Medical Examiner Who Performed George Floyd’s Autopsy Takes the Stand

Earlier, a pathologist said she blamed police restraint for stopping Mr. Floyd’s heart and breathing. Here’s the latest on the Derek Chauvin trial.,

LiveUpdated April 9, 2021, 2:50 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 2:50 p.m. ET

Earlier, Dr. Lindsey Thomas told jurors that she blamed police restraint and compression for stopping Mr. Floyd’s heart and breathing.

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Watch live video of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged in the death of George Floyd. Warning: The video may include graphic images.CreditCredit…Aaron Nesheim for The New York Times
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April 9, 2021, 2:34 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 2:34 p.m. ET

Sheri Fink

Next up is Dr. Andrew Baker, the medical examiner for Hennepin County, who performed George Floyd’s autopsy.

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April 9, 2021, 2:38 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 2:38 p.m. ET

Sheri Fink

Dr. Baker says he chose not to watch the videos of George Floyd’s death until after examining his body at autopsy.

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April 9, 2021, 2:40 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 2:40 p.m. ET

Sheri Fink

This points to why forensic pathologists say it can be dangerous to release preliminary findings from a medical examiner, because not all of the relevant evidence has yet been taken into account.

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April 9, 2021, 2:41 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 2:41 p.m. ET

Sheri Fink

“The autopsy is just one piece of the medical examiner’s death investigation,” Dr. Baker says.

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April 9, 2021, 2:33 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 2:33 p.m. ET

Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner who performed the initial autopsy of George Floyd, took the stand on Friday in the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Dr. Baker, who determined during his autopsy that Mr. Floyd died from “cardiopulmonary arrest” and declared his death a homicide, was reappointed as chief medical examiner by the Hennepin County Board of commissioners in June for a fifth term, just a month after Mr. Floyd’s death.

The medical examiner’s office is responsible for examining all unexpected deaths in the counties of Hennepin, Scott and Drake, according to its website.

Dr. Baker graduated from University of Iowa medical school in 1992, and did his residency in pathology at the school’s hospital system. He became an active duty medical officer in the Air Force in 1998, where his work took him to Kosovo and the site of the U.S.S. Cole bombing.

He has said that his most memorable work experience was working on the autopsy of victims of the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. He also did pro bono work for the Innocence Project.

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April 9, 2021, 1:36 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 1:36 p.m. ET
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Forensic Pathologist Testifies That Police Actions Caused Floyd’s Death

Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist, testified on Friday in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial that George Floyd died from low oxygen caused by law enforcement’s subdual restraint and compression to the neck.

“Well, I was asked to review a lot of the materials and come to an independent conclusion about what I thought the cause, and manner of death were and the mechanism for that cause. I’ve never had a case like this that had such thorough documentation of the terminal events?” “And by way of the thorough documentation, what makes it so thorough, in your opinion?” “Well, the use of videos is unique in this case. Certainly as medical examiners we use videos, but there’s never been a case that I’ve been involved with that had videos over such a long time frame, and from so many different perspectives.” “Do you agree with Dr. Baker’s determination on the cause of death?” “Yes, I do.” “And is that by the word ‘immediate’ on here?” “Yes, cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement’s subdual restraint and neck compression.” “Have you, Dr. Thomas, formed an opinion about the mechanism of death?” “Yes.” “Would you tell us what that is?” “In this case, I believe the primary mechanism of death is asphyxia or low oxygen. So, this is not a sudden cardiac death, a sudden cardiac arrhythmia. This is a death where both the heart and lungs stopped working. And the point is that it’s due to law enforcement’s subdual restraint and compression. It basically is Mr. Floyd was in a position because of the subdual restraint and compression, where he was unable to get enough oxygen in to maintain his body functions.”

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Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist, testified on Friday in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial that George Floyd died from low oxygen caused by law enforcement’s subdual restraint and compression to the neck.CreditCredit…Still image, via Court TV

A forensic pathologist testified on Friday that George Floyd had primarily died of low oxygen, also called asphyxia, which she said had been caused by Derek Chauvin and the other police officers who pressed him to the ground.

The testimony from Dr. Lindsey C. Thomas further supported prosecutors’ arguments that Mr. Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who is on trial for murder, killed Mr. Floyd by kneeling on him for more than nine minutes.

Exactly what caused Mr. Floyd’s death last May has become a central issue in the second week of the trial; Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer has suggested that Mr. Floyd could have died from a heart condition or the fentanyl and methamphetamine that were found in his system.

Dr. Thomas, has worked in several medical examiner’s offices over 36 years and said she had performed at least 5,000 autopsies. She also helped to train Dr. Andrew Baker, the current Hennepin County medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Mr. Floyd and who was also scheduled to testify on Friday.

She said she agreed with Dr. Baker’s finding that Mr. Floyd’s death was a homicide and that the cause was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement’s subdual restraint and neck compression.”

That phrase had caused some confusion in the months after it was issued, and Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric J. Nelson, asked Dr. Thomas on Friday if “complicating” could mean different things to different experts; she agreed. But Dr. Thomas said that in this case, she found it to mean that Mr. Floyd’s heart had stopped because of the police officers’ actions.

“Mr. Floyd was in a position, because of the subdual, restraint and compression, where he was unable to get enough oxygen in to maintain his body functions,” Dr. Thomas testified.

