MINNEAPOLIS – George Floyd died of a sudden heart rhythm disturbance as a result of his heart disease, a forensic pathologist testified for the defense Wednesday at former Officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial, contradicting prosecution experts who said Floyd succumbed to a lack of oxygen from the way he was pinned down.
Dr. David Fowler, a former Maryland chief medical examiner who is now with a consulting firm, said the fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd's system, and possibly carbon monoxide poisoning from auto exhaust, were contributing factors in the 46-year-old Black man's death last May.
“All of those combined to cause Mr. Floyd’s death,” he said on the second day of the defense case.
Fowler also testified that he would classify the manner of death “undetermined,” rather than homicide, as the county's chief medical examiner ruled. He said Floyd's death had too many conflicting factors, some of which could be ruled homicide and some that could be considered accidental.
Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson is trying to prove that the 19-year Minneapolis police veteran did what he was trained to do and that Floyd died because of his illegal drug use and underlying health problems.
Prosecutors say Floyd died because the white officer's knee was pressed against Floyd’s neck or neck area for 9 1/2 minutes as he lay on the pavement on his stomach, his hands cuffed behind him and his face jammed against the ground.
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.
Fowler said all of those factors could have acted together to cause Floyd’s heart to work harder, suffer an arrhythmia, or abnormal rhythm, and suddenly stop.