A medical expert testified Thursday that George Floyd died from a lack of oxygen as he was being pinned face down on the pavement by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged in Floyd’s death.
In the ninth day of Chauvin’s trial, Dr. Martin Tobin, a lung and critical care specialist at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital and Loyola University's medical school in Chicago, took the stand for the prosecution.
Tobin told the jury that the restraint placed on Floyd affected his breathing. He said Floyd’s prone position on the street with his hands constrained behind his back, one of Chauvin’s knees on Floyd’s neck and the other on his back and side, had the effect of putting Floyd’s body in a vise and interfered with “central features of how we breathe.”
The testimony undercuts the defense contention that Floyd died from his use of illegal drugs and underlying medical conditions, not from the Chauvin’s actions.
In his cross-examination, Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, disputed the amount of pressure Tobin calculated that Chauvin applied to Floyd’s neck. Tobin admitted he had not weighed Chauvin or his equipment.
Two more doctors also testified. Dr. William Smock, a forensic pathologist, testified that Floyd died of asphyxia caused by the position in which he was placed by the police officers.
Dr. Daniel Isenschmid, who conducted toxicology tests on Floyd’s blood for the medical examiner, said he found fentanyl in Floyd's blood, but the level was similar to that found in blood samples of the more than 2,300 people detained in 2020 for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In all of those cases, the driver survived, he said.
Nelson contends that the drugs in Floyd’s system are what caused his death. He is expected to call medical experts to testify, possibly as soon as next week.
Chauvin, who is white, was a 19-year police veteran until he was fired. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges in the case being heard by a racially diverse 12-member jury.
Nelson argues that Floyd, an African American, died from underlying health issues and that Chauvin followed his police training in the way in which the 46-year-old Floyd was arrested.
Floyd’s May 25, 2020, arrest and death sparked widespread protests in the United States and around the world against police brutality and systemic racism.