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A Night To Remember

Articles by Samantha Michaels

Why Coroners Often Blame Police Killings on a Made-Up Medical Condition

by Samantha Michaels, Mother Jones

A day after police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against George Floyd’s neck in Minneapolis, killing him, a county medical examiner began an autopsy. His preliminary findings seemed to conflict with what people had seen in the viral video footage of the May encounter: Though the video showed Floyd repeatedly telling the officer he couldn’t breathe, the examiner wrote that there were no signs Floyd had suffocated. Floyd’s death, the examiner added, was likely due to a combination of his underlying medical conditions, being restrained, and “potential intoxicants” in his system.

It wasn’t the first time a medical examiner or coroner shied away from implicating the police following a high-profile killing. After officers in Colorado restrained 23-year-old Elijah McClain and injected him with ketamine last year, a medical examiner’s office said it couldn’t determine whether McClain died from an accident, natural causes, or a homicide. “The decedent was violently struggling with officers who were attempting to restrain him,” the coroner’s report stated. It added that medics believed McClain had “excited delirium,” a controversial diagnosis that is sometimes applied to people whom police believe are acting manic ...



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