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Defence expert blames George Floyd's death on heart problem

Floyd death pinned on heart

George Floyd died of a sudden heart rhythm problem due to his heart disease while being restrained by police, a retired forensic pathologist testified for the defence Wednesday at former Officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial, contradicting several experts who said Floyd succumbed to a lack of oxygen.

Dr. David Fowler, a former chief medical examiner for the state of Maryland and now a member of consulting firm, said the fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd's system, and possible carbon monoxide poisoning from auto exhaust, were contributing factors. He said Floyd's heart disease included high blood pressure and narrowing of the arteries.

“All of those combined to cause Mr. Floyd’s death,” he said on the second day of the defence case.

Chauvin attorney Derek 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 Chauvin’s knee was pressed into Floyd’s neck or neck area for 9 1/2 minutes as the 46-year-old Black man lay pinned to the pavement on his stomach last May with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Nelson asked Fowler about Floyd’s narrowed arteries, enlarged heart, use of methamphetamine, the stress of the situation he was in, his high blood pressure and other factors. Fowler said all of them could have caused Floyd’s heart to work harder and led it to suddenly stop.

Previous witnesses have noted that a sudden heart rhythm problem does not necessarily produce visible signs on autopsy but can be inferred from circumstances such as a victim suddenly clutching one's chest and collapsing.

Several top Minneapolis police officials, including the police chief, have testified that Chauvin used excessive force and violated his training. And a number of medical experts called by prosecutors have said Floyd died from a lack of oxygen because the way he was restrained restricted his breathing.

Fowler handled a case similar to Floyd’s in Maryland in 2018, when a 19-year-old Black man, Anton Black, died after three officers and a civilian pinned him for more than five minutes as they handcuffed him and shackled his legs.

The family brought a federal lawsuit that included Fowler, whose autopsy found that the stress of the struggle probably contributed to Black’s death but found no evidence that restraint directly caused it. It also found no evidence of asphyxia.

Chauvin, a 45-year-old white man, is on trial on charges of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death after his arrest on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 at a neighbourhood market. The video of his slow-motion death as he gasped that he couldn't breathe touched off worldwide protests, violence and a furious examination of racism and policing in the U.S.

The defence hasn’t said whether Chauvin will take the stand.



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