SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi died of natural causes, independent review of autopsy shows


SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — An independent review of the autopsy for former San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi showed the 59-year-old died of natural causes and not accidental acute drug toxicity, as an official report showed earlier this year.

In a statement Wednesday, an attorney for Adachi’s family released several reports contradicting the findings earlier this year by the San Francisco Medical Examiner.

Adachi died Feb. 22 in San Francisco.

Following his death, the medical examiner’s report said Adachi was out to dinner with a friend in North Beach when he began to experience ‘gastric pain.’

His friend asked Adachi if he wanted to go to the hospital — he refused. 

When they arrived back at an apartment, Adachi started experiencing abdominal pain, according to the March report.

At some point, he became unresponsive.

The friend called 911 and when paramedics arrived, they found Adachi with a weak pulse, before he died at a nearby hospital.

In March, the public defender’s death was ruled accidental by the San Francisco Medical Examiner.

The medical examiner said in March that Adachi died of ‘acute mixed drug toxicity’ with cocaine and ethanol in his system, combined with a form of heart disease. 

The independent review of the medical examiner’s findings by the Adachi family attorney showed the 59-year-old died of natural causes and “sudden cardiac arrhythmia and acute myocardial infraction due to coronary artery disease.”

The independent findings also said Adachi’s ethanol level was less 0.01 percent and the cocaine was only detected in the”central blood.”

The findings said the low amount of ethanol and cocaine is generally an unreliable sample.

The findings released Wednesday go on to describe ongoing conflict between Adachi and the San Francisco Medical Examiner Director of Operations in the months prior to his death — suggesting possible bias in the ruling earlier this year.

According to the statement, in late 2018 Adachi called for an investigation into Director of Operations Christopher Wirowek because of alleged false statements surrounding the medical examiner’s accreditation.

The family attorney goes on to say that it’s unknown whether communications or conflict between Wirowek and Adachi prior to February had an impact on the medical examiner’s findings.

KRON4 reached out to the San Francisco Medical Examiner Wednesday night regarding the independent findings and is awaiting a response.

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