Reuters -A medical expert who testified in defense of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, saying he believed that George Floyd‘s death was the result of heart disease, agreed with a prosecutor on Wednesday that Floyd should have been given immediate first aid.
Dr. David Fowler, who was Maryland’s chief medical examiner until his retirement in 2019, also told the jury he believed exhaust fumes from the police car next to which Chauvin pinned Floyd to the road may also have contributed to Floyd’s death in May 2020.
Fowler appeared to dispute at least some of the findings of Dr. Andrew Baker, Hennepin County’s chief medical examiner, who ruled Floyd’s death a homicide caused by Chauvin and other officers restraining Floyd in a way that starved his body of oxygen.
Fowler said the manner of death could be considered a homicide, but he would have instead ruled it “undecided.”
Chauvin, who is white, has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges. He was seen kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a 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 that Floyd’s death was caused by his heart suddenly beating in an erratic way, known as sudden cardiac arrhythmia.
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 said the way Floyd struggled with police trying to get him into their car may have caused stress that led to cardiac arrhythmia.
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.
Asked why Chauvin and other officers by the car were not harmed by carbon monoxide poisoning, Fowler replied that their heads were farther from the exhaust pipe than Floyd’s, and “hopefully they’re younger” than Floyd. Chauvin was 44 and Floyd was 46 at the time of Floyd’s death.
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 that his death resulted from being unable to inhale sufficient oxygen due to the way police compressed his prone body against the road. Baker, the chief medical examiner who certified Floyd’s death, told the jury he stands by his findings.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lead lawyer, asked Fowler if Floyd died in a homicide or by some other manner.
“This is one of those cases where you have so many conflicting different manners,” Fowler said. “The carbon monoxide would usually be classified as an accident, although somebody was holding him there so you could elevate that to a homicide.”
In the end, he said he would “fall back to ‘undetermined’ on this particular case.”
In cross-examination, Fowler conceded to Jerry Blackwell, a prosecutor, that Fowler did not know for certain whether the police car was still running during the arrest.
Chauvin kept his knee Floyd’s neck for more than three minutes after Floyd stopped breathing, which his own expert witness agreed was wrong.
“Are you critical of the fact that he wasn’t given immediate medical care when he went into cardiac arrest?” Blackwell asked.
“As a physician, I would agree,” Fowler replied.
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 in 2018 in police custody. Fowler ruled Black’s death an accident but Black’s family said Fowler and other Maryland officials “covered up and obscured police responsibility” for Black’s death.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)