She said that physiological stress could be considered a secondary mechanism of Mr. Floyd’s death, after the primary mechanism of asphyxia, but that both were caused by the police officers who pinned Mr. Floyd to the ground.

Dr. Thomas’s testimony came the day after a lung doctor also said that Mr. Floyd had died of a lack of oxygen caused by Mr. Chauvin’s pressure on his neck and back. Mr. Nelson is expected to call his own experts later in the trial after prosecutors rest their case. Dr. Thomas, like other experts called by prosecutors, rebutted the defense’s argument that drugs could have caused Mr. Floyd’s death.

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

During her testimony, a prosecutor provided autopsy photographs of Mr. Floyd’s body, hands, shoulders and face to jurors, but they were not shown publicly. Dr. Thomas used the photographs to show and describe scrapes on Mr. Floyd’s hands that she said had come from the handcuffs.

In his cross-examination, Mr. Nelson asked her several questions about Mr. Floyd’s heart, which was larger than average, and also asked her about hypothetical situations.

“You find a person at home, no struggle with the police, the person doesn’t have a heart problem,” Mr. Nelson said, laying out a hypothetical situation. “If you find fentanyl and methamphetamine in this person’s system at the levels that they are at, would you certify this as an overdose?”

Dr. Thomas responded: “Again, in the absence of these other realities, yes, I could consider that to be an overdose.”

But Dr. Thomas said the autopsy had ruled out various other causes of death, including a heart attack, and that Dr. Baker’s labeling of the death as a homicide had ruled out an overdose on drugs, which would almost always be described as an accident. Nothing in an autopsy alone would prove that Mr. Floyd had died of low oxygen, she said; for that reason, she said, the videos of Mr. Floyd’s death were vital to her analysis.

In another exchange, Mr. Nelson asked Dr. Thomas about a study in Canada that analyzed about 3,000 situations in which a suspect was placed in a prone position by police. Mr. Nelson asked Dr. Thomas if she was aware that no one in that study had died.

“Isn’t that amazing?” Dr. Thomas responded. “When you consider that virtually every forensic pathologist in the United States has probably had an officer-involved death like this, how did they — it utterly baffles me — which is why I kept saying ‘Canada,’ because I don’t know what’s different, but –“

At that point, Mr. Nelson objected and Dr. Thomas was cut off.

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April 9, 2021, 1:20 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 1:20 p.m. ET

John Eligon

Reporting from Kansas City

Dr. Thomas has completed her testimony, and the court is now on lunch break until 1:30 Central time.

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April 9, 2021, 1:17 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 1:17 p.m. ET

Dr. Andrew Baker may be one of the most important witnesses to be called in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin. It was his duty to determine why George Floyd died.

Dr. Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner who is expected to be called to testify on Friday, conducted Mr. Floyd’s initial autopsy and determined ultimately that his heart and lungs stopped functioning while he was being subdued, restrained and compressed by police officers.

The manner of Mr. Floyd’s death, Dr. Baker concluded, was homicide. And in the months since, almost everything he said in the autopsy report has been parsed and pored over by experts and laypeople alike.

We talked with several forensic pathologists uninvolved in the case to explain some of the terms used in the proceedings, how they determine the cause and manner of death and how this relates to the case.

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April 9, 2021, 1:09 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 1:09 p.m. ET

John Eligon

Reporting from Kansas City

The prosecution has to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, and the defense has to create some doubt in the jurors’ minds. It seems like Derek Chauvin’s lawyer is trying to raise all these other possibilities that could have caused George Floyd’s death, perhaps hoping jurors will feel uncertain that it was indeed Chauvin’s restraint of Floyd that caused his death.

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April 9, 2021, 12:41 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 12:41 p.m. ET

John Eligon

Reporting from Kansas City

In her direct testimony, Dr. Thomas said that but for the interaction with the police last May 25, George Floyd would have lived that day. In his cross-examination, Eric Nelson, the defense lawyer, seems to be trying to establish that Floyd’s heart was in such bad shape that he was particularly susceptible to death because of his exertion and drug use before the officers held him down.

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April 9, 2021, 12:28 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 12:28 p.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

She may not have an Irish accent, but like Dr. Tobin yesterday, Dr. Thomas is good at explaining things to the jury.

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April 9, 2021, 12:24 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 12:24 p.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

I wonder how much confusion, time and effort would have been saved if Dr. Baker had simply put “law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” as the cause of death, instead of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” Dr. Thomas has testified that it would have meant the same thing.

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April 9, 2021, 12:24 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 12:24 p.m. ET

Sheri Fink

The defense lawyer asked Dr. Thomas to parse perhaps the most confusing aspect of the cause of death the medical examiner listed: the word “complicating” in the phrase “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” Dr. Thomas looked down, paused a moment and said, “I guess it could be used in lots of different ways.”

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April 9, 2021, 12:28 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 12:28 p.m. ET

Sheri Fink

She added that in her opinion, it meant that the cardiopulmonary arrest — the ceasing of heart and lung function — was due to the subdual, restraint and compression by law enforcement.

