MINNEAPOLIS – A A medical expert in respiratory physiology testified in the trial for the murder of Derek Chauvin that the way George Floyd was restrained – handcuffed on his back, face to the ground, with his knee on his neck – prevented him from breathing properly.
Dr. Martin Tobin, who was called in as an expert witness by the prosecution, he said the cause of Floyd’s death was hypoxiaor low oxygen levels that led to suffocation or suffocation. The overall effect of the restriction was almost “as if a surgeon had come in and removed the lungs,” he said, referring to Floyd’s left lung.
“A healthy person subjected to what he was subjected to Mr. Floyd would die as a result of what he was exposed to,” Tobin said.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree murder in Floyd’s death. The defense claims Floyd died as a result of drugs in his system and underlying health problems, but prosecutors say Floyd killed Chauvin with a knee to the neck for more than nine minutes.
- The trial was expected to resume Friday at 9:15 a.m. CST.
- Dr. Bill Smock, a forensic police surgeon who reviewed “thousands of pages of documents” in Floyd’s case, told jurors he concluded Floyd had died of positional asphyxia, “which is a fancy way of saying there is no oxygen in the body.”
- Daniel Isenschmid, forensic toxicologist who analyzed George Floyd’s blood and urine,, told jurors that the amount of targets in Floyd’s system was in line with the prescribed dose – a “very low” amount.
- The jury has so far heard 33 witnesses – all called by the prosecution.
- A lawyer the interrogation returned to the subject of Floyd’s drugs On Wednesday. Two forensic experts said the pills were found in the SUV and police car Floyd that day contained methamphetamine, a stimulant, and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid. The toxicology report found both drugs in Floyd’s system after his death.
Expert witness dr. Bill Smock: Floyd wasn’t in “excited delirium,” didn’t overdose or had a heart attack
Dr Bill Smock, who was called by the prosecution as a drug tolerance expert who reviewed “thousands of pages of documents” in Floyd’s case, took the witness stand on Thursday afternoon.
Smock has spent more than 20 years at the Level 1 Trauma Center in Louisville and teaches emergency medicine to paramedics, medical students and others in Louisville. He edited four textbooks and worked as an assistant medical examiner. He is also a police surgeon at the Louisville Police Department. Smock said he specializes in forensic analysis of people who suffered major injuries but did not die.
Asked by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, Smock said he concluded Floyd had died of positional asphyxia, “which is a fancy way of saying he had no oxygen in his body.”
Smock said he was investigating other potential causes of death, including agitated delirium, a condition in which someone’s breathing and breathing rate are elevated, and they are “out of control”. Smock said agitated delirium is a controversial diagnosis because “there is no one-hundred-percent agreement on what excited delirium is.” However, Smock added, “in my opinion, it’s real.”
Responding to Blackwell’s questions, Smock said Floyd showed none of the symptoms of agitated delirium, including a failure to respond to law enforcement officials ’instructions, excessive sweating and far greater strength than normal.
Smock also said he ruled out an overdose of fentanyl as a potential cause of death. Symptoms of a synthetic drug overdose may be slower breathing rates, “or no breathing at all.” Such an overdose would usually cause pupillary constriction, Smock said. Instead, Floyd had breathing and his pupils were dilated, Smock testified.
The level of methamphetamine found in Floyd’s system was “extremely low,” Smock said, which does not suggest an overdose of the drug.
Smock also addressed the lack of bruises on Floyd’s body. He added that “you can be fatally strangled, die of suffocation and have absolutely no bruises.” Bruises depend on where, how much and for how long the pressure is applied, he said.
Trying to underline Smock’s medical opinion on the cause of death, Blackwell released part of a video and sound of a police camera about the fight with Floyd. “Listen to Mr. Floyd’s voice, he’s speaking at full volume,” Smock said, adding, “You’ll hear his voice weaker and weaker.”
At one point in the video, Smock pointed out that Floyd was pushing himself into the tire of a police patrol car in an attempt to breathe. “He’s trying to take his right chest off the sidewalk so he can breathe,” Smock said. This resonated in the earlier testimony of Tobin, an expert in the physiology of respiration.
Blackwell also focused Smock on the duty of police officers to provide medical care to Floyd. Smock said officers should have started CPR “before” paramedics arrived and started applying it – a stance that several Minneapolis officers have highlighted in recent days. “As soon as Mr. Floyd was unconscious, he should have overturned it,” Smock added.
