San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi speaks after being sworn in to a fifth term at the Public Defender’s Office on Jan. 8, 2019. His family released an autopsy review Wednesday questioning the official cause of his death earlier this year. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Jeff Adachi’s family disputes finding that public defender died of toxic drug mix

Independent expert concludes manner of death was natural

The family of Public Defender Jeff Adachi is disputing the official finding that the late San Francisco figurehead died an accidental death from a toxic combination of cocaine and alcohol.

An attorney for the Adachi family released reports from three independent experts Wednesday evening who questioned the conclusions of the Medical Examiner’s Office.

One expert, a cardiovascular pathologist named Dylan V. Miller, found that Adachi died a natural death from various factors including atherosclerotic coronary artery disease.

The two other experts concluded that the data included in the death report did not support the finding that Adachi died an acute mixed ethanol-cocaine death.

“It appears that ethanol level should have been reported as negative and no cocaine… was found in the Peripheral blood sample,” Jim Norris, a forensic science consultant, said in his report. “These results do not appear to support the stated cause of death.”

Norris has previously testified for the Public Defender’s Office. The third expert is forensic toxicologist Nikolas P. Lemos, a former employee of the Medical Examiner’s Office.

“The complete lack of any toxicologically-significant analytical findings in the Peripheral Blood of Mr. Jeffrey Adachi as summarized in the SF OCME’s Toxicology Report do not, in my opinion, support the notion of an acute mixed ethanol-cocaine death,” Lemos wrote, referring to the Medical Examiner’s Office report.

Lemos added that a forensic pathologist should have worked “towards identifying an anatomic cause of death since there doesn’t appear to be any toxic drug combination present in the Peripheral Blood of this decedent.”

Adachi died Feb. 22 after being found unresponsive at an apartment near Coit Tower.

The family is being represented by attorney Robert Chan.

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