Doctor Who Performed Autopsy Is Expected to Testify in Chauvin Trial

Testimony from a medical examiner would follow experts who emphasized that George Floyd died from a low level of oxygen. Here’s the latest on the trial.,

LiveUpdated April 9, 2021, 9:44 a.m. ETApril 9, 2021, 9:44 a.m. ET

Testimony from the Hennepin County medical examiner would follow medical experts who emphasized that Mr. Floyd died from a low level of oxygen.

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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, 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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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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