Cases reopened: Maryland’s former chief medical examiner covered up police killings

A little over two years ago, David Fowler stepped onto the witness stand during the prosecution of George Floyd’s murderers, including Derek Chauvin. The defense called Fowler as an expert witness. His purpose at this trial was simple: to undermine the prosecution’s expert testimony and forensic evidence. As part of his testimony, Fowler asserted that Chauvin’s knee on the neck of George Floyd was not a significant factor in Floyd’s death. 

The prosecution of Floyd’s murderers was the most closely followed and widely broadcast since O.J. Simpson’s trial in 1997. The spotlight certainly shone brightly on Fowler as he attempted to discredit mountains of evidence pointing toward an obvious conclusion, that Derek Chauvin was and is a racist murderer. 

Not only did the trial result in the conviction of Chauvin, but it also sparked a new interest in Fowler’s 19-year tenure as Maryland’s Chief Medical Examiner. For this reason, Struggle – La Lucha and Peoples Power Assembly demanded that the Maryland government reopen the cases where David Fowler, or his subordinates, conducted the autopsy. 

PPA and Struggle-La Lucha were and are concerned with the Black men who died in police custody in Maryland. Fowler’s time as the Maryland Chief Medical Examiner did not go without controversy, even before he rose to national prominence in 2020. 

Fowler’s administration received heavy public criticism for the conclusions rendered in the autopsies of Anton Black, Marlyn Barnes, and Tyrone West, all young Black men who died under suspicious circumstances while in the custody of Maryland law enforcement. Fowler and his fellow medical examiners entirely absolved police and correctional officers of any responsibility for the deaths of West, Black, and Barnes, regardless of the plentiful evidence suggesting otherwise. Both families accused Fowler’s office of rubber-stamping police theories and covering up racist policing practices. 

Fowler’s cases reopened 

In December of 2021, it was widely reported that the Maryland attorney general’s office was reexamining the findings of David Fowler in the cases of over 1,300 individuals who died while in the custody of Maryland police or corrections. 

Since that time, the investigation has escalated. Just over a week ago, the Maryland AG announced that 100 autopsies conducted by Fowler’s administration would be thoroughly audited to determine their veracity and thoroughness. 

It is important to understand that Fowler is not the only person implicated in this saga. The recent spotlight on his tenure as Maryland’s Chief Medical Examiner demonstrates a deeper racism at the core of the U.S. court system. Dozens of medical examiners, all physicians, served under Fowler while he ran the department. Fowler was one official. To make his racist collaboration with law enforcement sustainable, he would have needed subordinates who agreed with his vision. Otherwise, the Maryland AG’s office would not have raised eyebrows on over 100 autopsies, an incredibly huge number of cases to reopen, and still probably not enough. 

The depth of corruption and racism within the U.S. “criminal justice” system cannot be understated. This system must be dismantled and replaced with true community control of the police and courts. 

Justice for Tyrone West, Anton Black, and Marlyn Barnes! Reopen all the cases! No more racist medical examiners! 

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