The Maryland Attorney General has selected an independent panel of experts to investigate the police custody deaths that took place during the tenure of the state’s former chief medical examiner, Dr. David Fowler.
Fowler’s Judgment Called into Question
Fowler served as a key witness in the trial of Derek Chauvin, whose high-profile trial ended with a jury convicting the former Minneapolis police officer of murder and manslaughter in connection with the death of George Floyd.
At trial, Dr. Fowler testified that Floyd died of cardiac arrhythmia due to his heart disease while being restrained by the police and that Floyd’s cause of death was “undetermined” and not a homicide. Dr. Fowler’s testimony was contradicted by several other experts who testified that Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen.
Fowler testified that his “opinion was formulated after the collaboration of thirteen other highly experienced colleagues in multiple disciplines” and wrote that “our evaluation set an ethical standard for the work needed in sensitive litigation.”
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.
After receiving this letter, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh made the decision to review all cases from 2002 to 2019, which fell under Dr. Fowler’s tenure.
The Panel of Experts
As the first step of this review process, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh has selected a panel of experts to decide how to investigate the police custody deaths that were overseen by former Maryland chief medical examiner David Fowler.
The panel of experts will be composed of seven members, who have national and international expertise in the fields of forensic pathology and behavioral science. The panel will develop its own process for reviewing the in-custody death determinations.
According to Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Frosh, the panel will “shape the scope and methodology of the audit, including the manner in which cases for review will be selected.” Once the panel has designed the audit, Frosh will select the team members who will conduct it.
The members of the panel are:
● Stephen Cordner, a retired professor of forensic pathology who heads the international program of the Australia-based Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine.
● Jack Crane, the former state pathologist for Northern Ireland.
● Deborah Davis, a professor of psychology at the University of Nevada at Reno who has served for decades as an expert witness on eyewitness memory, interrogation and confession, sexual consent communications, and forensics.
● Itiel Dror, a Harvard-educated expert in human cognition and decision-making who serves at University College London.
● Michael Freeman, a consultant in forensic medicine and forensic epidemiology and a professor at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
● William C. Thompson, professor emeritus at the University of California at Irvine, where he has held academic appointments in criminology, psychological science and law.
● Alfredo E. Walker, a registered forensic pathologist in Ontario.