State Watch

Lawyer for former officer charged in George Floyd death alleges witness coercion

An attorney for one of the former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd alleges that a medical examiner was coerced to change their findings.

A lawyer for Tou Thao claimed in a court filing that the examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, was coerced into including neck compression as a factor in Floyd’s death.

Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Keung will be in court on Thursday arguing pretrial motions. They are scheduled to begin trial on Aug. 23 for criminal charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death.

Derek Chauvin, the former officer who was seen on widely-shared video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for around nine minutes, was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for Floyd’s death in late April.

A Hennepin County judge ruled Wednesday that there were aggravating factors in Floyd’s death, a ruling that could result in a longer sentence for Chauvin. He will be sentenced June 25.

The Hennepin County medical examiner ruled last June that Floyd’s death was a homicide, finding in a report that he experienced cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement.

The report specifically said his cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdue restraint, and neck compression.”

Thao’s attorney alleged that Baker originally didn’t think that neck compression was a factor in Floyd’s death. But he was pressured into including it after speaking with former Washington, D.C., medical examiner Dr. Roger Mitchell twice.

Mitchell was going to criticize Baker’s findings in an op-ed for The Washington Post, the filing alleges, but he didn’t after Baker released the report.

The filing also targeted Mitchell for criticizing Dr. David Fowler, former medical chief of Maryland, who testified for the defense during Chauvin’s trial. Fowler said that Floyd could have died from carbon monoxide or from heart disease coupled with drug use.

Mitchell was one of 400 doctors who signed a letter criticizing Fowler’s testimony, saying it “raises significant concerns for his previous practice and management.”

The state of Maryland is launching a review of cases handled under Fowler.

Prosecutors said in a separate court filing Wednesday that “the bizarre allegations offered in support of the motion are false and wrong and we intend to file a complete response.” 

Baker’s office told The Hill it could not comment due to pending litigation.

Thao’s attorneys previously asked the court to sanction state officials who they accused of leaking to The New York Times and Associated Press that Chauvin last year considered pleading guilty to third-degree murder in an agreement rejected by then-Attorney General William Barr, the AP noted

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has previously said this was false. 

All of the officers have been indicted on federal charges of civil rights violations for Floyd’s death.

Updated at 1:20 p.m.

Tags Chauvin trial Chauvin verdict George Floyd George Floyd killing Keith Ellison Minnesota William Barr

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