George Floyd’s heart problems and drug use are not “the direct causes” of his death, which was caused by the violence of his arrest, the forensic doctor who carried out his autopsy said Friday at the bar.
At the end of the second week of the trial of white policeman Derek Chauvin, accused of murder, this statement contradicts the thesis put forward by the officer’s defense.
The immobilization imposed by the police and the compression of his neck were “too much to bear for George Floyd, considering his heart condition”, explained Andrew Baker in the court of Minneapolis which judges Derek Chauvin, a white police officer of 45 years.
He is accused of having killed George Floyd on May 25, 2020 by keeping his knee on his victim’s neck for nearly ten minutes to prevent him from struggling.
George Floyd had repeatedly shouted “I can’t breathe” to the three policemen who kept him lying face down on the asphalt, his hands cuffed behind his back, putting pressure on his back, neck and ribs.
For the prosecution, this pressure caused the death of George Floyd, who gradually sank into unconsciousness from lack of oxygen before dying.
The scene, filmed live by passers-by, toured the world and caused a huge wave of anger against racism and police violence around the world.
The 40-year-old with the imposing build notably had a larger-than-normal heart due to hypertension, said Dr. Baker.
“So his heart needed more oxygen and he had a limited ability to speed up” because his coronary arteries were narrowed, he said.
Physical strain and pain “will trigger stress hormones, adrenaline will push your heart to beat faster to get more oxygen,” he explained.
But George Floyd’s heart gave out, unable to keep up with this pace and lacking oxygen.
No trace of Covid-19
Derek Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, argues that his client did not cause the death of the 40-year-old and that he died of an overdose combined with heart problems.
It is based on the presence of fentanyl, a potent opioid, and methamphetamine, a stimulant, discovered during the autopsy.
Consuming fentanyl can also cause oxygen deficiency by making it difficult to breathe.
Andrew Baker admitted that methamphetamine made the heart beat faster, while adding that a very small amount of the drug had been detected.
He also denied the thesis developed by the defense that George Floyd was depressed after being infected with the coronavirus.
“His lungs had no Covid scars,” he said.
Facing Eric Nelson, he said he had not found any trace of pressure on the back of George Floyd.
But the doctor confirmed that the death was homicide, meaning in medical terms “when someone’s actions are involved in the death of an individual”.
Previously, jurors had viewed photographs of the swollen face, shoulders and hands of George Floyd taken during the autopsy. These photos were put back in an envelope, the family being afraid of not putting up with them.
George Floyd’s brother, Rodney, remained unmoved as he looked at one of these photos for a long time.
“It’s tough, it’s tough,” George Floyd’s sister Bridgett told The Shade Room news site.
But “when this trial is over and Derek (Chauvin) is found guilty, we will have obtained justice for all the families” who were unable to obtain it for their loved ones, she said.
For the first time since the start of the debates two weeks ago, the seat reserved for the relatives of the former police officer was occupied on Friday, by a woman who has not been identified.
The trial is due to resume Monday with the last witnesses for the prosecution. The debates should last another week. The verdict is not expected before the end of April. Derek Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison.
The three other police officers involved in the death of George Floyd will be tried for complicity in murder in August.