Javier Ambler death trial: Chief medical examiner testifies on day 6

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Keith Pinckard was the first witness to testify on day 6 of two former Williamson County deputies', James Johnson and Zachary Camden, manslaughter trial. Both are charged with the in-custody death of Javier Ambler in 2019.

"The cause of death is congestive heart failure and hypertensive cardiovascular disease associated with morbid obesity in combination with forcible restraint," Dr. Pinckard.

He says it took six months, but that is what the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office concluded was the cause of Ambler’s death.

Dr. Pinckard says the conclusion came down to two components. The first was Ambler’s health issues, which included congestive heart failure and hypertension. The second was the use of force.

"Those actions were simply too much for his heart to take," he said.

The defense followed up by asking if there was any proof that if Johnson and Camden stopped trying to arrest him after hearing he could not breathe, would he have lived even with his pre-existing medical conditions. Dr. Pinckard responded with a no.

Austin police officer Michael Nissen was the next witness to take the stand.

The day Ambler died, three officers attempted to restrain him. Those officers included the two defendants and officer Nissen. Officer Nissen has not been charged with Ambler's death. He came under an agreement with the state that none of his testimony would be used against him to charge him.

During his testimony, he told the jury he would not have changed how he handled trying to detain Ambler.


"There was nothing to suggest, Mr. Ambler was going to comply. He was on a 20-minute pursuit. Some of that I heard on the radio. I saw him crash the second time. He almost hit me. Crashed a third time. There was nothing to suggest at that point that Mr. Ambler was going to comply. Knowing that, at least in my mind, it was more important for me to help get him into custody first and then address whatever other possible issues might be present afterward. After the scene was safe," said officer Nissen.

The state is expected to rest on Tuesday. After that, the defense is expected to pick up its case.

The defense asked the judge if it would be okay to do a live demonstration in front of the jury and tase defense attorney Ken Ervin. The judge says she will give an official ruling on it Tuesday, but sees no issue with it.