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Defense expert: Floyd died from sudden cardiac arrhythmia, 'significant' contributing conditions

A retired forensic pathologist called by the defense in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin testified Wednesday that several factors contributed to the death of George Floyd, including drug use.

David Fowler, a former Maryland medical examiner and the first witness called to the stand on day 13 of Chauvin's trial, pointed to Floyd’s heart disease and drug use as factors that contributed to his cardiac arrhythmia.

“In my opinion, Mr. Floyd had a sudden cardiac arrhythmia or cardiac arrhythmia, due to his atherosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, or you can write that down multiple different ways, during his restraint and subdual by the police or restraint by the police,” Fowler said when asked by defense attorney Eric Nelson to summarize his opinions in the case.

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“And then, his significant contributory conditions would be, since I've already put the heart disease in part one, he would have the toxicology, the fentanyl and methamphetamine,” Fowler added.

The medical expert also said that Floyd may have had carbon monoxide poisoning because of his exposure to the nearby police vehicle’s exhaust.

“There is exposure to a vehicle exhaust, so potentially carbon monoxide poisoning, or what at least an effect from increased carbon monoxide in his bloodstream. And paraganglioma or the other natural disease process that he has,” Fowler said.

“So, all of those combined to cause Mr. Floyd's death,” he said.

When Nelson asked if “sudden death” can happen “as a result of an arrhythmia,” Fowler responded: “Absolutely.”

Fowler added that the size of Floyd’s enlarged heart “would be extremely good evidence that he had hypertension.”

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Nelson also testified that methamphetamine, one of the drugs found in Floyd’s system at the time of his death, may have contributed to his death.

“It’s just been documented that people on methamphetamine have an increased risk of an arrhythmia," Fowler said.

Fowler later said that Floyd had an enlarged heart and narrowed coronary arteries and that his death involved a “pretty significant struggle between Mr. Floyd and the three officers.”

The cause of Floyd’s death has been a key point of contention in Chauvin's trial. Chauvin is on trial for three criminal counts in connection to Floyd’s death. In May, he was captured on video footage kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.

In June, the Hennepin County medical examiner ruled Floyd’s death a homicide, writing that he experienced cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement.

The defense, however, has argued that Floyd died from a combination of the drugs in his system and his underlying heart disease.