MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – George Floyd died of lack of oxygen as he was attached to the sidewalk with a knee to his neck, testified medical experts at former officer Derek Chauvins murder trial on Thursday and emphatically rejected the defense theory that Floyd’s drug use and underlying health problems killed him.
“A healthy person who was exposed to what Mr. Floyd was exposed, would be dead, “said prosecutor Dr. Martin Tobin, a specialist in lung and critical care at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital and Loyola University Medical School in Illinois.
Using easy-to-understand language to explain medical concepts and even loosen his tie to illustrate a point, Tobin told the jury Floyd̵
Lack of oxygen resulted in brain damage and caused his heart to stop, the witness said.
Tobin, analyzes photos of the three officers holding Floyd back for what the prosecutors say was almost 9 1/2 minutes, testified that Chauvin’s knees were “almost on his neck” more than 90% of the time.
He said several other factors also made it difficult for Floyd to breathe: officers lifting up on the suspect’s handcuffs, the hard sidewalk, his inclined position, his turned head and a knee on his back.
Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for 3 minutes, 2 seconds after Floyd took his last breath, Tobin said. After the last breath, Floyd’s oxygen levels dropped to zero, and Floyd “reached the point where there was not an ounce of oxygen left in the body,” he said.
When prosecutors repeatedly played a video clip of Floyd on the ground, Tobin pointed out what he said was a change in the man’s face that told him Floyd was dead. That moment happened about five minutes after police started holding Floyd down.
“In the beginning, you can see that he is conscious, you can see light flicker, and then it disappears,” Tobin said. He explained: “This is the moment life goes out of his body.”
Chauvin, 45, is charged with manslaughter and manslaughter in Floyd’s death on May 25. Floyd was arrested outside a neighborhood market after being charged with attempting to pass a $ 20 counterfeit bill. Spectator video of Floyd crying he could not breathe as spectators shouted at the white officer to get off him, sparking protests and spreading violence around the United States
Tobin also testified that just because Floyd was talking and can be seen moving on video does not mean he was breathing enough. He said that a movement on the leg seen in the footage was an involuntary sign of a fatal brain injury and that a person can continue talking until the airway narrows to 15%, after which “you are in deep trouble.”
Officers can be heard on video telling Floyd that if he can talk, he can breathe.
During the cross-examination, Chauvin lawyer Eric Nelson Tobin pressed on the common misconception, pointing to previous evidence that Minneapolis officers are trained that if people can talk, they can breathe.
Nelson has claimed that Chauvin did what he was trained to do and that Floyd’s death was caused by illegal drugs and underlying medical problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease. An autopsy found fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system.
Tobin said he analyzed Floyd’s breathing as seen on body camera video and explained that while fentanyl typically reduces respiratory rate by 40%, Floyd’s breathing was “just about normal” just before he lost consciousness.
Tobin also said the high level of carbon dioxide measured in the emergency room can be explained by the fact that Floyd did not breathe for nearly 10 minutes before paramedics began artificial respiration as opposed to his breathing being suppressed by fentanyl.
Another prosecution witness, Dr. Bill Smock, an expert on deaths due to suffocation, backed Tobin’s assessment. Smock said Floyd had no symptoms of a fentanyl overdose such as narrowed pupils and decreased breathing. He said Floyd’s actions were the opposite because he was asking for air.
“It is not an overdose of fentanyl. Someone is asking to breathe, ”said Smock, a Louisville, Kentucky police surgeon and former emergency room physician. He said Floyd died of “position swallowing”, a lack of oxygen due to the position of the body.
At cross-examination, Nelson questioned Smock about Floyd’s history of heart disease and led Smock to agree that a fight with the police could put stress on the heart and that shortness of breath could be a sign of a heart attack.
But when questioned again by prosecutors, he said there was no evidence that Floyd had a heart attack or sudden death from arrhythmia, saying his death was due to a gradual drop in oxygen over several minutes “due to of the pressure applied to his back and neck. ”
On Thursday, a forensic toxicologist said he tested blood from Floyd at the hospital as well as urine from his autopsy and found a “very low” amount of methamphetamine. Daniel Isenschmid said fentanyl and a byproduct of its collapse were also in Floyd’s system.
Isenschmid set the level of fentanyl in Floyd’s blood at 11 nanograms per Milliliters. For perspective, he said tests of more than 2,000 people arrested for driving under the influence of fentanyl revealed an average concentration of 9.59, and dozens of them had levels higher than Floyd’s – and survived.
After cross-examination, Nelson suggested there was no way of knowing how much fentanyl Floyd had ingested, and Isenschmid agreed. The defense attorney also said it is impossible to know the concentration of fentanyl in street medicine.
“Every pill you take makes it a unique experience for the person, right?” Isenschmid accepted.
In his own turn on the stand, Tobin used a single language, explaining that as the airways narrow, breathing becomes much more difficult, like “breathing through a straw.”
At one point, the doctor loosened the tie and placed his hands on his own neck and on the back of his head to demonstrate how the airways work, urging jurors to examine their own necks. Most of them did, though the judge later told them not to.
The expert calculated that when Chauvin was in an almost vertical position with his toes off the ground, half of Chauvin’s body weight with his equipment was included – or 91.5 pounds (41.5 kg) – directly on Floyd’s neck.
He said it looked like Floyd was getting enough oxygen to keep his brain alive for the first five minutes because he was still talking. Tobin said that where Chauvin had knee after five minutes duration was not so important, because by that time Floyd had already had brain damage.
Chauvin’s lawyer has repeatedly shown the jury stills from the video, which he said depicted Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s shoulder blade, not his neck. But almost all of these photos were taken after the five-minute marking according to the timestamps.
Find AP’s full coverage of George Floyd’s death at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd
Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan.