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Two George Floyd Autopsies Conclude Homicide but for Different Reasons

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  • When charging now-former Officer Derek Chauvin Friday with the third-degree murder of George Floyd, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that Floyd had not died of asphyxiation. 
  • This report, which was preliminary, outraged many online and led to Floyd’s family pursuing a second, independent autopsy.
  • On Monday, both examinations released their findings. While both agreed Floyd died of homicide, their findings are different. 
  • Hennepin County determined Floyd died of “Cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
  • Meanwhile, the independent autopsy concluded that Floyd died of “mechanical asphyxiation.”

First Autopsy Releases Preliminary Report

The findings of two different autopsies give conflicting explanations as to how George Floyd died, though both have concluded that his death was a homicide.

The first autopsy was performed last week following Floyd’s death. It was conducted by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office.

On Friday, prosecutors charged now-former Officer Derek Chauvin with third-degree murder. With the charging, prosecutors included findings from the office’s preliminary report, which said the autopsy “revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. 

“Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease,” it added. “The combined effect of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.”

Still, the report notes that the incident, which resulted in Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for at least eight minutes, was a contributing factor. 

Though the report seemingly provided insight into Floyd’s death, it failed to satisfy many people. In fact, it even seemed to stoke mounting outrage.

Others called for a second, independent autopsy, which Floyd’s family announced it would pursue soon after the preliminary autopsy went public. 

Alongside this, Floyd’s family said they were seeking to raise Chauvin’s murder charge from third- to first-degree.

First Autopsy Full Report

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office released its full report Monday, which listed Floyd’s manner of death as a homicide.

In that, the office listed Floyd’s cause of death as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

Essentially, the report indicated that Floyd’s heart stopped beating and he went into cardiac arrest.

Among the “other significant conditions” listed in the report were Floyd’s pre-existing artery and heart diseases, as well as fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use. Notably, the report doesn’t go into detail about how much of each drug was in his system or how they may have contributed to his death.

Seemingly because of the heightened tension concerning the degree Chauvin’s murder charge and whether or not Chauvin explicitly intended to kill Floyd, the office also included this statement:

“Manner of death is not a legal determination of culpability or intent, and should not be used to usurp the judicial process. Such decisions are outside the scope of the Medical Examiner’s role or authority.”

Independent Autopsy

That same day, prior to that report being released, Floyd’s family presented the findings of its second, independent autopsy.

While it also ultimately concludes that Floyd died by homicide, its reasoning was markedly different, determining that Floyd had died of “mechanical asphyxiation.” 

The autopsy was conducted by former New York City chief medical examiner Michael Baden and the University of Michigan’s Allecia Wilson. Baden previously performed autopsies on Eric Garner and Michael Brown, who both died in 2014.

In this report, Baden and Wilson determined that Floyd specifically died of “asphyxiation from sustained pressure” after being pinned down by his neck and back.

Baden also said that he found hemorrhaging around Floyd’s right carotid artery that impeded blood flow to the brain.

“The compressive pressure of the neck and back are not seen at autopsy because the pressure has been released by the time the body comes to the medical examiner’s office,” Baden said in reference to why the first autopsy may not have concluded that Floyd died of asphyxia. “It can only be seen — serious compressive pressure on the neck and back can only be seen while the pressure is being applied or when, as in this instance, it is captured on video.”  

Also contrary to the results of that first autopsy, Baden said that no underlying medical condition caused or contributed to Floyd’s death and Floyd was in good health.

“Essentially, George died because he needed a breath,” Ben Crump, the family’s lawyer, said.

“For George Floyd, the ambulance was his hearse,” he added.

Crump also focused on the fact that the autopsy determined Floyd died not just from sustained pressure on the neck but also on the back. Using that as a platform, Crump further called for the arrests of the other three officers with Chauvin that day, two of which appear to be on top of or above Floyd’s back in a viral video.

In the announcement, Crump continued to call for Chauvin’s murder charge to be increased from third to first-degree murder.

For Chauvin to be charged and convicted of first-degree murder, he would have to be found guilty of not only actively trying to kill Floyd but also of pre-meditating it. Essentially, prosecutors would need to come up with evidence that Chauvin had a specific motive for killing Floyd.

Conversely, third-degree murder does not require an intent to kill. It only needs to prove that the perpetrator who caused someone’s death in a dangerous act did so “without regard for human life.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CBS News) (CNN)

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SCOTUS Rules in Favor of Police in Two Qualified Immunity Cases

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The move further solidifies the contentious legal doctrine that protects officers who commit alleged constitutional violations.


SCOTUS Hears Qualified Immunity Cases 

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of police in two separate cases involving qualified immunity, the controversial legal doctrine that shields officers accused of violating constitutional rights from lawsuits.

The topic has become a major flashpoint in debates over police reform and curbing police violence since the protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the summer of 2020.

On one side, supporters of qualified immunity claim it is necessary to ensure that police can do their jobs without worrying about frivolous lawsuits. 

However, opponents argue that judicial interpretations of the doctrine over time have given police incredibly broad legal immunity for misconduct and use of excessive force. Under a previous Supreme Court ruling, in order for officers to be held liable, plaintiffs have to show that they violated rights “clearly established” by a previous ruling.

In other words, officers cannot be held liable unless there is another case that involves almost identical circumstances.

