In September 2022, 35-year-old Lashawn Thompson died in a Georgia jail, killed by neglect in the facility’s disturbingly filthy conditions. The Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office said Thompson’s cause of death was “undetermined.” But his family’s attorney says insects ate him alive.
With that discrepancy, activist and quarterback Colin Kaepernick is paying for a second, independent autopsy. And this isn’t the first time that’s been necessary.
Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp has provided free second autopsies for victims of police-related deaths since 2022. That includes people killed by police, but also those already in custody.
Why? Because there are often many conflicts of interest in these types of investigations, including in the autopsy process.
Depending on where you live, the officials who conduct and oversee autopsies can be elected, tied to the sheriff’s department, or even double as sheriffs themselves. Only four states require their coroners to be physicians, and only 16 require training.
As a result, autopsies have been used to shift the blame from law enforcement to other causes of death, from hypertension and sickle cell to drug overdose. That’s what happened with Elijah McClain and George Floyd.
Copaganda is everywhere, even in the coroner’s office. But the more we’re aware, the less power they have to keep misrepresenting the deaths of our community members who should be alive today.