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April 9, 2021, 12:17 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 12:17 p.m. ET

Sheri Fink

The prosecution asked Dr. Thomas about research that concludes that prone restraint is not dangerous. She said the research “bears no resemblance to what Mr. Floyd experienced” because the people in the study were young and healthy and knew the restraint would stop if they were in trouble. The studies were also conducted on the equivalent of a gymnastics mat, she said, “completely different” from hard ground.

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April 9, 2021, 12:18 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 12:18 p.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

These studies she is critiquing purport to prove that weight on someone’s back when they are in the prone position does not deplete oxygen to a fatal level. They are often used to defend the police. Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a medical expert who testified yesterday, also criticized the studies, saying they do not replicate real-world conditions.

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April 9, 2021, 12:17 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 12:17 p.m. ET

John Eligon

Reporting from Kansas City

And again, it’s all back to the video. Dr. Thomas ends her direct testimony by saying, “From watching the video, I certainly wouldn’t want to be in that position.”

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April 9, 2021, 12:11 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 12:11 p.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

We’re back from a short morning break. Dr. Thomas says Dr. Baker’s determination that Floyd’s death was a homicide by definition rules out a drug overdose — which is usually classified as an accidental death or, if intentional, a suicide.

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April 9, 2021, 12:01 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 12:01 p.m. ET

John Eligon

Reporting from Kansas City

Per a reporter in the courtroom, for the first time since the trial began, there is someone in the seat reserved for a family member of Derek Chauvin. Thus far, a member of George Floyd’s family has been in the courtroom each day.

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April 9, 2021, 12:04 p.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 12:04 p.m. ET

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Reporting from Minneapolis

Reporters in the courtroom also note that one of the jurors was questioned by the judge this morning about any inappropriate contacts. The juror said that she had turned on a television and seen coverage of the trial but had quickly turned it off, and that she had not responded to a relative who texted her one day and said it looked like a “bad day” in court. The judge found that she had not acted inappropriately.

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April 9, 2021, 11:49 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 11:49 a.m. ET

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Reporting from Minneapolis

The court is taking a short morning break. Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a pathologist called by the prosecution to discuss the cause of George Floyd’s death, will resume her testimony at 11:15 a.m. Central time.

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April 9, 2021, 11:45 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 11:45 a.m. ET

Sheri Fink

Dr. Thomas is explaining that a medical examiner’s determination of the manner of death — in this case homicide — is distinct from the determination of a cause of death. Manner of death is generally one of five choices: natural, accident, suicide, homicide or undetermined. Homicide, in the medical context, refers to a death at the hands of another person or other people. It is not a criminal determination — that is up to the courts, as in this case.

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April 9, 2021, 11:51 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 11:51 a.m. ET

Sheri Fink

Immediately following that, there was a discussion of whether a particular exhibit could confuse the jury between the medical definition of homicide and the legal definition.

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April 9, 2021, 11:39 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 11:39 a.m. ET

By The New York Times

Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist who also trained the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Mr. Floyd, testified that Mr. Floyd did not die of a fentanyl overdose or a pre-existing heart condition, as the defense has indicated.

As a forensic pathologist, I know from hundreds of families describing what happened at the time of death that this death does not fit what has been described in someone who dies of a cardiac arrhythmia from arteriosclerotic heart disease and likewise hypertensive heart disease. Those tend to be cardiac arrhythmias, sudden cardiac deaths. This is not that kind of death. Likewise, fentanyl intoxication, as I described — and again, I don’t treat patients. I don’t see living people — but what I know from family members who describe deaths that then later turn out to be due to fentanyl, the death is slow, it’s peaceful. They fall asleep. They may hear snoring or very heavy breathing. There’s no struggle. They just often are found, just kind of slumped over. It’s a very slow death.

Dr. Thomas also said that police actions during Mr. Floyd’s arrest led to his death:

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

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April 9, 2021, 11:34 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 11:34 a.m. ET

Sheri Fink

Now Dr. Thomas is discussing something new, another secondary mechanism of death that she refers to as “physiological stress” — the kind you feel if you’re about to be in a car crash. But instead of fearing for your life for a second, she said, in this case it went on for more than nine minutes.

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April 9, 2021, 11:38 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 11:38 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

This is key because the defense has referred to the “adrenaline flowing through his body” as a contributor to his death. But Dr. Thomas is attributing the adrenaline to his situation, not to “excited delirium” or other theories the defense might advance.

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April 9, 2021, 11:38 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 11:38 a.m. ET

Sheri Fink

She says the reason this is relevant is that the physiological stress increased the demand on Mr. Floyd’s heart, lungs and muscles, which were already stressed by his restraint. “It’s kind of a double whammy to his heart and lungs” and whole system.

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April 9, 2021, 11:25 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 11:25 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

Dr. Thomas is explaining what she sees in autopsy photos of Floyd. The photos are being shown to the jury and spectators in the court, but not publicly — presumably because the judge thinks they are too gruesome to show on television.

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April 9, 2021, 11:30 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 11:30 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

I believe this is the first time I have seen them physically hand out the exhibits rather than displaying them on the screen.

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April 9, 2021, 11:17 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 11:17 a.m. ET

Sheri Fink

Dr. Thomas, commenting on the fact that the word “asphyxia” does not appear on the death certificate, said she likewise avoids using that word because it requires too much explanation. One medical examiner I interviewed said that forensic pathologists refine the way they report their findings over the course of their careers to ensure that the public and people in the legal system, who may be reading what they write, better understand it.

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April 9, 2021, 11:11 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 11:11 a.m. ET

Sheri Fink

George Floyd’s death certificate mentions “other contributing conditions” including heart disease and the presence of fentanyl and methamphetamine. Dr. Thomas explained that medical examiners document contributing factors mainly to help public health experts track deaths across a population. She said these were not the cause of death in Floyd’s case.

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April 9, 2021, 11:09 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 11:09 a.m. ET

By The New York Times

Dr. Lindsey Thomas, the forensic pathologist who helped train Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner who performed an autopsy on George Floyd, testified on Friday. Dr. Thomas said Mr. Floyd died of low oxygen caused by the arresting officers’ restraint and compression at the time of arrest:

Well, it’s kind of in two parts. So there’s the cardiopulmonary arrest, which doesn’t provide a lot of additional clarifying information because in a way, everyone dies of when your heart stops and your lungs stop — that’s cardiopulmonary arrest. But as a forensic pathologist, I would use cardiopulmonary arrest to differentiate it from a cardiac arrest. So this is not a sudden cardiac death, a sudden cardiac arrhythmia. This is a death where both the heart and lungs stopped working and the point is that it’s due to law enforcement’s subdural restraint and compression. That is kind of what ultimately is the immediate cause of death, is the subdural restraint and compression.

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April 9, 2021, 10:57 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:57 a.m. ET

Sheri Fink

Dr. Thomas said that George Floyd died because “he was not able to get enough oxygen in to maintain his bodily functions.” She said she came to that conclusion mainly from “evidence from the terminal events, the video evidence that show Mr. Floyd in a position where he was unable to adequately breathe.”

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April 9, 2021, 10:53 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:53 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

The question is, why did the prosecution want Dr. Thomas to explain the death certificate Dr. Baker issued? Did they think that he would not explain it as simply? Big questions about what he will say when he takes the stand today.

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April 9, 2021, 10:57 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:57 a.m. ET

John Eligon

Reporting from Kansas City

I know some have criticized prosecutors for calling too many experts. But I wonder if there is a cumulative effect of having so many testify that prosecutors hope will outweigh the defense experts. If the person who trained the medical examiner says George Floyd’s death was caused by the police, that seems to be a big deal.

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April 9, 2021, 10:51 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:51 a.m. ET

John Eligon

Reporting from Kansas City

Dr. Thomas is reinforcing not only the prosecution’s theory about the cause of death, but also the point that prosecutors have tried to get jurors to pay attention to — the video! Dr. Thomas said she needed to watch the video to really determine what led to George Floyd’s death.

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April 9, 2021, 10:52 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:52 a.m. ET

John Eligon

Reporting from Kansas City

As a reminder, the defense has said the case is about more than the video. The prosecution has said that it’s all in the video.

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April 9, 2021, 10:56 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:56 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

Medical examiners will always tell you that they cannot tell everything from simply examining the body. They need to know the circumstances of the death. In this case, the video is medically relevant information — without it, Dr. Thomas is saying, you might not be able to determine how he died.

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April 9, 2021, 10:50 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:50 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

The state is also trying to push back on the defense’s argument that Dr. Baker’s findings help Chauvin because he didn’t cite asphyxia. Dr. Thomas is essentially saying that Dr. Baker’s report was just a starting point, and that ultimately asphyxia was the mechanism of death.

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April 9, 2021, 10:50 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:50 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

Finally someone is breaking down the awkward syntax (at least to the lay person) of the autopsy cause of death: “What it means to me is that the activities of the law enforcement officers resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death.”

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April 9, 2021, 10:48 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:48 a.m. ET

John Eligon

Reporting from Kansas City

“The point is that it’s due to law enforcement subdual restraint and compression.” That’s a big statement from Dr. Thomas, basically saying Floyd’s death was caused by the police.

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April 9, 2021, 10:49 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:49 a.m. ET

Sheri Fink

Dr. Thomas clarified words in the medical examiner’s report that have confused many people. She said that “cardiopulmonary arrest” does not mean a heart attack.

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April 9, 2021, 10:44 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:44 a.m. ET
A defense lawyer, Eric Nelson, questioning a witness on Thursday.
A defense lawyer, Eric Nelson, questioning a witness on Thursday.Credit…Court TV still image, via Associated Press

On Friday the prosecution will present a key witness, but one who is potentially damaging to its case: the Hennepin County medical examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker.

Dr. Baker, a prominent figure in the forensic pathology community, found that George Floyd’s death was a homicide caused by “law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

On its face, that conclusion would seem to work very much in the prosecution’s favor. But Dr. Baker did not mention asphyxia, or deprivation of oxygen, in the autopsy.

According to a summary of “preliminary findings” written by county prosecutors before the state attorney general took over the case, “the autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation” — a summary that the defense may use to guide its questioning even though Dr. Baker did not include it in his final report.

Two forensic pathologists hired by the Floyd family, Dr. Michael Baden and Dr. Allecia Wilson, said asphyxia was the cause of death, and the prosecution is making the same assertion.

