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 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.”
Will Wright and Andrés R. Martínez