Heart disease, drugs not 'direct causes' of Floyd death: doctor

Derek Chauvin (R) in court in a screenshot obtained from pool video feed via Court TV. AFP

MINNEAPOLIS - George Floyd had heart disease and had consumed drugs but they were not the "direct causes" of his death, the doctor who conducted the autopsy said at the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin.

Andrew Baker, the chief medical examiner for Minnesota's Hennepin County, told the jury that Floyd's cause of death was "restraint and neck compression" while being subdued by police.

Chauvin is facing murder and manslaughter charges for his role in Floyd's death, which occurred during his arrest for allegedly passing a fake $20 bill.

The 45-year-old Chauvin, who is white, was seen in a video taken by a bystander kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes as the handcuffed 46-year-old black man complained repeatedly that he "can't breathe."

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The video touched off protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States and around the world.

The cause of Floyd's death is a central element in Chauvin's high-profile trial being held in a heavily guarded Minneapolis courtroom.

Prosecutors are seeking to prove Floyd's death was due to asphyxiation and have called several medical experts in recent days to bolster their case.

Chauvin's defense claims Floyd's death was due to his consumption of the illegal drugs fentanyl and methamphetamine and underlying health conditions.

READ: Jury in George Floyd murder trial shown harrowing video of his death

Baker, who conducted the autopsy on Floyd and signed his death certificate, was questioned about his findings by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell and Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson.

Baker said he had intentionally chosen not to watch any videos of Floyd's death before conducting the autopsy so as not to "bias" the examination.

On the death certificate, Baker cited "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression" as the cause of Floyd's death.

"Mr. Floyd's use of fentanyl did not cause the subdual or neck restraint," Baker said. "His heart disease did not cause the subdual or the neck restraint."

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"They are not direct causes, they are contributing causes," he said.

Baker said Floyd had a slightly enlarged heart and a narrowing of his coronary arteries.

He noted that Floyd, before being handcuffed and placed facedown on the ground, had scuffled with the officers arresting him.

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"Those events are going to cause stress hormones to pour out into your body, specifically things like adrenaline," he said.

"And what that adrenaline is going to do is it's going to ask your heart to beat faster.

"It's going to ask your body for more oxygen so that you can get through that altercation," he said. "And in my opinion, the law enforcement subdual, restraint and the neck compression were just more than Mr Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions."


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