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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 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, third-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.

Prosecutors slam defense’s line of questioning
Nelson asked Thomas about the fentanyl and methamphetamine found in Floyd’s system and asked whether she would believe Floyd had died of a drug overdose had it not been for the police restraint.

“In the absence of any of these other realities, yes, I would consider that to be an overdose,” Thomas replied.

On redirect questioning, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell asked Thomas, “Aren’t those questions a lot like asking, ‘Mrs. Lincoln, if we take John Wilkes Booth out of this…?'” After an objection, Blackwell rephrased the question, asking if Thomas would ever approach an assessment by “taking out of it facts you found relevant and highly pertinent.” She replied she would not.

Blackwell again asked Thomas to confirm her opinion that Floyd’s death was caused by law enforcement officers subduing him, and not by a fentanyl overdose. Thomas did, and said she saw no signs that Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose, during which people are described as “just falling asleep.”

“If there’s no signs of fentanyl overdose it makes no sense to conclude there was an overdose from fentanyl,” Thomas replied.

Thomas was then excused and court recessed for a lunch break.

12:59 PM
Defense homes in on Floyd’s heart disease
On cross-examination, defense attorney Eric Nelson asked forensic pathologist Dr. Lindsey Thomas whether she knew Andrew Baker, the medical examiner who conducted Floyd’s autopsy, to be a competent medical examiner from her time working with him in Hennepin County. Thomas agreed he was competent. Nelson then asked Thomas what she believed Baker meant by “complicating” in his finding that Floyd’s death was caused by “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression.”

Thomas said she believed it meant “both things were present” and that the cardiopulmonary arrest was due to the law enforcement restraint. She agreed the term can mean different things to different forensic pathologists.

Nelson then zeroed in on Floyd’s pre-existing conditions, and Thomas confirmed Floyd had an enlarged heart, two narrowed arteries and a history of high blood pressure. Nelson then asked what Thomas would believe Floyd to have died of if he was found in his home without the law enforcement restraint.

“In that very narrow set of circumstances, I would probably conclude the cause of death was his heart disease,” Thomas said.

Thomas agreed that the physiological stress Floyd was experiencing would require his heart to “work very hard.”

12:07 PM
Pool report: Judge questioned juror
Before proceedings began for the day Friday, Judge Peter Cahill questioned a juror during a brief hearing that was not broadcast via audio or video. According to a pool reporter, the judge asked the juror, a White woman, about having seen any potential outside information about what’s going on in the trial.

The juror said she turned on her television to watch a show she records, and saw a show featuring a courtroom and a lawyer. She said she turned the TV off. The woman also confirmed she had received a text from her mother-in-law that said it looked like a bad day. Cahill asked, “No book deal in the works?” And the woman replied, “No. I don’t know what to expect.”

Asked whether she had had any other outside contact, the juror replied, “No, and if anyone approached me, I would report it.”

The juror was excused, after which the judge indicated he did not believe any misconduct occurred.

The pool reporter had earlier reported that the text from the juror’s mother had referenced a bad day for the defense, but later sent out a correction indicating the text had referenced a bad day.

“There was a report there might have been some outside media. I find that she was genuinely surprised,” Cahill said. “There was not inappropriate conduct by her or from anyone on the outside.”

The report from the pool journalist also noted there was a woman sitting in a seat reserved for members of the Chauvin family for the first time.

11:44 AM
Pathologist: Floyd would not have died without police restraint
Dr. Lindsey Thomas testified Floyd would not have died on May 25, 2024 if it weren’t for the police restraint.

“There’s no evidence to suggest he would have died that night, except for the interactions with law enforcement,” Thomas said.

Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist, testifies about George Floyd’s cause of death.
Thomas said she believes a contributing factor to his cause of death was physiological stress, giving an example of the rush of adrenaline and increased heart rate someone experiences when they narrowly avoid a car crash. But rather than momentary stress, in Floyd’s case, “this goes on for minute after minute after minute, for nine minutes, where you are terrified, and you can’t… there’s no recovery.”

Thomas said physiological stress was not a direct cause of Floyd’s death.

She agreed with a county medical examiner who found Floyd’s manner of death to be a homicide. The Hennepin County medical examiner’s office has said that “is not a legal determination of culpability or intent.”

11:29 AM
Jurors shown autopsy photos of Floyd’s injuries
Thomas testified that there sometimes might be tell-tale signs in an autopsy that a person died because of low oxygen — for example, bruising on the neck of a person who had been strangled. Those are helpful to pathologists in determining the cause of death when they do occur, Thomas said, but the absence of such evidence shouldn’t be used to rule out low oxygen as a cause of death.

