As many other elected officials in Maryland did, Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) on Tuesday celebrated the murder conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s death, turning to Twitter to call for further criminal justice reform.
“This verdict confirms what every person who watched the video already knew,” Frosh tweeted Tuesday after the jury delivered their verdict. “Justice has been done. But, this cannot be the end. Systemic problems with policing & with equal justice require reform.”
“MD has taken steps to improve the quality of policing & the quality of justice,” he continued. “Work remains to be done. Our office is committed to continuing that work.”
But the family of Anton Black, a 19-year-old who died after being in police custody on the Eastern Shore in 2018, said Wednesday they were “surprised” at Frosh’s words. They noted that he is defending Maryland’s former chief medical examiner, Dr. David Fowler, in a wrongful death lawsuit that the family has filed — and by implication supports the idea that Black’s death was an accident rather than a homicide.
“Reform and accountability start at home,” the Black family said in a statement. “If AG Frosh is sincere, he can prove it by doing the work to secure justice in the lawsuit brought by Anton Black’s family — exactly the type of reform Frosh says is needed.”
Like Floyd, Black was subdued under the weight of law enforcement officers for several minutes before he died. Frosh acknowledged the final moments of Floyd’s life on Twitter Tuesday.
“We watched the life being crushed from #GeorgeFloyd in slow motion, over 9 ½ minutes,” he said. “We hope that this verdict brings a small measure of relief to Mr. Floyd’s family.”
Justice has been done. But, this cannot be the end. Systemic problems with policing & with equal justice require reform. MD has taken steps to improve the quality of policing & the quality of justice. Work remains to be done. Our office is committed to continuing that work.”
— Brian Frosh (@BrianFrosh) April 20, 2021
The Black family is fighting for similar acknowledgment from the state in a wrongful death lawsuit they filed late last year.
“Anton Black was pinned down by police for six minutes after being handcuffed,” they said. “Anton Black died as a direct result of police restraint and use of force, but because Dr. Fowler’s office refused to acknowledge that Anton’s death was a homicide, his family has been forced to fight to even have his death acknowledged.”
According to an autopsy report published by The Baltimore Sun, Fowler, who testified as a defense witness during Chauvin’s murder trial, ruled that sudden cardiac death with factors contributed by Black’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder was the cause of his death.
During his testimony at Chauvin’s trial last week, Fowler issued a similar opinion.
“In my opinion, Mr. Floyd had a sudden cardiac arrhythmia due to his atherosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease — you can write that down multiple different ways — during his restraint and subdual by the police,” he told the court.
Fowler is a defendant in the Black family’s lawsuit, which claims that excessive force, racial bias and “positional asphyxiation” caused their son’s death.
The Black family said in their statement Wednesday that Frosh is actively “fighting against” them by “claiming that they don’t even have a case.”
“In this moment, AG Frosh must acknowledge the eerie and terrifying similarity between the police murders of George Floyd and of Anton Black and act to ensure accountability is finally served on the officers who killed Anton and the medical examiners who covered up for them,” they said.
As attorney general, Frosh represents state employees and agencies that are the subject of the Black family’s ongoing lawsuit. Advocates argued that he has the discretion to choose not to defend the employees, but has not done so.
Because the suit is still being litigated, a spokesperson for Frosh declined to comment on the family’s statement Wednesday.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to clarify the attorney general’s role in defending the lawsuit filed by the Black family.