Derek Chauvin is on trial for George Floyd's death

By Mike Hayes, Melissa Mahtani and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 0406 GMT (1206 HKT) April 16, 2021
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9:24 a.m. ET, April 15, 2021

A former medical examiner testified for Chauvin's defense yesterday. Here's what he said.

From CNN's Eric Levenson and Aaron Cooper

Maryland's former chief medical examiner testified for Derek Chauvin's defense on Wednesday that George Floyd died due to his underlying heart disease — not the police restraint.

"In my opinion, Mr. Floyd had a sudden cardiac arrhythmia, or cardiac arrhythmia, due to his atherosclerosis and hypertensive heart disease ... during his restraint and subdual by the police," said Dr. David Fowler, a forensic pathologist.

Floyd had narrowed coronary arteries, known as atherosclerosis, and an enlarged heart due to his high blood pressure, or hypertension, Fowler said. Floyd's fentanyl and methamphetamine use and a tumor known as a paraganglioma were other significant conditions that contributed to his death, he said.

Fowler also put forth a novel argument that carbon monoxide from the squad car's exhaust may have contributed to his death.

In all, he said Floyd's death should have been classified as "undetermined," rather than a homicide, because there were so many competing causes.

The testimony cuts at the prosecution's argument, bolstered by five separate medical experts, that Floyd's primary cause of death was Chauvin's restraint of a handcuffed Floyd in the prone position — known as "positional asphyxia." To get a guilty verdict, prosecutors have to prove that Chauvin's actions were a "substantial causal factor" in Floyd's death.