The Minneapolis medical examiner told jurors Friday that neck compression caused George Floyd’s death, given his underlying medica
The Minneapolis medical examiner told jurors Friday that neck compression caused George Floyd’s death, given his underlying medical conditions.
Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker first ticked off Floyd’s pre-existing physical issues at ex-officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial.
“He had very severe heart disease,” Baker said of Floyd — who was on the ground in handcuffs while Chauvin pressed his knee to his neck for more than nine minutes in a now-infamous stop in May.
“He has a heart that already needs more oxygen than a normal heart by virtue of its size, and it’s limited in its ability to step up to provide more oxygen when there is demand because of the narrowing of his coronary arteries,” Baker said of Floyd.
“Now, in the context of an altercation with other people, that involves things like physical restraint, that involves things like being held to the ground, that involves things like the pain that you would incur from having your, you know, your cheek up against the asphalt, an abrasion on your shoulder,” Baker said.
“Those events are going to cause stress hormones to pour out into your body, specifically adrenaline.
“It’s going to ask your heart to beat faster, it’s going to ask your body for more oxygen so that you get through that altercation and, in my opinion, the law-enforcement subdural restraint and neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take.”
In other words, Baker said, the underlying conditions didn’t cause Floyd’s death but played a role in it.
“It was the stress of that interaction that tipped him over the edge, given his underlying heart disease and given his toxicology,” the ME said on cross-examination by the defense, referring to Floyd’s “fentanyl intoxication, recent methamphetamine use.”
Floyd, 46, allegedly passed a counterfeit $20 bill at a Minneapolis convenience store May 25, 2020. After police arrested him, he resisted being placed into a police car and was dragged to the ground and held face-first, hands cuffed behind his back, against the pavement with Chauvin’s knee pressing into his neck.
Defense lawyer Eric Nelson elicited on cross that the placement of Chauvin’s knee would not, in Baker’s opinion, have cut off Floyd’s airway. The ME also said that had Floyd been found alone with no evidence of trauma, he would have certified his death a fentanyl overdose.
Baker’s testimony seemed inconsistent with prior medical experts called by the prosecution who dismissed Floyd’s drug use and heart conditions as contributing factors. They said that even a healthy person would have died of oxygen deprivation if restrained in the same manner as Floyd.
On Friday morning, Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a pathologist who trained Baker, said, “There’s no evidence to suggest he would have died that night except for the interactions with law enforcement.”
Dr. Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist and critical-care specialist, and Dr. Bill Smock, a police surgeon who specializes in forensic medicine, testified Thursday to the same findings. They told jurors that Floyd’s position on the ground made it impossible for him to breathe and that he died gradually, sustaining brain damage before expiring.
They said that in the footage, Floyd showed no signs of a cardiac event or having suffered a drug overdose.
During the caught-on-camera death, a deeply distressed Floyd can be heard saying, “I can’t breathe” 27 times and calling out for his mom before he loses consciousness.
Chauvin, who is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, faces up to 40 years in prison.
Three other former Minneapolis police officers — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng — are due to stand trial at a later date on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter in the case.