A doctor testified on Tuesday that a healthy person would have died from what George Floyd was subjected to during last year’s fatal arrest.
The prosecution’s witness, pulmonologist Dr. Martin Tobin, testified that Floyd died of hypoxia, or a low level of oxygen, that resulted in him asphyxiating. He asserted that the level of restraint Minneapolis police officers placed on Floyd was the equivalent of a surgeon removing his left lung.
Tobin also said the high concentration found in Floyd was not due to drug use but because he went without ventilation for nearly 10 minutes. He noted that Floyd’s rate of breathing was not slow enough to suggest fentanyl was a factor in Floyd not getting enough oxygen.
— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) April 8, 2021
The Illinois-based pulmonologist cited several factors which he believed prevented Floyd from breathing: Derek Chauvin’s pressure on Floyd, Floyd lying on his stomach on the street, and handcuffs pulling Floyd’s hands behind his back.
As a last-ditch effort, Floyd used his knuckles, fingers, and shoulders to position himself to breathe as officers pinned him to the ground, according to Tobin.
“He’s using his fingers and his knuckles against the street to try to crank up the right side of his chest,” he explained. “This is his only way to try and get air to get into the right lung.”
Tobin also testified that Floyd showed signs of brain injury four minutes before Chauvin removed his knee from Floyd’s neck. He claimed Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than 90 percent of the time he had Floyd on the ground.
On May 25, Minneapolis police officers were filmed arresting Floyd, 44, on suspicion that he used a counterfeit bill at the Cup Foods supermarket. After police pulled Floyd out of his car and handcuffed him, Chauvin was filmed forcing his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
Floyd was heard gasping for air and repeatedly saying he could not breathe before he lost consciousness and died.
As previously reported, Hennepin County’s official autopsy report stated that Floyd’s blood had a fentanyl concentration of 11 nanograms per milliliter. While the medical examiner described the concentration as high and potentially fatal, they stressed that it does not mean Floyd died of an overdose.
The report also stated that there was no evidence “to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation” in Floyd’s death.
Conversely, an independent autopsy asserted that sustained forceful pressure on Floyd’s neck and back led to his death.
Both the county’s and the independent report mentioned drugs in Floyd’s system. However, the two reports listed his cause of death as a homicide.
The defense has argued that a “speedball” — an opioid and a stimulant combination — along with hypertension led to Floyd dying of cardiac arrhythmia. However, the prosecution said video evidence and expert testimony disproves Floyd was dying from a drug overdose, and that Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes killed him.
Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder, second-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death.
In addition to Chauvin, three other ex-officers, Thomas Lane, 37, Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34 are charged with aiding and abetting, second-degree murder, and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death.
Chauvin is being tried separately from the other three former officers, who will stand trial together. Their trial is scheduled to begin this summer.
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[Featured image: Martin Tobin/Court TV via AP, Pool]