“This caused brain damage, as we see, and it also caused a PEA arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop,” Dr. Martin Tobin from Chicago with reference to heartless electrical activity, a type of cardiac arrest.
“The reason for the low oxygen content was low breathing,” he added. “Small breaths. Small tidal volumes. Low breathing that was unable to carry the air through the lungs down to the essential areas of the lungs that get oxygen into the blood and get rid of the carbon dioxide.”
He identified four main reasons for Floyd’s death: the handcuffs and the street acting as a “vice,” Chauvin’s left knee on his neck, Floyd̵
The doctor highlighted several stills from police body camera footage showing Floyd pressing his bones against the team car’s tires, pressing his bones against the ground, lifting his right shoulder and even digging his face out onto the street. These images showed Floyd using every possible means to try to lift his chest and breathe, Tobin said.
“It’s a very bad way to breathe. But that’s what you have to do when everything else fails,” he said.
Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck for over 90% of the time, Tobin said. The doctor calculated that this amounted to approx. 91.5 pounds on Floyd’s neck as his feet came off the ground.
With the performance of a friendly old professor, Tobin spoke directly to the jury, urging them to feel parts of their own neck and chest as he described how breathing works. Nearly all jurors did as the doctor asked, according to a pool report from inside the courtroom.
Tobin’s testimony comes on the ninth day of the trial, as prosecutors shifted into the third phase of their case, focusing on the medical analysis of Floyd’s cause of death.
The first week of the trial focused on Floyd’s last moments on May 25, 2020, especially the terrifying spectator and body camera footage that showed his last breath. Over the past few days, a number of police experts and training coordinators have testified that Chauvin violated police policy and used excessive force on Floyd.
The most important medical testimony is likely to come Friday when Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker is expected to testify. Baker performed the autopsy on Floyd, stating that his death was a homicide, listing the cause of death as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement, restraint and neck compression.”
The medical analysis is important to the prosecution’s case that Floyd died because Chauvin put his body weight on Floyd’s neck and back for over nine minutes – causing death by “position suffocation.” Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson has claimed that Floyd died of a drug overdose and pre-existing health conditions.
Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, third-degree murder and third-degree murder. The trial is expected to last about a month in its second full week of testimony.
Floyd’s suspicion of drug use
Senior Specialist Agent James Reyerson was shown a clip from Minneapolis Police Camera footage of Floyd saying something while handcuffed and in a supine position on the ground. He initially agreed with Chauvin’s defender that it sounded like Floyd said, “I ate too many drugs.”
After a brief pause, prosecutors for Reyerson played a longer clip of the video. Reyerson then changed his mind. “I think Mr. Floyd said, “I’m not making drugs,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, a Los Angeles police agency employed by the prosecution testified that Chauvin had used excessive and deadly force on Floyd when it was not needed.
In addition, several white pills containing fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in Floyd’s vehicle, and a smaller pill with Floyd’s saliva on it was found in the back of the police team car, three forensic researchers said on Wednesday.
BCA investigator McKenzie Anderson searched the vehicles involved in May and then again months later after initially failing to collect some of the pills.
Inside the police team car, she originally recovered Floyd’s shoes and a strap and noticed eight bloodstains that matched Floyd’s DNA. On her second search of the car, she recovered a pill with a rough texture that did not look whole, as well as several small pieces that she thought could be pill fragments. Test confirmed that the smaller pill had Floyd’s saliva on it, she testified.
Breahna Giles, a BCA forensic scientist, testified that she analyzed the white pills. They had the markings of a pill that would contain oxycodone and acetaminophen, but after testing, they actually contained methamphetamine and fentanyl, she said.
In addition, a glass tube recovered from the vehicle, THC, contained the psychoactive component of marijuana but no plant material, Giles told the court.