The state’s lawyers have taken the unusual step of distancing themselves from Dr. Baker. They did not use him as their lead medical witness — that was Dr. Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist who has written several books about the lungs and breathing. And in opening statements, Jerry Blackwell, a prosecutor, said that “cardiopulmonary arrest,” listed by Dr. Baker in the cause of death section of the death certificate, just means death. The defense lawyer, Eric J. Nelson, made the most of this, saying in his opening statement, “The state was not satisfied with Dr. Baker’s work.”

On Thursday, Dr. Tobin and another expert witness, Dr. William Smock, the police surgeon for the Louisville Metro Police Department, both cited oxygen deprivation as the cause of death for Mr. Floyd. Both said evidence of that would not have shown up on the autopsy report.

Dr. Tobin said he would not expect to find injury to the hypopharynx, a narrow section of the airway which he said had been compressed by the pressure on Mr. Floyd’s neck and the reduction of volume in his lungs. The absence of bruising on the neck from Derek Chauvin’s knee, he said, was not significant.

“Whenever I go to church, I sit on a hard bench. I don’t get bruising of my buttocks when I leave,” he said. “This was a static force, it’s not as if somebody is jamming against it. So you wouldn’t expect anything in the way bruising.”

Asked about low-oxygen deaths, Dr. Tobin said he would not expect them to leave a “fingerprint” on the autopsy.

“Does it mean that the person didn’t die from low oxygen?” the prosecutor, Mr. Blackwell, pressed him.

“No, absolutely not,” he said. “So if you take somebody and you suffocate them with a pillow and it’s very clear to you, after you suffocated the person and he’s dead from the pillow, you’re not going to see the effects of the low oxygen.”

Similarly, Dr. Smock said he teaches students that strangulation may not show up on autopsies. “You can have someone put your biceps and forearm on either side of your neck and squeeze, render you unconscious, even kill you,” he said. “And you will never, ever see a bruise on the neck. And the reason is you’re applying a broad surface area, biceps and forearm, to a broad surface area.”

The first witness on Friday, Dr. Lindsey C. Thomas, a forensic pathologist who helped train Dr. Baker, was expected to underscore this point and explain that in over half of cases when people die of insufficient oxygen, the body tissues may show no signs of it.

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April 9, 2021, 10:39 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:39 a.m. ET

Sheri Fink

The prosecution is having Dr. Thomas describe the role of a medical examiner and also the limitations of that person’s expertise — for example, she agreed that measuring lung volumes or air reserves in a living person would not be in a forensic pathologist’s bailiwick. It’s possible that the prosecution is doing this to put into context what the jurors will hear later from the actual medical examiner in this case.

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April 9, 2021, 10:42 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:42 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

I think that’s exactly why the state called her. She is essentially saying that determining cause of death involves more than just the physical examination of the body, which is what the local medical examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, did in performing the autopsy. Notably, Dr. Baker did not cite asphyxia, and that has worried the prosecution.

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April 9, 2021, 10:46 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:46 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

Dr. Thomas said that she was involved in training Dr. Baker, the medical examiner, and that she is a friend of his. The state is trying to bolster Dr. Baker’s credibility while at the same time making the case that his autopsy findings — which did not cite asphyxia, which the state has said was the cause of Floyd’s death — do not preclude asphyxia.

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April 9, 2021, 10:47 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:47 a.m. ET

Sheri Fink

Dr. Thomas said she agreed with the medical examiner’s conclusion as to cause of death. She added that she believed the primary mechanism of death — which is distinct from the cause — was “asphyxia or low oxygen.”

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April 9, 2021, 10:26 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:26 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

Testimony begins with the state calling Dr. Lindsey C. Thomas, a forensic pathologist, to the stand. It is Day 2 of the state’s medical experts testifying about the cause of George Floyd’s death.

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April 9, 2021, 10:23 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:23 a.m. ET
Dr. Lindsey C. Thomas, a forensic pathologist, took the stand on Friday morning.
Dr. Lindsey C. Thomas, a forensic pathologist, took the stand on Friday morning.Credit…Still image, via Court TV

The state called Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist, to the stand on Friday morning to testify as an expert witness in the trial of Derek Chauvin.

Dr. Thomas helped train Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner who performed an autopsy on George Floyd, and was expected to speak about his findings.

She has more than 36 years of experience working in medical examiner’s offices. She now works as a consulting forensic pathologist and part time in medical examiners officers in Reno, Nev. and Salt Lake City, Utah. Dr. Thomas previously served as assistant medical examiner at the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office and the chief of the Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office.

She is licensed in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Nevada and Utah.

Dr. Thomas said Dr. Baker was a pathology resident when she was on staff at Hennepin County and she played a role in his training.

She has testified in court before, as a medical examiner and as an expert witness consultant :Dr. Thomas is not being paid for her testimony, she 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 help explain what I think happened,” she said.

In court, Dr. Thomas said she has performed more than 5,000 death investigations, which entail analyzing a deceased person’s past medical history, social history, family history, what happened around the time of their death, and a physical examination of the body.

Ahead of appearing in court, she said she reviewed materials from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, including the toxicology report, photographs, Mr. Floyd’s past medical records, bystander, surveillance and body camera videos.

“I’ve never had a case like this that had such thorough documentation of the terminal event,” she said.

Dr. Thomas said she agreed with Dr. Baker’s finding that the cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement’s subdual restraint and neck compression.”

