Hennepin County medical examiner reappointed, but with two no votes following George Floyd controversy

    Hennepin County Commissioner Angela Conley

    The Hennepin County Board reappointed the chief medical examiner, but with two commissioners voting no, following controversy surrounding the county’s autopsy of George Floyd. 

    The board voted 5-2 to reappoint Andrew Baker, a licensed forensic pathologist, as Hennepin County chief medical examiner. Baker’s fifth, four-year term will commence on June 12. 

    The June 1 autopsy said the cause of death of Floyd — who died after former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes — was cardiac arrest, complicated by the police restraint maneuver. 

    The report also cited preexisting conditions and intoxication. It made no mention of asphyxiation, but did rule Floyd’s death a homicide.

    An independent autopsy commissioned by Floyd’s family found that the cause was “asphyxia due to neck and back pressure.” 

    District 4 Commissioner Angela Conley said she could not vote in favor of the appointment because the differing autopsy reports have created distrust in the community. 

    Conley said the initial autopsy report helped result in the county’s initial 3rd degree murder charge against Chauvin. That charge has since been elevated to 2nd degree murder by state Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is prosecuting the case. 

    “The report that came out did extreme damage to a community who has every valid reason to not trust these processes, that has consistently not brought about justice for these communities,” Conley said. 

    District 2 Commissioner Irene Fernando also voted against the appointment, echoing Conley’s concerns. 

    District 6 Commissioner Jan Callison said she understood their concerns but voted yes. 

    “The list of his credentials and accomplishments is impressive,” Callison said. “My experience with him confirms that he is a professional, honest, trustworthy. I understand the difficulty of the circumstances that are presented here, but I think it’s appropriate to reappoint Dr. Baker.”  

    Madeline Deninger
    Madeline Deninger is a junior at the University of Minnesota. She covers for politics and state government for Minnesota Reformer as a Kaufman Fellow. She currently serves as city editor of the university's campus newspaper, Minnesota Daily. She's also worked at WCCO-TV and American Public Media.