A group founded by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began this week to provide free secondary autopsies to families of people who died in “police-related” circumstances.
Certified autopsies can be very serious, sometimes costing $5,000 or more, so those without the means must rely on a formal investigation led by a medical examiner or coroner. proceed. But proponents of a second autopsy argue that forensic pathology is not an exact science and that medical professionals can have different opinions sometimes colored by favoritism.
Supporters of Mr Kaepernick’s initiative say the lack of means for an independent autopsy – a second opinion, in medical parlance – prohibits a person from having equal access to justice. class.
“There is certainly a deep subconscious bias – and in some cases conscious bias – on the part of medical examiners towards police-related deaths,” said Dr. Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, one of the country’s most prominent forensic pathologists and one of the board-certified examiners who will conduct autopsies as part of this effort. , said in an interview on Thursday.
Those distrustful of the often intimate relationship between investigators and law enforcement officials have long turned to the private sector. Dozens of private autopsy services, like 1-800-Coroner of Los Angeles, operate around the country in commercial buildings, laboratories, and in the back of funeral homes.
Concern about forensic pathology was heightened after George Floyd was killed in 2020 at the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.
The Hennepin County medical examiner classified Floyd’s death as a homicide and listed heart disease, fentanyl and methamphetamine as contributing factors. But forensic experts hired by Mr. Floyd’s family believe asphyxiation, or lack of oxygen, to be the cause of death and blame it entirely on the police officers involved.
The autopsy initiative is part of Know Your Rights Camp, an activist group founded by Mr Kaepernick, which describes its mission as promoting “the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown skin”.
The group defines a police-related death as a death in which an individual “died by being shot, beaten, restrained, intentionally hit by a police vehicle, pepper sprayed, or on the line of law enforcement. on duty or being harmed by police officers, whether on duty or off duty. ”
Some medical evaluation said that, like others, they were biased, but that extensive systems were in place, including courtroom surveillance of their decisions. The National Association of Medical Examiners did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wecht says that a second review is often consistent with the first, but it can also be considered a systematic check. He said biases that can develop among medical examiners are not necessarily crimes but are a natural product of a close working relationship with law enforcement.
Dr Wecht said: “Medical examiners deal with the police all the time. “They get their stories from the police all the time. It’s not surprising or surprising to be influenced by that style by the people you work with. “
Mr. Kaepernick, as quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, began to kneel while singing the national anthem before NFL games in 2016. He said he wanted to raise awareness of racism and injustice. society and police brutality against “Blacks and People of Color.”
A program official said Mr Kaepernick had no comment on Thursday, but the former quarterback said in a statement that the “prison-industrial complex” includes police and “efforts to protect protect and serve their interests at all costs”.
The autopsy initiative “is an important step in ensuring that family members have access to accurate and pre-verifiable information about the cause of death of a loved one,” he said. when they need it”.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/us/colin-kaepernick-police-autopsy.html A group founded by Colin Kaepernick is offering a free second autopsy