Derek Chauvin trial: Medical expert would rule Floyd's death 'undetermined,' not homicide

The defense called their own medical expert to the witness stand Wednesday to testify in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd. The trial is being broadcast live, gavel to gavel, on FOX 9 and streaming live at

The testimony of Dr. David Fowler, a retired forensic pathologist, took up nearly the entire day. Fowler indicated he did not agree with the findings in the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s autopsy of Floyd. 

Fowler concluded Floyd’s manner of death should be listed as undetermined, rather than a homicide because of all the factors at play, including possibly carbon monoxide from squad car Floyd was being held on the ground next to. Fowler made clear he does not believe carbon monoxide did not kill Floyd, but it was a contributing factor in his death along with heart disease, underlying health conditions and drug use. 

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell aggressively attacked Fowler’s findings on cross examination, including establishing the possibility that the Minneapolis squad right next to where Floyd was pinned might not have even been running at that point to generate chemical exhaust and thus the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning.  

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During a motions hearing Wednesday, witness Morries Hall invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.  He was in Cup Foods with Floyd and was also in the vehicle with him when officers first approached. 

Hall’s attorney, Adrienne Cousins, said her client cannot answer any questions submitted by the attorneys in the Chauvin trial. She told the court Hall cannot put himself in the SUV with Floyd that day or he opens himself up to a drug-related third-degree murder charge if Chauvin is eventually acquitted. 

Trial Judge Peter Cahill accepted Hall’s position. He will not testify in front of the jury in the Derek Chauvin trial. 

Defense attorney Eric Nelson filed a motion for acquittal after the state rested its case. Judge Cahill denied that motion. 

Judge Cahill told jurors the defense could wrap up their case on Thursday, in which case he would give them Friday off before closing arguments on Monday. After that, the jury will be sequestered until they reach a verdict. 

Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder, second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death last May.

Medical expert called by defense says Floyd died of 'cardiac arrhythmia'

Chauvin’s defense team got the chance to call their own medical expert to the witness stand Wednesday to testify about Floyd’s cause of death. The defense is trying to convince the jury Floyd did not die from Chauvin’s knee on his neck. 

Dr. David Fowler, a retired forensic pathologist, told the court that based on his review of the evidence in the case, Floyd died from sudden cardiac arrhythmia brought on by his heart disease while he was being restrained by police. He also cited the drugs found in Floyd’s system, exposure to the exhaust from the nearby squad car and his enlarged heart as significant contributing factors in his death.

 Fowler indicated his in his testimony he believes Floyd breathed in chemical exhaust from the nearby squad car while he was being restrained on the ground. He said he does not believe carbon monoxide killed Floyd, but does believe it was a significant contributing factor in his death. 

Dr. Fowler ended his direct testimony telling the jury he believes a more appropriate finding for Floyd’s manner of death is "undetermined," rather than homicide. He cited conflicted findings regarding underlying health factors, drugs and carbon monoxide poisoning for his cause of death. Prosecutors will cross-examine him after the lunch recess. 

Fowler’s conclusions deviate from those of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker, who determined from Floyd’s autopsy that he died of a cardiopulmonary arrest due as a result of the officers’ restraint, while also listing drugs and underlying health conditions as significant factors. Baker ruled Floyd's death a homicide. 

Other medical experts who testified on behalf of the state, including a veteran forensic pathologist who formerly worked for the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office and a nationally renowned expert on breathing, concurred with Baker’s findings that Floyd died from a low level of oxygen that caused heart and lung failure. 

Defense calls first witnesses

The state rested its case on Tuesday, allowing defense attorney Eric Nelson to begin calling his own witnesses

Nelson moved through five witnesses during the morning session, including a retired police officer and a retired paramedic who testified about Floyd's 2019 arrest.

He also called Shawanda Hill, who was in the SUV with Floyd when officers approached, to the stand. She testified about Floyd's demeanor prior to the deadly arrest. 

Jurors also got to watch never before seen body camera video from Minneapolis Park Police Officer Peter Chang, who responded to the officers' call for assistance at Cup Foods. He testified the crowd watching Floyd's deadly arrest was "very aggressive towards the officers" and that he was concerned for the officers' safety. 

The afternoon session was spent questioning Barry Brodd, a paid use of force expert. Brodd told the jurors he concluded Chauvin was objectively reasonable in his interactions with Floyd during the deadly arrest. 

TIMELINE: George Floyd's death to Derek Chauvin's trial

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