That means, she said, that the “activities that the law enforcement officers resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death, specifically those activities were the surgical overstrained and neck compression.”

She added that the mechanism of Mr. Floyd’s death was “asphyxia or low oxygen,” a conclusion she said she reached primarily through review of video footage of Mr. Floyd’s final minutes. The autopsy, she said, was helpful for ruling things out, including a heart attack.

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April 9, 2021, 10:16 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 10:16 a.m. ET

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Reporting from Minneapolis

The judge said he and the lawyers had to deal with “one issue” before testimony begins. He has ordered that the audio and video be turned off, but the two reporters who are in the courtroom should be able to hear what’s happening and will fill us in shortly.

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April 9, 2021, 9:05 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 9:05 a.m. ET
Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner, determined that George Floyd died from “cardiopulmonary arrest.”Credit…Richard Sennott/Star Tribune, via Alamy

The Hennepin County medical examiner who performed the initial autopsy of George Floyd is expected to testify in Derek Chauvin’s trial on Friday, a prosecutor said, along with other medical expert witnesses who will discuss Mr. Floyd’s cause of death.

The medical examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, determined during his autopsy that Mr. Floyd died from “cardiopulmonary arrest” and declared his death a homicide.

The prosecution has signified that it believes that Dr. Baker’s diagnosis was vague; through the testimony of other medical witnesses, it has tried to convince jurors that Mr. Floyd died from asphyxia, or a deprivation of oxygen.

The witnesses on Friday will come on the heels of weighty testimony. On Thursday, two witnesses said a thorough review of video evidence gave no indication that Mr. Floyd died of an overdose. Instead, they concluded that he died from insufficient oxygen.

The defense of Mr. Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering Mr. Floyd, has sought to pin the cause of death on Mr. Floyd’s drug use and a heart condition. A toxicology report found fentanyl and methamphetamine in Mr. Floyd’s system, and pills recovered at the scene contained both of the same drugs.

But the argument that Mr. Floyd died from an overdose was rejected by Dr. Bill Smock, the surgeon for the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department, who said that Mr. Floyd’s behavior in the minutes before his death did not match those of the typical person who overdoses on fentanyl.

While pinned to the ground by Mr. Chauvin, Mr. Floyd appeared alert and aware, begging for breath and crying out to “Mama.” In a typical opioid overdose, Dr. Smock said, people slip out of consciousness without a fight. “That is not a fentanyl overdose,” he said. “That is somebody begging to breathe.”

Similarly, Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a pulmonologist and critical care physician from the Chicago area, said Mr. Floyd died from a lack of oxygen while Mr. Chauvin pinned him to the pavement for nine and a half minutes. “A healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died,” he said.

Dr. Tobin ran through the arrest in vivid detail, pinpointing what he believed to be key moments, including when Mr. Chauvin lifted his feet off the ground, further shifting his body weight onto Mr. Floyd, and the exact moment Mr. Floyd took his last breath.

“You can see his eyes — he’s conscious — and then you see that he isn’t,” Dr. Tobin said as he watched a bystander video of the arrest. “That’s the moment the life goes out of his body.”

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April 9, 2021, 7:47 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 7:47 a.m. ET
Dr. Martin Tobin answering questions during the ninth day of the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Dr. Martin Tobin answering questions during the ninth day of the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.Credit…Court TV still image, via REUTERS

It was a video everyone in the courtroom has been shown repeatedly, of George Floyd facedown on the street with Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck. But this time, it was slowed down so the jury could see the briefest widening of Mr. Floyd’s eyes — what the expert witness on the stand on Thursday said was his last conscious moment.

“One second he’s alive, and one second he’s no longer,” said the witness, Dr. Martin Tobin, adding, “That’s the moment the life goes out of his body.”

Dr. Tobin, a pulmonologist who specializes in the mechanics of breathing, presented the prosecution’s first extended testimony on a central question in the murder trial of Mr. Chauvin: how George Floyd died. “You’re seeing here fatal injury to the brain from a lack of oxygen,” Dr. Tobin said.

Dr. Tobin said that Mr. Chauvin and other police officers had restricted Mr. Floyd’s breathing by flattening his rib cage against the pavement and pushing his cuffed hands into his torso, and by the placement of Mr. Chauvin’s knees on his neck and back.

Leaning into the microphone, tie slightly askew, Dr. Tobin used his hands and elbows to demonstrate how people breathe. He gave anatomy lessons by asking jurors to palpate their own necks, and showed an artist’s rendering of how three officers, including Mr. Chauvin, had been positioned on Mr. Floyd.

Dr. Tobin said he had watched portions of the video evidence hundreds of times. He had calculated what he said was the exact amount of weight Mr. Chauvin had placed on Mr. Floyd’s neck (86.9 pounds), clocked Mr. Floyd’s respiratory rate and marked the instant he took his final breath: 8:25:15 p.m.

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April 8, 2021, 7:00 p.m. ETApril 8, 2021, 7:00 p.m. ET

The New York Times

Security is tight around the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial is taking place.

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April 7, 2021, 2:16 p.m. ETApril 7, 2021, 2:16 p.m. ET
A boarded-up bank building across the street from the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial of Derek Chauvin is taking place.
A boarded-up bank building across the street from the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial of Derek Chauvin is taking place.Credit…Jim Mone/Associated Press

Midway through the second week of the trial of Derek Chauvin, more than 20 witnesses have already taken the stand for the state. Next, the defense will present their witnesses, before the trial moves into closing arguments and, finally, jury deliberation.

