George Floyd died of a sudden heart rhythm disturbance as a result of his heart disease, a forensic pathologist testified for the defense in the murder trial of former officer Derek Chauvin, contradicting prosecution experts who said Floyd succumbed to the fault. of oxygen from the way he was immobilized.
Dr. David Fowler, a former Maryland chief medical examiner who now works at a consulting firm, said Wednesday that fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s system, and possibly carbon monoxide poisoning from car exhaust, they were contributing factors to the 46-year-old black man dying last May.
“All of those combined to cause the death of Mr. Floyd,” he said on the second day of the defense case.
Fowler also testified that he would classify the manner of death as “indeterminate,” rather than homicide, as ruled by the county’s chief medical examiner. He said Floyd’s death had too many conflicting factors, some of which could be considered homicide and others could be considered accidental.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, is trying to prove that the 19-year-old Minneapolis police veteran did what he was trained to do and that Floyd died due to his use of illegal drugs and underlying health problems.
Prosecutors say Floyd died because the white officer’s knee was pressed against Floyd’s neck or neck area for nine and a half minutes while he was lying face down on the pavement, his hands handcuffed behind him and his face pressed to the I usually.
Fowler listed a multitude of factors or potentials: Floyd’s narrowed arteries, his enlarged heart, his high blood pressure, his drug use, the stress of his restraint, his escape from the vehicle, and a tumor or growth in his lower abdomen. which can sometimes play. a role in high blood pressure by releasing “fight or flight” hormones.
Fowler said all of those factors could have worked together to cause Floyd’s heart to work harder, suffer an arrhythmia or abnormal rhythm, and stop suddenly.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell launched an aggressive cross-examination, attacking Fowler’s findings in the future. He got Fowler to recognize that even someone who dies from lack of oxygen eventually dies of an arrhythmia.
It also got Fowler to admit that he didn’t factor in the weight of Chauvin’s team when he analyzed the pressure on Floyd’s body. Blackwell further accused Fowler of jumping to conclusions and suggesting to the jury that Floyd had a white pill in his mouth in the video of his arrest. Fowler denied saying that.
Blackwell also attacked Fowler’s testimony about carbon monoxide, which displaces oxygen in the bloodstream.
In his original testimony, Fowler said that carbon monoxide could have contributed to Floyd’s oxygen depletion, noting that he was in front of the tailpipe of a patrol car. But Floyd’s blood was never tested for carbon monoxide.
“You have not seen any data or test results showing that Mr. Floyd had a single carbon monoxide injury. Is that true? “Blackwell asked.
“That’s correct, because it was never shipped,” Fowler said.
Blackwell also noted that the patrol car was a gas-electric hybrid and that Fowler had no data on how much carbon monoxide was actually released. And suggested that the witness assumed the engine was running at the time. Fowler said he believed so.
The prosecutor also got Fowler to agree that it would take four minutes to cause irreversible brain damage if the brain lacks oxygen, and that insufficient oxygen can cause the heart to stop.
“And if a person dies as a result of lack of oxygen, that person will also ultimately die of a fatal arrhythmia, right?” Blackwell asked.
Fowler replied, “Correct. All of us in this room will have a fatal arrhythmia at some point. “
Fowler further agreed that Floyd should have been given immediate care when he went into cardiac arrest because there was still a chance to save him at the time.
Several medical experts called in by prosecutors have said that Floyd died from lack of oxygen because his breathing was restricted by the way he was being held. A cardiology expert rejected the idea that Floyd died of heart problems, saying that everything indicated that he had “an exceptionally strong heart.”
But Fowler said that Chauvin’s knee on Floyd “was not close to his airway” and that Floyd’s speech and groans showed that his airway was still open. He also testified that Chauvin’s knee was not applied with enough pressure to bruise or scrape Floyd’s neck or back.
And he said Floyd didn’t complain of vision changes or other symptoms consistent with hypoxia, or insufficient oxygen to the brain, and that it was consistent until shortly before he suddenly stopped moving.
“The bottom line is that moving air in and out, talking and making noise is very good evidence that the airways weren’t closed,” Fowler said.
Blackwell ended his cross-examination with two questions before the jury: whether Chauvin’s actions played a role in Floyd’s death, or whether Floyd’s death was coincidental and unrelated. But the defense objected, and Fowler was unable to respond.
Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death after his arrest on suspicion of passing a $ 20 counterfeit at a neighborhood market. The video of Floyd gasping because he couldn’t breathe as bystanders yelled at Chauvin to get off him sparked worldwide protests, violence, and a furious examination of racism and policing in the US.
The defense has not said whether Chauvin will take the stand.