S.F. Public Defender's Office Says Jeff Adachi Died of Natural Causes, Not From Drugs

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San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi spoke to protesters and reporters on the second anniversary of Amilcar Perez-Lopez's shooting death by SFPD on Feb. 27, 2017. (Bert Johnson/KQED)

The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, pointing to reports by three independent experts, said Wednesday that Jeff Adachi died of natural causes and not from drugs, challenging the conclusion of the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office and criticizing that office as dysfunctional and untrustworthy.

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The reviews found the cause of death was “sudden cardiac arrhythmia and acute myocardial infraction due to coronary artery disease” and the manner of death was “natural,” according to a press release from the San Francisco Public Defender's Office.

Robert Chan, an attorney for the Adachi family, released the autopsy reviews from Dylan V. Miller, an expert in cardiovascular and autopsy pathology, Dr. Nikolas Lemos, a forensic toxicologist, and James L. Norris, a consultant in forensic science.

But the cause of death, according the medical examiner's report released on March 22, was "acute mixed drug toxicity with cocaine and ethanol, with hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease as a contributing factor."


Norris said Thursday that the data doesn't support the finding that Adachi died from a mixture of alcohol and cocaine.

"When I first read the report I thought somebody had made a typographical error and put the cause of death as the secondary and vice versa," Norris said. "But apparently that's not the case."

The Medical Examiner’s office defended its findings in a statement, saying the “reports speak for themselves.”

San Francisco freelance journalist Bryan Carmody became wrapped up in events after his home and office were raided by police who were looking for information connected to what they say was the illegal release of a police report connected to Adachi's death.

Adachi, a Japanese American from Sacramento whose parents and grandparents were interned during World War II, died Feb. 22. He was 59. He served as public defender for 17 years.

KQED's Don Clyde and Peter Jon Shuler contributed to this report.