It’s Time To Play The Exciting Game Show, “Pick Your Autopsy!”

From the New York Times today:

George Floyd died not just because of the knee lodged at his neck by a Minneapolis Police officer, but also because of the other officers who helped hold him down, a private autopsy found.

Dr. Allecia M. Wilson of the University of Michigan and Dr. Michael Baden, a former New York City medical examiner, were hired by Mr. Floyd’s family to help determine his cause of death. “Not only was the knee on George’s neck a cause of his death, but so was the weight of the other two police officers on his back, who not only prevented blood flow into his brain but also air flow into his lungs,” said Antonio Romanucci, a lawyer for the family.

Well I guess that settles it, then! And that Hennepin County medical examiner conclusion that the county autopsy “revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation,” and that ” that other factors were involved in Mr. Floyd’s death, including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease”? Obviously rigged, wrong and based on racism. Or a cover-up. Or something.

Autopsies are not supposed to be advocacy proceedings. For the Floyd family to bring out their own, bought and paid-for autopsy to contradict the official one means that the case is being litigated in the news media and outside of the courtroom, and that is not the “justice” that Floyd’s protesters supposedly seek.

It doesn’t matter whether I, or anyone, prefers one autopsy over the other. To me, it is intrinsically obvious that having a man kneel on your neck until you lose consciousness while two other full grown men are applying their weight to your back would lend more than coincidental cause to your demise, but hey, I’m just an ethicist. I have to rely on the trustworthiness of other professionals whose job it is to determine such things.

Here’s the problem: the official medical examiner gets his salary no matter what he determines. The Floyd family autopsy was bought and paid for, unless you really think the family’s lawyers paid two doctors without knowing for absolute certain that they weren’t going to announce, “Son of a bitch! Our examination showed that the actions of former officer Chauvin had nothing whatsoever to do with George Floyd’s death! Turns out he was lying on a piece of peanut brittle, which seeped into his system through a spot where his skin was exposed and sent him into anaphylactic shock.”

Reducing what are supposed to be objective, unbiased medical opinions into partisan, manipulated positions aimed at seeking a particular legal result renders them useless. Worse, really: confounding.

Of course, the Times had an ethical obligation to note the inherent bias of any purchased expert opinion arranged by the victim’s family.

Of course, the Times did nothing of the kind, saying what the autopsy “found.” “Found implies objective inquiry. That is false and misleading.

31 thoughts on “It’s Time To Play The Exciting Game Show, “Pick Your Autopsy!”

  1. Well, it looks like we will need a third forensic pathologist to sort it all out.

    Why did Roger Stone have a gag order imposed but nothing in these cases. I say that is systemic bias.

  2. “To me, it is intrinsically obvious that having a man kneel on your neck until you lose consciousness while two other full grown men are applying their weight to your back would lend more than coincidental cause to your demise, but hey, I’m just an ethicist.” – Jack

    You’re more than ethicist. You’re a budding herpetologist as well. That’s exactly the same way a constrictor (anaconda, python, etc.) will kill you. When you breathe and exhale, the snake squeezes, so you can’t expand your lungs to take in more oxygen.

    In a sense, George Floyd was killed by snakes.

    • Joel,

      If Baden’s autopsy is the correct one we have a bigger problem with the Hennepin County coroner. If this coroner is falsifying findings to help protect the state or the defendants we must reexamine every other cause of death conclusion he has reached.

      Further why has no video from behind the patrol car surfaced. You would think that someone would have flanked the car to get a better video or at least a different one as the person taking the one that went viral made the money from that one.

      I have no idea which result is the most factual but if 2 guys were sitting on his back why have they not been charged? Moreover how can Baden determine the number of people pressing on his back and who were the other three officers that everyone said should have pulled Chuavin off George Floyd?

      Third party consultants in legal cases should report only to the lawyers and lawyers should only use the information in the court of law – not the court of public opinion.

      • I totally agree…my wife and I were talking about that as we walked the dog not ten minutes ago. It’s a giant mess already – don’t exacerbate it by engaging in a cover-up.

      • The NYTs has a pretty good reconstruction of the entire event, from all the available angles except the body cameras worn by the officers.

        Floyd George, according to the official autopsy, was at the time of the incident high on fentanyl and had also recently used methamphetamine. And he had a heart condition. I am uncertain what the effect of meth is on a heart condition but it cannot be good. Same with the synthetic opioid. It is not impossible that his heart attack began prior to being pinned down (but I don’t know about this) and also possibly under the stress of being arrested.

        A relatively healthy person, even with the pressure on the body or on the neck, would not have died. In no sense am I saying this to create an excuse for the death of this man. I assume the police have to deal with such cases all the time and he should have been treated differently.

      • Third party consultants in legal cases should report only to the lawyers and lawyers should only use the information in the court of law – not the court of public opinion.

