MINNEAPOLIS — A medical expert who researches breathing took the witness stand Thursday morning in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Dr. Martin Tobin said the cause of Floyd’s death was hypoxia, or a low level of oxygen that led to asphyxia. This was because Floyd was taking shallow breaths, he testified.
Attorney questioning returned to the topic of George Floyd’s drug use Wednesday. Floyd’s girlfriend Courteney Ross told jurors last week the two both became addicted to opioids four years ago after they were prescribed the drugs for chronic pain. Like millions of Americans, they tried to go clean but failed, she said.
On Wednesday, defense attorney Eric Nelson suggested Floyd said the words “I ate too many drugs” during his struggle with police last Memorial Day. He played several seconds of unintelligible police bodycam audio for witnesses: One said he couldn’t make out Floyd’s words, and other said he thought Floyd was saying “I ain’t do no drugs.”
In the afternoon, two forensic scientists said pills found in the SUV and police squad car Floyd had been in that day contained methamphetamine, a stimulant, and fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. The defense argues Floyd died as a result of the drugs in his system and underlying medical issues, but prosecutors say Floyd was killed by Chauvin’s knee on his neck for more than nine minutes.
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- Dr. Martin Tobin, a physician whose research focuses on breathing, took the witness stand Thursday morning.
- Jurors have heard from 30 witnesses so far – all called by the prosecution.
- Jurors have sat through several days of highly technical testimony about use of force and chains of command, and a reporter in the courtroom Wednesday noted one juror may have fallen asleep.
- Expert witness Sgt. Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department officer who has conducted about 2,500 use-of-force reviews in his career, told jurors Wednesday that Chauvin used “deadly” force on George Floyd and kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
Doctor who researches breathing says Floyd died from ‘low level of oxygen’
Dr. Martin Tobin, a physician who has been working in respiratory physiology since 1981, told the court Thursday George Floyd died from a “low level of oxygen,” which caused damage to his brain and an abnormal heartbeat due to lack of pulse but some electrical activity.
Tobin said the cause of Floyd’s death is from hypoxia, or a low level of oxygen that led to asphyxia. This was because Floyd was taking shallow breaths, preventing oxygen from going all the way down to the lower areas of the lungs where gas exchange is done.
Tobin watched videos of Floyd’s arrests “hundreds of times” and found Chauvin’s left knee is on Floyd’s neck for the majority of the time.
The combination of Floyd being handcuffed behind his back, the officer’s manipulation of the cuffs, and the pavement beneath Floyd combined to interfere with Floyd’s ability to breathe, Tobin testified.
“It’s like the left side is in a vise. It’s totally pushed in, squeezed in from the street at the bottom, and then from the way the handcuffs are manipulated,” he said. “That totally interferes with central features of how we breathe.”
“It was almost the effect as if a surgeon had gone in and removed the lung,” he said.
Tobin has been an expert witness in many court cases, most of them involving allegations of medical malpractice. This is his first criminal case and he opted not to seek payment when the state of Minnesota contacted him because he felt he could contribute his knowledge.
The prosecution has said Chauvin is not only culpable in Floyd’s death but that he also failed to carry out his duty to provide basic care when Floyd was in medical distress and then became unresponsive.
Several Minneapolis police department officials testified Chauvin violated department policy by failing to move Floyd on his side to ease his breathing once he had been restrained face-down on the ground.
“When someone is in our custody, we have an obligation to provide for their care,” Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told jurors. That’s true even if an officer is applying defense tactics, the chief said. “They’re still in our custody,” he said. “They have rights.”
The defense has argued Chauvin and the other officers were unable to care for Floyd because they were distracted and threatened by a crowd of vocal, upset bystanders. “As the crowd grew in size, seemingly so too did their anger,” lead defense attorney, Eric Nelson, told jurors. Read more.
Expert witness Sgt. Jody Stiger says Chauvin used ‘deadly’ force
Sgt. Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department officer who has conducted about 2,500 use-of-force reviews in his career, told jurors Wednesday that Chauvin used “deadly” force on George Floyd and kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
Stiger said the initial force used on Floyd was appropriate because Floyd was resisting arrest as officers tried to get him into their patrol car. However, after officers forced Floyd to the ground, “they should have de-escalated the situation,” Stiger said. Instead, the officers continued to intensify the situation, he said.
Stiger said the number of officers on the scene outweighed any threat posed by Floyd, who was not actively resisting while he was in the prone position. He said “no force should have been used after he was in that position.” But the pressure continually exerted by Chauvin “raised the possibility of death,” he said. More here.