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Md. releases list of 1,300 in-custody deaths for review of former chief medical examiner

Dr. David Fowler (File photo)
Dr. David Fowler (File photo)
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The state medical examiner’s office in Maryland has released a list of approximately 1,300 in-custody death cases that will be used as part of a review scrutinizing the work of Dr. David Fowler, the state’s former chief medical examiner, who in April served as a defense witness for former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s murder trial.

Attorney General Brian Frosh, in conjunction with the Hogan administration, is coordinating the creation of an independent panel to review some of the cases. A spokesman for the Officer of the Chief Medical Examiner said the list was sent to the Frosh last May.

The list has the names of 1,313 people who have died in custody in Maryland between 2003 and 2020. Bruce Goldfarb, a spokesman for the state’s medical examiner’s office, said it doesn’t mean all the cases will be reviewed. The list has been compiled based on specifics requested by Frosh’s office, Goldfarb said.

2021 Maryland in-custody deaths, 2003 to 2022. Source: Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Among the names on the list is Anton Black, a 19-year-old Black teen from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, who died during a police pursuit involving three white police officers and a white civilian who was aiding the police. Fowler ruled the cause of death an accident.

“[I]t is a list of all deaths while a person is being taken into custody (i.e., pursuits, arrests) or in custody. It includes suicides and drug overdoses while incarcerated, jail fights, etc. Everything except prisoners dying from natural causes in hospice,” Goldfarb said in an email to 7News. “Note that none of these cases are Dr. Fowler's.”

Fowler served as a chief medical examiner from 2002 to 2019.

ALSO READ: Ex-Md. medical examiner named in wrongful death suit blames Floyd's death on heart issue

The creation of a panel was announced last May following the controversial testimony given by Fowler as a defense witness in Chauvin’s trial.

“In May 2021, Attorney General Frosh announced that, in consultation with Governor Hogan’s Office of Legal Counsel, the Office of Attorney General would conduct an independent audit of in-custody death determinations made by OCME under Dr. Fowler. The decision to conduct the audit followed a request by hundreds of medical professionals to undertake a review of Dr. Fowler’s work in the wake of his testimony in the trial of Derek Chauvin,” according to a statement from the OAG.

In September, Frosh’s office announced the formation of a “design team” to develop the process for reviewing the in-custody deaths.

“The team will shape the scope and methodology of the audit, including the manner in which cases for review will be selected. Once that task is complete, the Attorney General, in consultation with Governor Hogan’s Office of Legal Counsel, will then proceed to selecting members of the review panel that will conduct the audit,” according to the OAG.

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On Wednesday, OAG spokeswoman Raquel Coombs would not confirm the existence of the list, or the status of the investigation, but she did say panel members would be announced in the next couple of weeks.

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