Witness testimony is expected to last at least through the end of next week. On Friday, Judge Peter A. Cahill dismissed court early, saying that the trial was ahead of schedule.

Jury selection — eight days of intense questioning to potential jurors about their political biases and views on racism and policing — began on March 9. Ultimately, 12 jury members and two alternates were chosen.

Both sides delivered opening statements on March 29, which were followed by the prosecution calling their witnesses to the stand. Each witness is questioned by the state, then cross-examined by the defense. Questioning goes back and forth between the state and the defense.

Each side submitted a list of potential witnesses to the judge ahead of the trial: The state submitted the names of 363 potential witnesses, and the defense listed 212, but it’s unclear how many will actually appear.

Closing arguments could come as soon as the week after next, then the jury will begin deliberating. The jury can take as long as it needs to deliver a verdict.

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April 5, 2021, 2:24 p.m. ETApril 5, 2021, 2:24 p.m. ET

By Sean Plambeck

The Great Seal of the State of Minnesota displayed in Hennepin County District Court.
The Great Seal of the State of Minnesota displayed in Hennepin County District Court.Credit…Still image, via Court TV

During breaks or parts of the Derek Chauvin trial that cannot be broadcast, the camera delivering the live feed of the proceedings will often pan away to a copy of the Great Seal of the State of Minnesota that is affixed to the wall behind the judge.

For those wondering what they’re looking at, the phrase on the seal says, “L’Etoile du Nord,” which is French for “The Star of the North.”

As for the other images and symbols on it, the Minnesota secretary of state’s website says “the cultivated ground and plow symbolize the importance of agriculture” to the state while the Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls are featured as a nod to its natural resources.

There are also three examples of the state tree, known as the red pine or the Norway pine, and the stump in the foreground is a recognition of Minnesota’s timber industry. The sun at the horizon is said to be shining across the plains that cover much of the state.

“The American Indian on horseback represents the great American Indian heritage of the state,” the website adds, “while the horse, spear, ax, rifle and plow represent important tools that were used for hunting and labor.”

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March 29, 2021, 8:49 a.m. ETMarch 29, 2021, 8:49 a.m. ET
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How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody

The Times has reconstructed the death of George Floyd on May 25. Security footage, witness videos and official documents show how a series of actions by officers turned fatal. (This video contains scenes of graphic violence.)

