Defense expert: Floyd died from heart trouble, not restraint

Darnell Taylor
April 15, 2021

Mr. Kelly added that the trial has been all about George Floyd, and Derek Chauvin has not been humanized at all.

The fentanyl and methamphetamine found in Floyd's blood and carbon monoxide poisoning from the exhaust fumes of the adjacent police auto may have contributed to the death, Fowler said.

On Wednesday, the defense called a medical expert who contradicted the testimony of many experts called by the prosecution.

In his original testimony, Fowler said carbon monoxide could have contributed to oxygen depletion in Floyd, noting that he was facing the tailpipe end of a squad vehicle.

On Wednesday, jurors heard from just one witness, a retired forensic pathologist who testified that the 46-year-old Floyd died of a cardiac arrest combined with drug use, and not a lack of oxygen as several prosecution witnesses contended in their testimony.

Watch Day 14 of the Derek Chauvin trial in the video player above.

Dr David Fowler appeared to dispute at least some of the findings of Dr Andrew Baker, Hennepin County's chief medical examiner, who ruled Mr Floyd's death a homicide caused by Mr Chauvin and other officers restraining Mr Floyd in a way that starved his body of oxygen.

Judge Peter Cahill pressed on with the case after Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson argued that prosecutors had failed to prove that Chauvin killed Floyd.

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This was a result of his "atherosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease" during the police restraint, Fowler said, using medical terms to describe the narrowing of blood vessels and heart problems caused by high blood pressure.

Fowler listed a multitude of factors or potential ones: Floyd's narrowed arteries, his enlarged heart, his high blood pressure, his drug use, the stress of his restraint, the vehicle exhaust, and a tumor or growth in his lower abdomen that can sometimes play a role in high blood pressure by releasing "fight-or-flight" hormones.

In cross-examination, Fowler conceded to Jerry Blackwell, a prosecutor, that Fowler did not know for certain whether the police auto was still running during the arrest. He got Fowler to acknowledge that even someone who dies from being deprived of oxygen ultimately dies of an arrhythmia. "Is that true?" Blackwell asked. Dr Fowler denied saying that.

"Are you critical of the fact that he wasn't given immediate emergency care when he went into cardiac arrest?"

"I certainly don't have medical degrees, but I was always trained and feel it's a reasonable assumption that if somebody's, 'I'm choking, I'm choking, ' well, you're not choking because you can breathe", he said.

He said he doesn't believe Chauvin and the other officers used deadly force when they held Floyd down on his stomach, his hands cuffed behind his back and Chauvin's knee on his neck or neck area.

"Immediate medical attention ... may well reverse that process, yes", Fowler answered.

The defense hasn't said whether Chauvin will take the stand. Three other fired officers who assisted in Floyd's arrest - J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao - are scheduled to be tried in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

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