Testimony resumed Friday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the fired Minneapolis officer charged in George Floyd’s death, after two medical experts testified that Floyd died of oxygen deprivation — not drugs, as the defense has suggested. The first witness to take the stand was forensic pathologist Dr. Lindsey Thomas, who is testified for the prosecution.
She testified that Floyd would not have died that day if he hadn’t been restrained by the police, and explained that she was able to rule out a heart arrhythmia or fentanyl overdose as case of death.
“The actions of the law enforcement officers resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death — specifically, those actions were subdual, restraint and neck compression,” Thomas said.
Her testimony came a day after another medical expert, Dr. Martin Tobin, testified Floyd died from a low level of oxygen that damaged his brain and caused his heart to stop. Tobin said Floyd was caught “in a vise” between the officers’ body weight and the street. He also discounted the defense’s suggestion that Floyd’s underlying heart conditions and fentanyl use contributed to his death.
Later, emergency physician and forensic medicine specialist Dr. Bill Smock took the stand and gave a similar opinion, saying Floyd died not of a drug overdose, but because he had “no air left in his body.”
Smock said Floyd’s pleas of “I can’t breathe” are an example of “air hunger,” which he called “the human desire to live, to breathe.” He described a drowning person struggling to get to the surface of the water. In contrast, someone suffering from a fentanyl overdose would not experience “air hunger” because their body would be in “sleep mode,” and their respiration would gradually slow until they enter a coma, Smock said.
“He’s breathing, he’s talking, he’s not snoring, he is saying, ‘Please, please, get off me, I want to breathe, I can’t breathe,'” Smock said. “That is not a fentanyl overdose, that is someone begging to breathe.”
Chauvin, who was seen in disturbing videos kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, is charged with second-degree murder,and second-degree manslaughter.
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty. The other three officers involved are charged with aiding and abetting, and are expected to be tried jointly in August.