George Floyd showed brain injury before Chauvin removed his knee
In the George Floyd murder trial, testimony shifted this week to a medical review of his death. A Chicago pulmonologist and critical care doctor testified that Floyd’s death was caused in part by former officer Derek Chauvin’s knees pressing against his neck and back, making it impossible for him to breathe. In addition, 11 current and former police officers testified for the prosecution, including the Minneapolis police chief.
Defense attorneys have argued that Floyd died from drugs that were found in his system, while prosecutors have argued that Chauvin killed him by kneeling on his neck for over nine minutes, which cut off his air supply.
Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a veteran lung specialist, told the jury that Floyd showed signs of a brain injury about four minutes before Chauvin finally lifted his knee from his neck. Tobin attributed Floyd’s death to a combination of Chauvin’s pressure on Floyd’s neck with his knee, the handcuffs pulling Floyd’s hands behind his back, and Floyd’s body being pressed against the street. The trio conditions resulted in death “from a low level of oxygen,” said Tobin.
During his testimony, Tobin used the video shot by witnesses to pinpoint the exact moment when Floyd died, noting the moment Floyd’s eyes opened wide and then closed again. “You can see his eyes — he’s conscious — and then you see that he isn’t,” Dr. Tobin said. “That’s the moment the life goes out of his body.” Tobin testified that after about 4 minutes and 51 seconds, Floyd stopped speaking or groaning. Just after 5 minutes, Floyd appeared to straighten out his legs, which Tobin says signals a type of seizure because Floyd had suffered a brain injury from the oxygen deprivation. Even after death, Tobin pointed out in the video that Chauvin’s knee stayed on Floyd’s neck for an additional 3 minutes and 27 seconds after Floyd had taken his last breath.
Dr. Tobin also pushed back on the defense’s suggestion of drugs being the cause of death, saying videos show Floyd breathing at a normal rate before he went unconscious, which would mean that any fentanyl in his system was “not having an effect” on his breathing. Tobin went on to say, “A healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died.” Using the video, Tobin pointed out to the jury that Floyd was so desperate to breath that he tried to lift himself off the ground by pushing his knuckles against the tires of the police car. Tobin also pointed to Floyd’s handcuffed hands that were pushed so far up and against his back that his chest was being pressed against the street, saying Floyd had to lift the officer’s knee with each breath that he tried to take.
Testimony continues next week with the defense expected to take over.