During cross-examination, lead defense attorney Eric Nelson received Smock to admit he was not certified as a pathologist. When asked by Nelson, Smock admitted that there was no evidence from Floyd’s autopsy that his airway was blocked. “The evidence is not from an autopsy, but on videotape, sir,” Smock replied.
Smock said the autopsy showed Floyd had evidence of heart disease. Nelson asked if Floyd’s struggle with cops could be compared to a heart stress test, when someone is placed on a treadmill with electrodes that record the heart’s response as speed and difficulty levels increase. Smock disagreed.
Asked by Blackwell, Smock said: “There was absolutely no evidence at the autopsy, suggesting that Mr Floyd had a heart attack.”
Daniel Isenschmid, a forensic toxicologist who analyzed George Floyd Hospital’s blood and urine collected by an autopsy from a Hennepin County medical examiner, took the witness stand Thursday afternoon. Isenschmid works at the NMS Laboratory in Horsham, Pennsylvania, and has previously worked in various offices of medical examiners.
He told jurors he found fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s blood. The amount of meth was in line with the prescribed dose – a “very low” amount, he said.
On fentanyl and opioids or opiates, Isenschmid said the impact on a person taking the drug can vary widely depending on tolerance. The state tried to show that Floyd not only had a high tolerance for drugs, but the amount in his system was average to minimal.
Isenschmid said he also found evidence of caffeine, smoking and THC in Floyd’s body. Morphine was not found in the blood, but in a urine sample, which could indicate that the drug was taken before the day Floyd died, he said. Isenschmid said he also found a narcan in Floyd’s system, which could be an indication that someone is undergoing treatment.
During cross-examination, lead defense attorney Eric Nelson tried to show that it was possible that Floyd had ingested more fentanyl during his arrest – part of his case that drugs played a role in Floyd’s death – but the drug had not broken by then he had died. Nelson also tried to bring home the point that medications can vary from pill to pill, from bump to bump, and can negatively affect a person’s reaction. Isenschmid agreed.
When prosecutor Erin Eldridge continued the interrogation, Isenschmid agreed that the target levels in Floyd’s system “were lower than 94% of the drivers affected” – so low that they were unlikely to affect Floyd.
This was witnessed on Thursday by dr. Martin Tobin, a physician who has worked in respiratory physiology for 40 years Floyd died of “low oxygen” which caused him brain damage and abnormal heartbeats. Prosecutors called Tobin as an expert witness and reviewed records and videos in the Floyd case, but did not examine Floyd’s body.
Tobin said he watched videos of Floyd’s arrests “hundreds of times” and found that Chauvin’s left knee was on Floyd’s neck most of the time. The combination of Floyd with handcuffs on his back, the policeman’s manipulation of the cuffs and the sidewalk under Floyd combined to interfere with Floyd’s ability to breathe, Tobin testified.
“It’s like the left side is in a bind. It’s completely pushed, squeezed from the street at the bottom, and then by the way the handcuffs are manipulated,” he said. “It completely interferes with the central features of our breathing.”
Tobin said the images in the video show Floyd trying to push his right side of his lungs with his right fingers and knuckles to let air in. “This tells you that he has used his resources and is literally trying to breathe with his fingers and wrists,” Tobin said.
Tobin watched the jurors as he testified, and each juror took notes. Read more about his testimony here.
The prosecution said Chauvin was not only to blame for Floyd’s death, but also that he failed in his duty to provide basic care when Floyd was in medical trouble and then stopped responding.
Several Minneapolis police officers testified that Chauvin violated departmental policy by letting Floyd on his side to make breathing easier after he was restrained face down on the ground.
“When someone is in our custody, we have a duty to provide them with care,” Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told jurors. That is true even if the police officer applies defense tactics, the chief said. “They’re still in our custody,” he said. “They have rights.”
The defense argued that Chauvin and the other officers could not take care of Floyd because a crowd of loud, anxious passers-by had disturbed and threatened them. “As the crowd increased, so did their anger,” Chief Jury Eric Nelson told jurors. Read more.
Sgt. Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department police officer who has conducted about 2,500 checks on the use of force in his career, told jurors on Wednesday that Chauvin applied “deadly” force to George Floyd and kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
Stiger said the initial force applied to Floyd was appropriate because Floyd resisted arrest while officers tried to bring him into their patrol car. However, after officers forced Floyd to the ground, “they needed to de-escalate the situation,” Stiger said. Instead, officers continued to intensify the situation, he said.
Stiger said the number of officers on the scene exceeded any threat posed by Floyd, who did not actively resist while in a supine position. He said “no force should have been used after he was in that position”. But Chauvin’s constant pressure “increased the possibility of death,” he said. More here.