City Paper is not for tourists
Now that the D.C. Medical Examiner has ruled Ali Ahmed Mohammed‘s death a homicide, and that the cause was “Excited Delirium Associated With Arrhythmogenic Cardiac Anomalies, Alcohol Intoxication and Physical Exertion With Restraint,” we’re left to wonder what the heck that means. Moses Schanfield, a professor of Forensic Science and Anthropology at George Washington University, helps us out some. First off, though Mohammed’s death has been declared a “homicide” that term isn’t necessarily synonymous with murder.
“There are limited manners of death: natural, accidental, suicide, homicide and undetermined,” Schanfield writes in an e-mail. “Murder is a legal concept, not a medical concept.”
Secondly, Schanfield says the Office of Chief Medical Examiner could have ruled that way simply because Mohammed’s demise involved other people: “As the decedent was restrained by humans, i.e. there was human action involved, the ME ruled homicide.”
But if the medical sense of a homicide ruling seems vague to the point of not meaning much, the five DC9 workers formerly accused of killing Mohammed in the moments after he threw a brick through a window may not be able to take refuge in that. Even if they merely held on to Mohammed, and there were other factors that contributed to his death, they could still end up in court.
The head of Schanflied’s department, Walter Rowe, explains:
The rule of law in most jurisdictions is that an attacker takes his victim as he/she is with all his/her underlying physical conditions. If you threatened a robbery victim with a weapon and this precipitated a fatal heart attack due to an underlying pathology, you could be charged with felony murder.
In other words, the “perfect storm” excuse doesn’t usually fly with authorities. A statement issued via e-mail by Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier on Mohammed’s case suggests she’s unlikely to let the homicide go. “Now that a final ruling has been issued by the Medical Examiner’s Office, the investigation into this crime can move forward with the goal of bringing the party (parties) responsible to justice,” she writes.