“Strangulation is a great example — sometimes there’s all kinds of bruises you see on the neck, and other times in a strangulation case they don’t have a single mark on their neck,” Thomas said. “There’s all kinds of reasons bruises may or may not occur.”

Thomas testified in this case she believed scraping on Floyd’s face, shoulder and hand were consistent with her opinion that he died from low oxygen that resulted from the restraint. She said Floyd also suffered abrasions on his wrists where he was pulling on his handcuffs. The jury was given hard copies of autopsy photos to show the scraping, but the photos were not displayed on the screen in court or published as exhibits.

11:08 AM
Pathologist: “There was nothing sudden about this death”
Thomas testified she was able to use the video to help her rule out other causes of death, including a heart arrhythmia and a fentanyl overdose, two causes the defense has suggested.

Thomas said someone who died of a heart arrhythmia would typically experience a sudden death. She described an example of someone shoveling snow, clutching their chest and falling over fairly quickly. But in Floyd’s case, she said, “There was nothing sudden about this death.”

Likewise, she said she was able to use the video to rule out a fentanyl overdose, during which someone would typically become sleepy and their breathing would gradually slow. Thomas said she “felt comfortable” ruling out both of those causes of death.

10:57 AM
Pathologist: Videos were key in determining cause of death
Thomas said the county autopsy in this case “didn’t tell me the cause and manner of death.” She said she reviewed a huge amount of other information — most importantly the multiple videos — to determine her opinion.

“The actions of the law enforcement officers resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death — specifically, those actions were subdual, restraint and neck compression,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the amount of video in the case is unique. She said it was primarily the video showing Floyd being restrained in a position where he couldn’t get enough oxygen that led her to come to her conclusion.

“There’s never been a case I’ve been involved with that had videos over such a long time frame and from so many different perspectives,” she said.

10:48 AM
Forensic pathologist: Floyd died of low oxygen because of police restraint
Dr. Lindsey Thomas is a former medical examiner with Hennepin County, where Floyd died, and retired in 2017. Thomas testified that over the course of her decades-long career, she has been the medical examiner for eight counties and has personally conducted about 5,000 autopsies.

Thomas said she volunteered her time to prosecutors, who asked her to review the case and determine Floyd’s cause and manner of death. When asked why she didn’t ask to be paid, Thomas said: “I knew this was going to be important, and I felt like I had something to offer, and I wanted to do what I could to explain what I think happened,” Thomas said.

Thomas did not perform the autopsy on Floyd. She said she agreed with the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, who found Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression.”

She said the mechanism of Floyd’s death was “asphyxia or low oxygen.” The law enforcement restraint ultimately caused Floyd’s death, she said.

10:26 AM
Forensic pathologist takes stand
Testimony has resumed with Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist, on the stand.

10:16 AM
Court resumes session
Court has resumed session with attorneys and Judge Peter Cahill holding a hearing that is not being broadcast via audio or video. The jury has not yet been called in to the courtroom.

Police officials testified Chauvin violated policy, training
A series of Minneapolis police officials took the stand earlier this week to testify that Chauvin violated department policy and didn’t follow training. The most high-profile voice was Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who condemned Chauvin’s actions in his testimony on Monday.

Arradondo said there was an “initial reasonableness in trying to just get [Floyd] under control” in the first few seconds of the May 25 encounter. But when Floyd had stopped resisting, and “clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person prone out, hands cuffed behind their back — that in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy,” Arradondo said. “It’s not part of our training and it’s certainly not part of our ethics or values.”

The charges
In order to convict Chauvin of second-degree murder, prosecutors will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death while committing or attempting to commit a related felony, in this case third-degree assault. To convict the former officer of third-degree murder, prosecutors must convince the jury that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death during an act that was “eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”

The third-degree charge was initially dropped by Judge Cahill, but was re-instated earlier this month after an appeals court handed a win to prosecutors.

In this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin listen during Chauvin’s murder trial at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2024, fatal arrest of George Floyd.
To convict Chauvin of second-degree manslaughter, prosecutors will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death by “culpable negligence,” meaning he created unreasonable risk and consciously took a chance of causing death or serious harm.

Prosecutors do not need to prove that Chauvin intended to cause Floyd’s death. Since police officers are authorized to use force, prosecutors must prove that the force Chauvin used against Floyd was unlawful.

In Minnesota, second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. Third-degree murder is punishable by up to 25 years. Second-degree manslaughter carries a maximum prison term of 10 years.



Zaraki Kenpachi