A group founded by Colin Kaepernick provides free re openings

A group founded by Colin Kaepernick provides free re-openings

The group, founded by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, began this week offering free secondary autopsies for the families of people who died in “police-related” circumstances.

A certified autopsy can be prohibitively expensive, sometimes costing $5,000 or more, so those without funds have had to rely on a formal investigation by a medical examiner or coroner. But proponents of re-autopsy argue that forensic pathology is not an exact science and that medical experts can have differing opinions, sometimes tinged with bias.

Supporters of Mr. Kaepernick’s initiative said that the lack of funds for an independent autopsy – a second opinion, medically speaking – deprives a person of access to equal justice.

“There is definitely a deep-seated subconscious bias — and in some cases a conscious bias — on the part of medical examiners about police-related deaths,” Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, one of the nation’s most famous forensic scientists. and one of the certified experts who will perform autopsies as part of that effort, said in an interview on Thursday.

People distrustful of the often cozy relationship between coroners and law enforcement officers have long turned to the private sector. Dozens of private autopsy services, such as 1-800-Autopsy in Los Angeles, operate across the country in commercial buildings, laboratories and backyard funeral homes.

Forensic concerns have intensified since the 2020 killing of George Floyd under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner classified Mr. Floyd’s death as a homicide and listed heart disease, fentanyl and methamphetamine as contributing factors. But forensic pathologists hired by Mr. Floyd’s family said the cause of death was asphyxia or lack of oxygen, and blamed the police officers involved entirely.

The autopsy initiative is part of Camp Know Your Rights, an activist group founded by Mr. Kaepernick that describes its mission as advancing “the liberation and well-being of black and brown communities.”

The group defines police-related death as death in which a person “dies as a result of being shot, beaten, restrained, deliberately hit by a police car, pepper spray, stunned, or otherwise injured by police officers, whether on duty or off duty.” services.”

Some medical examiners said that, like everyone else, they have prejudices, but that sufficient systems already exist, including having their decisions checked in the courtroom. The National Association of Medical Examiners did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dr. Wecht said that the second review will often be consistent with the first, but it can also serve as a system check. He said the prejudices that can develop among medical examiners are not necessarily sinister, but rather a natural product of a close working relationship with law enforcement.

“Medical examiners deal with the police all the time,” Dr. Wecht said. “They get their stories from the cops all the time. There is nothing striking or highly unexpected about being so influenced by the people you work with.”

As a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, Mr. Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem before an NFL game in 2016. He said he wanted to draw attention to racism, social injustice and police brutality against “blacks and people of color”.

A spokesman for the program said Mr. Kaepernick was unavailable for comment on Thursday, but the former defense attorney said in a statement that the “prison-industrial complex” includes the police and is “committed to protecting and serving their interests at all costs.”

According to him, the autopsy initiative “is an important step to ensure that family members have access to accurate and forensically verifiable information about the cause of death of their loved one in time of need.”