The Hennepin County Board reappointed Dr. Andrew Baker as the county’s chief medical examiner, despite some controversy over his recent autopsy report on George Floyd.
Commissioners on Thursday voted 5-2 to reappoint Baker, replaying a committee vote taken by the same margin Tuesday. One of the dissenters, Commissioner Angela Conley, had raised concerns that the autopsy report — which ruled Floyd’s death a homicide — mentioned fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, which she suggested downgraded the severity of the crime. The other vote against Baker came from Commissioner Irene Fernando.
“Everybody is watching this case like a hawk,” said Conley. “Institutional racism is embedded in all levels of government. Once again, we have to understand why people don’t trust this system and the process.”
Floyd, a black man, died May 25 at the hands of Minneapolis police. Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, restrained Floyd for more than eight minutes and has been charged with second-degree murder.
Other commissioners, including Mike Opat, said it was misleading to say that listing Floyd’s toxicology results in the autopsy report damaged the public trust.
“Toxicology is often listed in autopsy reports,” he said. “It’s obvious Floyd died by the hands of Officer Chauvin. I believe in Baker as a leader.”
Baker has been the county’s chief medical examiner since he was first appointed in 2004. The National Association of Medical Examiners, of which Baker has served as president, released a statement Thursday calling him “one of the most highly regarded and esteemed forensic pathologists in the United States ... known for his expertise and integrity.” Listing drug intoxication in the autopsy report “provides a more comprehensive statement of the cause of death,” the statement said.
In other action, the board approved funding for several projects related to COVID-19, including:
• $3.5 million to encourage absentee voting amid the pandemic;
• $1.7 million for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing at long-term care facilities and in neighborhoods disproportionately hurt by the virus;
• $1.5 million for distance learning for children involved with the county;
• $1 million for summer youth programs and organized sports.
Funding came from more than $93 million in federal money designated for COVID-19 projects.
The board also passed a resolution supporting state, regional and local efforts to secure state and federal aid for emergency protective measures relating to civil unrest and for disaster relief for properties that were damaged during the unrest following Floyd’s death.