        How exactly does that work? All evidence before a court of law is made public anyways.

    • In a sense, George Floyd was killed by snakes.

      To understand many of the things going on in our present one must understand agitprop and the Marxist-Leninist notion of praxis.

      [Russian, short for otdel agitatsii i propagandy, incitement and propaganda section (of the central and local committees of the Russian Communist party); name changed in 1934.]

      Within the party apparatus, both agitation (work among people who were not Communists) and propaganda (political work among party members) were the responsibility of the agitpropotdel, or APPO.

      One cannot and must not dismiss the notion of agitation in this Leninist sense and if one has been paying attention to what has become, rather starkly, a propaganda and agitation organ — the NYTs — this is not hard to discern. It is taking different and newer, creative forms, but it is similar or the same in many different ways, ways that can be revealed and explained without exaggeration.

      What you are demonstrating here now, in my humble opinion, is showing how agitprop also has a psychological dimension. It is essentially an *attack* on the orientation and view of someone outside the system, and its purpose is to weaken their resolve and their commitment.

      One tactic of revolutionary praxis — Saul Alinsky clearly spell this out in his work — is the undertake actions that provoke responses — reactions — which are then condemned in the most forcefull moral terms. But this is tactic. There is an ulterior purpose which is not stated. This all hinges into deviousness. Unfortunately, we live within systems where public relations has become a ‘devious art’ (but this is another story).

      I suggest the need to remain clear about certain facts: Floyd George was a criminal and a drug-addict. Floyd George is part of a large social problem that can be reduced, largely but not entirely, to Black criminality. This connects to many different factors but in my view one can focus on the hideous Rap Music to locate rebellious and highly destructive impulses that *animate* Black criminality. Looked at cooly but directly the *music* and the discourse that flows out if it can be recognized not merely as a ‘bad’ but as an ‘evil’. The evil infects. I only point this out to indicate how it happens that people get hooked into ‘evil energy’ (since I am uncertain how to describe it). The background to a huge part of what we see today stems out of this. But describing this requires a separate essay (and a number of them).

      If Floyd George had not been involved in criminality, and the general background of Black criminality, he would not have found himself in that situation. Who put him there? No one but his self. His actions call forth a response and what he does — the way he conducts himself — is a tremendous burden on the surrounding society and culture. Who has to confront this? The police.

      You understand where I am going here. Apparently, an entire segment of the US is using the death of Floyd George to bring their rebellion out into the open. I suggest that this demonstrates precisely what ‘agitation’ is and how it functions, and horrifyingly how it works. But this is not about *Floyd George* and it is not about *police brutality*. In truth, in essence, it is about a rebellion that is taking shape and has been taking shape for many decades. It is not about *establishing justice* it is about employing absolute violence to bring destruction and to destroy. The real issue is to identify what is being destroyed and why it is being destroyed. The *real truth* is different from the *stated truth* and so . . .

      . . . I suggest that if the symbol of a ‘snake’ is going to be brought out that we alter the scenario a bit and redefine what is to be meant by ‘snake’. Poisons and deceptions would seem to go together.

      Who killed Floyd George? Let us tell the truth here. And what is the nature, the real nature, of the deceptive poisons that are being used against us? And who is doing this? And why?

      I suggest that what you are doing is showing the beginning stages of ‘siding with the enemy’. I have noticed this among numerous of those who write here. I refuse to describe that police officer as an enemy or as ‘the enemy’. Nor to see the police generally in that light. That officer made a very serious mistake in handling a criminal and it definitely had a cruel and even a sadistic element. But he is not the enemy.

      What is *the enemy*? How shall this be defined? We live in very difficult times where it is very hard to see clearly, yet we have to.

      • GoFundMe for George Floyd’s family raises more than $6.5M in 4 days

        That would be an interesting story to follow.

        I tried to locate a support fund for Derek Chauvin, but then — this is all the evidence you need to condemn me in the court of public opinion! — that I am not partly evil but really and truly evil!

    • What happens if these police officers really can’t get a fair trial?

      If this goes to trial and then it’s turned over on appeal because of bias, repeat and rinse, what happens?

      Has the massive outcry and condemnation in the court of public opinion effectively stripped the officers of their rights to due process?

      If you were a lawyer hired to defend one or more of these police officers how would you advise your clients.

      Are these cases prime for someone like Alan Dershowitz to defend?

      • They get convicted. The convictions of the Rodney King cops for civil rights violations was hardly fair; the previous trial’s acquittal had led to riots, and the President (Bush) had pronounced the police guilty.

  3. Just in: The medical examiner concluded that the cause of death was “a heart attack from subdural restraint and neck compression.”

    The report added that significant conditions included “fentanyl intoxication” and “recent methamphetamine use,” in addition to “Arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease.”

    While the report listed the death as a homicide, the medical examiner made sure to distinguish between the medical conclusion and that of a legal determination.

    • Not quite. The phrase was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression”.

      “Cardiopulmonary Arrest” means he stopped breathing and his heart stopped beating. It does not mean a heart attack, which would generally require some finding of an embolism in the blood vessels supplying the heart muscle.

  4. Keep in mind the language of an autopsy report tends to be very specialized and precise. A lack of evidence of traumatic asphyxiation only means that his neck was compressed in a way that doesn’t leave tissue damage that would show up on autopsy. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t asphyxiated, or that the blood supply to his brain was not cut off.

    • There is no evidence, one of the most ambiguous concepts… Every time I hear someone say it I ask questions.

      Second serious question, where is the primary document that matches all the earlier quotes saying, ‘no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation’. I see lots of news reports that attribute it to a document, but it doesn’t match the ME report and I have not seen the actual document. It now seems like a misleading quote of someone who saw the ME document.

  5. Ahh, Michael Baden: look him up on Wikipedia, folks. Dr. Baden had a short stint as acting chief medical examiner in NYC, courtesy of Bill Koch. Left under duress after pissing off enough people. Since then, has made a pretty good living as Pathologist To The Stars – being brought in in cases involving such exemplary citizens as OJ Simpson, Jeffrey Epstein and Phil Spector. Not to be age-ist or anything, but he’s also 85 years old.

    I see little difference between Baden and plaintiff’s-witnesses-for-hire, who in my own area of concentration can (extremely) generously be described as “whores.”

  6. I thought this was important enough to point out. The first ‘quote’ of the medical exam that is listed was reported in news actually comes from the charging document’s summary of the autopsy. I do not know why the media was unclear on this point, but Criminal Complaint Statement of Probable Cause says, ‘The autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.’. Seems to me that the ME releasing the report after the independent report is there way of fingering the Prosecutor for misleading the media.

    Criminal Complaint:

    Also of note that I have not seen reported, and from that report, Officer lane questioned Officer Chauvin’s use of a knee to the throat, ‘Should we roll him on his side?’, and ‘I am worried about excited delirium or whatever.’, not sure if this impacts his culpability, but I thought it was newsworthy.

      • Even more confusing was the command to get up and into the car by someone kneeling on his neck at the time. That may be standard practice now “hands up don’t move down on the ground don’t move hands up”

        • The command may be enough to establish a defence of qualified immunity, under Kelsey vs Ernst.

          See also cases such as

          In Kelsay, the Eighth Circuit, in an 8–4 en banc decision, granted immunity to a police officer who grabbed a small woman in a bear hug and slammed her to ground, breaking her collarbone and knocking her unconscious, all because she walked away from him after he told her to “get back here.” And in Jessop, the Ninth Circuit granted immunity to police officers who were alleged to have stolen $225,000 in cash and rare coins while executing a search warrant, just for their personal enrichment. By denying cert in these cases, the Supreme Court ensured that these victims would be left without redress for their injuries, and that the police who committed such flagrant misconduct will avoid any liability for their misdeeds.

            • Interesting article.

              I think the best idea is getting police unions out of disciplinary actions. Getting rid of bad cops has to help; apparently the cop in question has a number of significant complaints against him. What’s the bet the union helped him stay employed?

              Re: qualified immunity, I think it needs to stay; anything with lawsuits will ensure that a lot of departments go broke and wind up with not enough money for cops on the street. Suits against departments will increase in the future as a result of the current environment , if I hazard a guess.

              A few months ago, I watched a man chase a woman across 3 lanes of rush hour traffic (twice) with the obvious attempt to inflict bodily harm, dialed 911 and was put on hold for about 6 minutes – that shouldn’t happen. My city is short on cops because of budget (and, I’d argue, budget choices, but, that’s another story). Btw, she got away because getting hit by a car was less a concern for her than him.

              Civil cases against cities succeed all the time, is that not redress enough?

              And who’s going to do that job if they think they’re going to be sued? Yeah, don’t do anything wrong and you won’t have to worry, right? Sure. And we’ve all dealt with a-hole cops, but I’m surprised there aren’t more of them given what they deal with.

              Re: war on drugs – the drugs are going to, and do, destroy a lot of people and families. The WoD is costly and devastating as well, pick your poison I guess.

              Racial profiling: the ugly truth is that 13% of the population represents 37.5% of all arrests for violent crime. More than 50% for murder and robbery. Having significantly different skin color makes it easier to “profile”. That bias is reinforced every day a cop goes to work in Baltimore, Chicago, etc. I take my work home with me all the time, now imagine being a cop.

              You can say don’t take or keep the job if you can’t keep the bias out, but it’s not as simple as that given what you see and do and are conditioned to everyday from your first day on the job.

              Police brutality is an issue, but as I mentioned in a previous post, an overly respectful “Yes sir, no sir” and following an officers commands goes an awful long way in making the interaction a lot better for all.

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