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.
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.
“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
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
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
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.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell launched an aggressive cross- examination, attacking Fowler’s findings down the line.
He got Fowler to acknowledge that
even someone who dies from being
deprived of oxygen ultimately dies of
He also got Fowler to admit that he
didn’t take the weight of Chauvin’s
gear into account when he analyzed
the pressure on Floyd’s body. Blackwell
Fowler of jumping to conclusions and
suggesting to the jury that Floyd had a
white pill in his mouth in the video of
hisarrest. Fowler denied saying that.
Blackwell also attacked Fowler’s
testimony about carbon monoxide,
which displaces oxygen in the
In his original testimony, Fowler said
carbon monoxide could have
contributed to oxygen depletion in
Floyd, noting that he was facing the
tailpipe end of a squad car. But Floyd’s
blood was never tested for carbon
“You haven’t seen any data or test
results that showed Mr. Floyd had a
single injury from carbon monoxide. Is
Blackwell asked. That is correct,
because it was never sent,” Fowler
said. Blackwell also noted that the
squad car was a gas-electric hybrid
and that Fowler had no data on how
much carbon monoxide was actually
released. And he suggested that the
witness assumed the engine was
running at the time. Fowler said he
believed it was.
The prosecutor also got Fowler to
agree that it would take four minutes
to cause irreversible brain damage if
the brain is starved of oxygen, and that
insufficient oxygen can cause the heart
“And if a person dies as a result of low
oxygen, that person is also going to die
ultimately of a fatal arrhythmia, right?”
Fowler responded: “Correct. Every
one of us in this room will have a fatal
arrhythmia at some point.”
Fowler further agreed that Floyd
should have been given immediate
attention when he went into cardiac
arrest because there still was a chance
to save him at that point.
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