsel, has begun working to develop the process and timeline for the audit of in-custody death determinations made by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) during the tenure of Dr. David Fowler.”
Frosh continued, “We are committed to overseeing a professional and independent audit that adheres to the highest standards of impartiality and integrity. We will be consulting experts, examining similar audits in other jurisdictions, and doing a preliminary review of OCME data and protocols. Our intent is to appoint a panel of independent subject matter experts to perform the audit, and at the conclusion of the review, to release a public report on its findings.”
The Maryland AG’s office also indicated that it was taking steps to wall of those in its office representing the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and any of its current and former employees from those who are involved in the review of the office’s reports.
The Invitation to Submit Public Comments
Maryland Attorney General Frosh invited input from members of the communities affected by the focus of the audit or interest or expertise in the work of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Members of the public who would like to provide a comment are encouraged to do so by June 7, 2021 through email to OCMEaudit@oag.state.md.us or via mail to the office of the Attorney General, 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202.