Dr. David Fowler, a forensic pathologist, testified that George Floyd's heart condition was responsible for his death.
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  • A forensic pathologist for the defence testified George Floyd's death was due to a heart condition.
  • Dr. David Fowler's testimony sharply diverged from that of previous medical experts in the trial.
  • Fowler is currently being sued by the family of another black man killed by police.
  • Fowler was born in Zimbabwe, and studied at the University of Cape Town.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

A forensic pathologist for the defence of fired Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin testified Wednesday that George Floyd's death was caused by his pre-existing heart condition, use of fentanyl and meth, and carbon monoxide he inhaled from a nearby police cruiser.

"All of those combined to cause Mr. Floyd's death," Dr. David Fowler said.

The Zimbabwean-born former chief medical examiner for the state of Maryland, who graduated from the University of Cape Town, told jurors Floyd was living with up to a 90% narrowing of his arteries before he died. He said Chauvin's kneeling on Floyd was not a significant factor in his death, and that Chauvin's knee wasn't near Floyd's airway.

Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter. Floyd died in May 2020 after Chauvin kneeled on him for more than nine minutes while he was pinned to the ground and handcuffed.

The medical examiner in the case has called the death a homicide, but Fowler said there were so many contributing factors that he would consider the manner of death "undetermined."

Fowler's testimony differs from that of medical experts called by the prosecution. Dr. Martin Tobin, an expert pulmonologist, testified that, "a healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died."

Dr. Jonathan Rich, a cardiologist and one of the state's final witnesses, testified Monday that while Floyd had high blood pressure, his heart was "exceptionally strong."

Prosecution witnesses testified Floyd died from a lack of oxygen caused by being pressed into the asphalt ground with his hands cuffed behind his back, and Chauvin kneeling on him for more than nine minutes.

None of those witnesses mentioned carbon monoxide from the nearby patrol car as a possible contributing factor.

Fowler resigned following his role in the autopsy of another black man killed by police.

Fowler's theory on Floyd's death - which he says was caused by a sudden heart event - matches the one gave in the 2018 death of 19-year-old Anton Black, a black man who died in after being restrained and pinned to the ground by police.

Fowler was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. He completed medical school at the University of Cape Town in 1983 and did a residency in forensic pathology before moving to Baltimore in 1991. He is also a former professor at Johns Hopkins University and served as Maryland's chief medical examiner until he resigned in 2019. He is currently being sued in federal court by Black's family.

"Two years before George Floyd died after being restrained and pinned down by police, 19- year-old Anton Black ... was killed by three white law enforcement officials and a white civilian in a chillingly similar manner on Maryland's Eastern Shore," the lawsuit viewed by Insider says.

A medical examiner's report signed by Fowler said that Black's death was an accident caused by his heart issues. Fowler also named bipolar disorder as a contributing factor, according to the lawsuit.

No officer was ever charged in Black's death. In the lawsuit, Black's family accuses Fowler of covering for the police department.

Fowler and his assistant "intentionally concealed police responsibility in causing Anton Black's painful death, and instead falsely ruled, on behalf of the State of Maryland, that a black teenager who died through asphyxiation at the hands of four white men resulted from 'natural causes,' or 'accident' thereby improperly insulating police officials from responsibility for Anton's death," the lawsuit says.

A lawyer for Fowler filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which remains pending.


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