Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks has an interesting item today that questions the conclusions reached by the pathologist who did the autopsy on Freddie Gray.
Opinion: Asked about the Maryland medical examiner’s conclusion that Freddie Gray’s death from injuries sustained in police custody was a homicide, Dr. Vincent DiMaio, one of the nation’s leading forensic pathologists, said: “I’d have to respectfully disagree, and I know a number of other medical examiners do. It would be more appropriate to have classified this case as either an accident or ‘undetermined,’ because the way it’s being called a homicide is, in a way, something that a jury has to decide. A medical examiner is not a lawyer, is not a jury. … They’re saying [Gray’s death] was not an unforeseen event. That’s something for a jury to decide, not the doctor to decide.”
Fact: DiMaio has been a forensic pathologist for more than 40 years, most of them in Texas. He has testified in high-profile cases, including the Florida trial of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin. He did some of his training in the Maryland medical examiner’s office.
If you recall, DiMaio was called by the defense in the George Zimmerman case to refute testimony provided by the prosecutor’s key medical witnesses:
DiMaio also thought the first autopsy report released in the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri was consistent with officer Darren Wilson’s account of what happened:
BURNETT: […] I want to bring in forensic pathologist, Dr. Vincent DiMaio. Thank you for being with us, Doctor. I know this first autopsy and I know there will be a couple of others, one more from the police department and one more from the Department of Justice.
But this is the first one and obviously very crucial. When you look at it, is there anything from the report that is consistent with the officer’s attempt that Brown was rushing at him, full speed towards him?
DR. VINCENT DIMAIO, FORMER CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER, SAN ANTONIO: Yes, there is. Again, thank you for inviting me. The thing is that he’s got a gunshot wound on the top of the head and another one that goes in the eye going straight down.
You usually see that when someone is bent at the waist and going towards a weapon. In which case the two wounds are coming in horizontal and pitch forward on the ground.
The only other time you see something like this is when the person is falling at the time he was shot. But the other gunshot wounds should not have caused him to fall.
So based on the limited information we have, this is a little more consistent with the officer’s account than the fact he was either falling forward or retreating.
BURNETT: So, and to follow up on that point specifically in falling forward, because those who interpret this the other way are saying well, he was falling forward because he had been shot and injured and that caused him to fall forward and that would result in with a you are saying. But you are saying when you look at the shots and where they were, that in your view, that would not be the case?
DIMAIO: You know, based on the limited knowledge, no. Because the only really severe wound or possibly severe wounds, since I don’t know the extent, would be the one to the shoulder and chest. Again, this is based on limited information released on this autopsy.
BURNETT: Right. Yes, it is limited. But about the shot?
DIMAIO: I’m sorry.
BURNETT: No, that’s all right. We have a little bit of a delay. But when you look at the shot on Brown’s arm, and this is crucial shot because witnesses say he was shot from behind. Is that possible when you look at the shots or no?
DIMAIO: No. You know, the doctor said definitely. I have to agree with him. The shots are to the front of the arm. The shooter was in front of him. Not behind him.
BURNETT: All right, Dr. Dimaio, thank you very much.
You can read the most substantive parts of the Freddie Gray autopsy report here: