SF Public Defender's Office says Jeff Adachi's death was natural, not drug-induced

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi died of natural causes, not drug-induced ones, according to two privately hired doctors and a consultant who reviewed the February autopsy and whose findings contradicted the city's medical examiner, the Public Defender's office said Wednesday.

In a news release on Wednesday, the public defender's office said the three medical and forensic experts hired by the Adachi family attorney and friend, Robert Chan, conducted "independent reviews" of the autopsy and found Adachi died from "sudden cardiac arrhythmia and acute myocardial infraction (sic) due to coronary artery disease" and that his death was "natural."

The San Francisco Medical Examiner's office determined in March that a mixture of cocaine and alcohol caused Adachi's already-damaged heart to fail.

In a news release, the Public Defender's Office called the medical examiner's office "dysfunctional" and "untrustworthy." To which the medical examiner's office responded in a statement:  "The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner routinely conducts autopsies to investigate deaths. Forensic pathologists sign off on the cause and manner of death, and their reports speak for themselves," the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said in a statement.

Adachi was a controversial figure in San Francisco and he fought zealously for the rights of suspected criminals, often earning the ire of police. His death report containing information that he was with a woman other than his wife when he died was leaked to the media and many thought it was a purposeful attempt to tarnish his reputation.

Chan told the San Francisco Chronicle he felt "something wasn't right" with the report. What stuck out to him in particular, he said, was the small amounts of alcohol, cocaine, as well as benzodiazepines found in Adachi's system.

Chan said he spoke to members of the Public Defender's office who were similarly suspicious about the report, and were supportive of an independent review. Chan said he personally hired three experts — Dr. 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 — to conduct the review.

According to the release, the experts said that the sample used in the toxicology report was "unreliable." Lemos said in the release that the drug results drawn from Mr. Adachi's central blood were "toxicologically insignificant."

The Public Defender's office was not involved in the hiring of the experts, a spokeswoman told The Chronicle.