Defence expert testifies George Floyd died from heart disease, exhaust fumes

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
This still image taken from a May 25, 2020, video courtesy of Darnella Frazier via Facebook, shows a Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer arresting George Floyd. (AFP PHOTO / FACEBOOK / DARNELLA FRAZIER)
This still image taken from a May 25, 2020, video courtesy of Darnella Frazier via Facebook, shows a Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer arresting George Floyd. (AFP PHOTO / FACEBOOK / DARNELLA FRAZIER)
  •  A medical expert testified that he believed George Floyd's death was the result of a heart disease making his heart beat erratically. 
  • He said that the exhaust fumes from the police car against which Floyd was restrained may have contributed to his death.
  • Derek Chauvin, the white policeman pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter.

A medical expert testifying in defence of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin told the jury on Wednesday he believed that George Floyd's death during last May's arrest was the result of heart disease making his heart beat erratically.

Dr David Fowler, who was Maryland's chief medical examiner until his retirement in 2019, said the exhaust fumes of the police car against which Chauvin restrained Floyd on the road may also have contributed to Floyd's death.

Fowler appeared to dispute the findings of the Hennepin County medical examiner, who ruled Floyd's death a homicide caused by police restraining Floyd in a way that starved his body of oxygen.

Chauvin, who is white, has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges. He was seen kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, for nine minutes in bystander video that sparked global protests against police brutality.

Here are some important moments from the 13th day of testimony and the second day of the defense case in Chauvin's trial:

Dr David Fowler, Forensic Pathologist

Fowler said he had studied the findings of the county medical examiner and decided that Floyd's death was caused by his heart suddenly beating in an erratic way, known as sudden cardiac arrhythmia.

He said this was a result of his "atherosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease" and came during Floyd's restraint by police, using medical terms to describe the narrowing of blood vessels and heart problems caused by high blood pressure.

He said the way Floyd struggled with police trying to get him into their car may have caused the cardiac arrhytmia.

"The more the individual is stressed, both physically and in other ways, the more the demand on the heart is going to increase," he said.

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

Eric Nelson, Chauvin's lead lawyer, spent many minutes asking Fowler to describe the toxins found in car exhaust and how it can kill people even in an outdoor area.

The jury has previously heard from medical experts called by prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney general's office, who say Floyd had high blood pressure, a slightly enlarged heart and used opioid painkillers but that none were the cause of his death.

Those experts agreed with the findings on Floyd's death certificate, saying he was killed because he was unable to inhale sufficient oxygen due to the way police compressed his prone body against the road.

Fowler has been involved in other high-profile cases involving police using force against Black people.

His office ruled the 2015 death of Freddie Gray a homicide after Gray, 25, suffered spinal injuries in the back of a police van in Baltimore.

In December, Fowler was sued in federal court by the family of Anton Black, who was 19 when he died after police pinned him facedown on the ground for several minutes as he cried out for his mother.

Fowler ruled Black's death an accident caused by the "the stress of his struggle."

Black's family cited similarities with Floyd's death in their lawsuit, in which they said Fowler and other Maryland officials "covered up and obscured police responsibility" for Black's death.

Lawyers for Fowler say the lawsuit was filed on improper grounds, saying the way he certified Black's death did not infringe on the constitutional rights of Black's family.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Are you going to keep wearing a mask following the announcement that it is no longer required under law?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
No ways, I'm done
5% - 6794 votes
Yes, I still want to be cautious
88% - 109842 votes
Only certain circumstances
7% - 8257 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.