It’s a Monday evening in Minneapolis. Police respond to a call about a man who allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Seventeen minutes later, the man they are there to investigate lies motionless on the ground, and is pronounced dead shortly after. The man was 46-year-old George Floyd, a bouncer originally from Houston who had lost his job at a restaurant when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Crowd: “No justice, no peace.” Floyd’s death triggered major protests in Minneapolis, and sparked rage across the country. One of the officers involved, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The other three officers have been charged with aiding and abetting murder. The Times analyzed bystander videos, security camera footage and police scanner audio, spoke to witnesses and experts, and reviewed documents released by the authorities to build as comprehensive a picture as possible and better understand how George Floyd died in police custody. The events of May 25 begin here. Floyd is sitting in the driver’s seat of this blue S.U.V. Across the street is a convenience store called Cup Foods. Footage from this restaurant security camera helps us understand what happens next. Note that the timestamp on the camera is 24 minutes fast. At 7:57 p.m., two employees from Cup Foods confront Floyd and his companions about an alleged counterfeit bill he just used in their store to buy cigarettes. They demand the cigarettes back but walk away empty-handed. Four minutes later, they call the police. According to the 911 transcript, an employee says that Floyd used fake bills to buy cigarettes, and that he is “awfully drunk” and “not in control of himself.” Soon, the first police vehicle arrives on the scene. Officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng step out of the car and approach the blue S.U.V. Seconds later, Lane pulls his gun. We don’t know exactly why. He orders Floyd to put his hands on the wheel. Lane reholsters the gun, and after about 90 seconds of back and forth, yanks Floyd out of the S.U.V. A man is filming the confrontation from a car parked behind them. The officers cuff Floyd’s hands behind his back. And Kueng walks him to the restaurant wall. “All right, what’s your name?” From the 911 transcript and the footage, we now know three important facts: First, that the police believed they were responding to a man who was drunk and out of control. But second, even though the police were expecting this situation, we can see that Floyd has not acted violently. And third, that he seems to already be in distress. Six minutes into the arrest, the two officers move Floyd back to their vehicle. As the officers approach their car, we can see Floyd fall to the ground. According to the criminal complaints filed against the officers, Floyd says he is claustrophobic and refuses to enter the police car. During the struggle, Floyd appears to turn his head to address the officers multiple times. According to the complaints, he tells them he can’t breathe. Nine minutes into the arrest, the third and final police car arrives on the scene. It’s carrying officers Tou Thao and Derek Chauvin. Both have previous records of complaints brought against them. Thao was once sued for throwing a man to the ground and hitting him. Chauvin has been involved in three police shootings, one of them fatal. Chauvin becomes involved in the struggle to get Floyd into the car. Security camera footage from Cup Foods shows Kueng struggling with Floyd in the backseat while Thao watches. Chauvin pulls him through the back seat and onto the street. We don’t know why. Floyd is now lying on the pavement, face down. That’s when two witnesses begin filming, almost simultaneously. The footage from the first witness shows us that all four officers are now gathered around Floyd. It’s the first moment when we can clearly see that Floyd is face down on the ground, with three officers applying pressure to his neck, torso and legs. At 8:20 p.m., we hear Floyd’s voice for the first time. The video stops when Lane appears to tell the person filming to walk away. “Get off to the sidewalk, please. One side or the other, please.” The officers radio a Code 2, a call for non-emergency medical assistance, reporting an injury to Floyd’s mouth. In the background, we can hear Floyd struggling. The call is quickly upgraded to a Code 3, a call for emergency medical assistance. By now another bystander, 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, is filming from a different angle. Her footage shows that despite calls for medical help, Chauvin keeps Floyd pinned down for another seven minutes. We can’t see whether Kueng and Lane are still applying pressure. Floyd: [gasping] Officer: “What do you want?” Bystander: “I’ve been –” Floyd: [gasping] In the two videos, Floyd can be heard telling officers that he can’t breathe at least 16 times in less than five minutes. Bystander: “You having fun?” But Chauvin never takes his knee off of Floyd, even as his eyes close and he appears to go unconscious. Bystander: “Bro.” According to medical and policing experts, these four police officers are committing a series of actions that violate policies, and in this case, turn fatal. They’ve kept Floyd lying face down, applying pressure for at least five minutes. This combined action is likely compressing his chest and making it impossible to breathe. Chauvin is pushing his knee into Floyd’s neck, a move banned by most police departments. Minneapolis Police Department policy states an officer can only do this if someone is, quote, “actively resisting.” And even though the officers call for medical assistance, they take no action to treat Floyd on their own while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Officer: “Get back on the sidewalk.” According to the complaints against the officers, Lane asks him twice if they should roll Floyd onto his side. Chauvin says no. Twenty minutes into the arrest, an ambulance arrives on the scene. Bystander: “Get off of his neck!” Bystander: “He’s still on him?” The E.M.T.s check Floyd’s pulse. Bystander: “Are you serious?” Chauvin keeps his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost another whole minute, even though Floyd appears completely unresponsive. He only gets off once the E.M.T.s tell him to. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, according to our review of the video evidence. Floyd is loaded into the ambulance. The ambulance leaves the scene, possibly because a crowd is forming. But the E.M.T.s call for additional medical help from the fire department. But when the engine arrives, the officers give them, quote, “no clear info on Floyd or his whereabouts,” according to a fire department incident report. This delays their ability to help the paramedics. Meanwhile, Floyd is going into cardiac arrest. It takes the engine five minutes to reach Floyd in the ambulance. He’s pronounced dead at a nearby hospital around 9:25 p.m. Preliminary autopsies conducted by the state and Floyd’s family both ruled his death a homicide. The widely circulated arrest videos don’t paint the entire picture of what happened to George Floyd. Crowd: “Floyd! Floyd!” Additional video and audio from the body cameras of the key officers would reveal more about why the struggle began and how it escalated. The city quickly fired all four officers. And Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder. Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting murder. But outrage over George Floyd’s death has only spread further and further across the United States.

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The Times has reconstructed the death of George Floyd on May 25. Security footage, witness videos and official documents show how a series of actions by officers turned fatal. (This video contains scenes of graphic violence.)

On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, after a convenience store employee called 911 to report that Mr. Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Mr. Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life.

By combining videos from bystanders and security cameras, reviewing official documents and consulting experts, The New York Times reconstructed in detail the minutes leading to Mr. Floyd’s death. Our video shows officers taking a series of actions that violated the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department and turned fatal, leaving Mr. Floyd unable to breathe, even as he and onlookers called out for help.

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March 29, 2021, 8:15 a.m. ETMarch 29, 2021, 8:15 a.m. ET
Patrons and employees at Urban Touch Barbers & Salon watch the trial of Derek Chauvin on televisions.
Patrons and employees at Urban Touch Barbers & Salon watch the trial of Derek Chauvin on televisions.Credit…Aaron Nesheim for The New York Times

The trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd is unusual for many reasons: It is being livestreamed from Minneapolis, attendance is severely limited because of the coronavirus and the public’s interest in the case may make this one of the highest-profile trials in recent memory.

The trial can be watched on nytimes.com, via a livestream provided by Court TV, which is also airing the trial in full. Witness testimony and lawyers’ presentations of evidence should last several weeks before the jury begins to deliberate over the verdict.

Among the people allowed in the courtroom, on the 18th floor of the Hennepin County Government Center, are: the judge, jurors, witnesses, court staff, lawyers, Mr. Chauvin and only a handful of spectators.

The judge, Peter A. Cahill, wrote in an order on March 1 that only one member of Mr. Floyd’s family and one member of Mr. Chauvin’s family would be allowed in the room at any time. Two seats are reserved for reporters, and various journalists, including from The New York Times, are rotating throughout the trial.

The lawyers, spectators, jurors and witnesses are required to wear masks when they are not speaking. Spectators are prohibited from having any visible images, logos, letters or numbers on their masks or clothing, according to Judge Cahill’s order.

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