As a result, many argue the doctrine creates a Catch-22: Officers are shielded from liability because there is no past precedent, but the reason there is no past precedent is because officers are shielded from liability in the first place.

An Ongoing Debate

Critics argue that the two cases the Supreme Court saw Monday illustrate that double bind, as both involved accusations of excessive force commonly levied against police.

In one case, officers used non-lethal bean bag rounds against a suspect and knelt on his back to subdue him. In the other, police shot and killed a suspect after he threatened them with a hammer.

The justices overturned both lower-court rulings without ordering full briefing and argument because of the lack of precedent. The court issued the decisions in unsigned orders with no dissent, signaling they did not even see the cases as close calls. 

Advocates for qualified immunity claim the decisions signal that the current Supreme Court is not open to changing qualified immunity, and the most likely path for opponents of the doctrine is legislation.

While Democrats in Congress have made numerous efforts to limit qualified immunity, including most recently in the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act passed by the House earlier this year, all those attempts have been blocked by Republicans.

At the state level, dozens of bills have been killed after heavy lobbying from police unions. As a result, it remains unclear what path proponents for reform have at this juncture.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)

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Florida School Says Students Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Must Stay Home for 30 Days

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The school falsely claimed that people who have just been vaccinated risk “shedding” the coronavirus and could infect others.


Centner Academy Vaccination Policy

A private school in Florida is now requiring all students who get vaccinated against COVID-19 to quarantine for 30 days before returning to class.

According to the local Miami outlet WSVN, Centner Academy wrote a letter to parents last week describing COVID vaccines as “experimental” and citing anti-vaccine misinformation.

“If you are considering the vaccine for your Centner Academy student(s), we ask that you hold off until the Summer when there will be time for the potential transmission or shedding onto others to decrease,” the letter reportedly stated.

“Because of the potential impact on other students and our school community, vaccinated students will need to stay at home for 30 days post-vaccination for each dose and booster they receive and may return to school after 30 days as long as the student is healthy and symptom-free.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has debunked the false claim that those newly vaccinated against COVID-19 can “shed” the virus.

According to the agency’s COVID myths page, vaccine shedding “can only occur when a vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus,” but “none of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.”

In fact, early research has suggested that vaccinated people are less likely to spread the virus than unvaccinated people.

Beyond that, unvaccinated people are more likely to spread COVID in general because they are much more likely to get the virus than vaccinated people. According to recently published CDC data, as of August, unvaccinated people were six times more likely to get COVID than vaccinated people and 11 times more likely to die from the virus.

Centner Academy Continues Spread of Misinformation

In a statement to The Washington Post Monday, Centner Academy co-founder David Centner doubled down on the school’s new policy, which he described as a “precautionary measure” based on “numerous anecdotal cases that have been in circulation.”

“The school is not opining as to whether unexplained phenomena have a basis in fact, however we prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions that impact the health of the school community,” he added.

The new rule echoes similar efforts Centner Academy has made that run counter to public health guidance and scientific knowledge.

In April, the school made headlines when its leadership told vaccinated school employees that they were not allowed to be in contact with any students “until more information is known” and encouraged employees to wait until summer to get the jab.

According to The New York Times, the following week, a math and science teacher allegedly told students not to hug their vaccinated parents for more than five seconds.

The outlet also reported that the school’s other co-founder, Leila Centner, discouraged masking, but when state health officials came for routine inspections, teachers said they were directed in a WhatsApp group to put masks on.

See what others are saying: (WSVN) (The Washington Post) (Business Insider)

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Katie Couric Says She Edited Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quote About Athletes Kneeling During National Anthem

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Couric said she omitted part of a 2016 interview in order to “protect” the justice.


Kate Couric Edited Quote From Justice Ginsburg

In her upcoming book, journalist Katie Couric admitted to editing a quote from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 2016 in order to “protect” Ginsberg from potential criticism. 

Couric interviewed the late justice for an article in Yahoo News. During their discussion, she asked Ginsburg about her thoughts on athletes like Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem to protest racial inequality.

“I think it’s really dumb of them,” Ginsburg is quoted saying in the piece. “Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”

According to The Daily Mail and The New York Post, which obtained advance copies of Couric’s book “Going There,” there was more to Ginsburg’s response. Couric wrote that she omitted a portion where Ginsburg said the form of protest showed a “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life…Which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from.

Couric Says She Lost Sleep Making Choice

“As they became older they realize that this was youthful folly,” Ginsberg reportedly continued. “And that’s why education is important.

According to The Daily Mail, Couric wrote that the Supreme Court’s head of public affairs sent an email asking to remove comments about kneeling because Ginsburg had misspoken. Couric reportedly added that she felt a need to “protect” the justice, thinking she may not have understood the question. Couric reached out to her friend, New York Times reporter David Brooks, regarding the matter and he allegedly likewise believed she may have been confused by the subject. 

Couric also wrote that she was a “big RBG fan” and felt her comments were “unworthy of a crusader for equality.” Because she knew the remarks could land Ginsburg in hot water, she said she “lost a lot of sleep” and felt “conflicted” about whether or not to edit them out. 

Couric was trending on Twitter Wednesday and Thursday as people questioned the ethics behind her choice to ultimately cut part of the quote. Some thought the move showed a lack of journalistic integrity while others thought revealing the story now harmed Ginsburg’s legacy.

See what others are saying: (New York Post) (The Daily Mail) (Insider)

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