September 20, 2014

Expert for Eric Garner's family says city autopsy found evidence of neck compression


A medical expert hired by the family of Eric Garner, who died in July from an apparent police chokehold, said Friday that the autopsy by the city medical examiner found evidence of neck compression on the body, a finding that a police union official immediately challenged.

Dr. Michael Baden, who served as New York City's medical examiner in the 1970s, praised the autopsy done on Garner's body by the current medical examiners at a news conference and agreed with the finding that Garner's neck had been compressed.

But Baden, who Friday had a chance to review the city autopsy finding and other evidence, was careful in his remarks and said further study would be needed before he could definitely say how Garner died.

"The most severe finding was the compression of the neck," said Baden, which was evidenced by hemorrhaging in the neck. Baden and Garner family attorney Sanford Rubenstein spoke Friday to reporters outside the office of the chief medical examiner in Manhattan.

Baden said there was "nothing inconsistent" in his review of the materials with the city medical examiner's findings that the cause of Garner's death in the July 17 incident on Staten Island was "compression of the neck [choke hold] , compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."

Chokeholds are not illegal, though NYPD policy bars their use. The Garner cases sparked an outcry in the city about police tactics and NYPD Commissioner William Bratton's quality-of-life offensive against low-level problems like loose cigarette sales, of which Garner was suspected.

However, in a separate news conference convened minutes after Baden's, Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch said the former coroner never mentioned the word "asphyxiation."

"He said compression to the neck, which is consistent with what we have said. This was not a chokehold, but a take down maneuver," Lynch said.

Lynch added that Baden's comments indicated that the damage to Garner's neck "was consistent with techniques an emergency room person would use." Lynch told reporters that the PBA and its attorneys have yet to see the autopsy report. But he said Garner's neck and chest injuries were like those he could have suffered as emergency medical technicians tried to bring him back from cardiac arrest in the ambulance and in the hospital emergency room.