Pathologist: "There's No Evidence to Suggest" Cops Didn't Kill George Floyd
Updated: Apr 13, 2021
The past week in the courtroom inside the Hennepin County Government Center that hosts the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd has been a complicated, and at times, exceptionally frustrating one. It’s certainly been difficult to cover here at Move For Justice News as deep issues have been raised that demand some deeper analysis. Put bluntly, daily play-by-play has felt troubling and difficult for this writer, especially as much of the week was primarily devoted to testimony from various members of the Minneapolis Police Department at various levels of authority. All stated during direct examination from prosecutors that Chauvin’s actions against Floyd were unacceptable to MPD policy and criminal in action. Yet, as M4JN explored previously here [https://www.m4jn.org/post/totally-unnecessary-two-days-of-testimony-display-chauvin-s-indifference-to-george-floyd-s-life] testimony from Chauvin’s former colleagues failed to address the unwritten culture that exists in direct conflict with the values that everyone, from Chief Medaria Arradondo down, testified were central to MPD’s philosophy.
The dissonance inherent in this particular phase of the prosecution’s case, which will never serve to satisfy community demands for any type of police reform, requires additional investigation and groundwork, something that we hope to publish in the next few days (negative reactions to COVID-19 vaccinations notwithstanding). In the moment, it spoke to a clear condemnation on direct examination that felt less clear on cross examination. If there’s a spot where Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, has clearly succeeded in putting cracks in the prosecution’s case, it was working through series of hypotheticals with the various MPD witnesses to back up a key piece of his defense: the idea that a police’s judgement in a situation cannot be questioned by anyone but fellow police.
Although Nelson’s strategy has been fairly clear from the first day of jury selection, it was this week when it really coalesced into a comprehensive narrative. In hopes of creating reasonable doubt in a jury that has seen all or part of the video of Floyd’s murder from multiple angles now almost one hundred times, Nelson’s argument is that George Floyd died because of drugs and other health problems, and that because Derek Chauvin felt that both Floyd and the crowd represented a threat, he couldn’t do things to prevent Floyd from dying, because cops always have to weigh their safety vs. procedure.
As ridiculous as this defense appears from the outside looking in, Nelson doesn’t need to do much but convince a single juror that doubting Chauvin’s guilt is reasonable—a standard that becomes more and more subjective and irrational the more the trial focuses on exact facts and technical knowledge.
All this makes the absolutely unequivocable statements made by the medical/forensic experts who testified Thursday and Friday—best summed by Dr. Lindsey Thomas’s testimony that “there’s no evidence to suggest [George Floyd] would have died that night except for the interactions with law enforcement”—not only refreshing but a return to reality. On Thursday, Dr. Martin Tobin, a respected pulmonologist who agreed to forego payment for his testimony due to the importance of the trial, walked the jury in agonizing detail through Floyd’s final breaths, Chauvin’s knee still on his back. Dr. Bill Smock, surgeon for the Louisville (KY) Metro Police Department, ruled out drug overdose and Nelson’s looming specter of Floyd being dangerous due to “excited delirium” (a condition not universally accepted by the medical community). Much of Dr. Thomas’s direct testimony was based in debunking all the possible other reasons for Floyd’s death that Nelson has floated throughout the trial.
Throughout, these expert witnesses seemed unfazed and exasperated by Nelson’s cross-examination, in which he floated several hypotheticals that minimized or completely ignored facts from Floyd’s actual murder. Attorney for the State Jerry Blackwell even showed his irritation, comparing it to asking Abraham Lincoln’s wife to determine his death if his murder, John Wilkes Booth, hadn’t been there.
Friday finished with Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, on the witness stand. Dr. Baker’s autopsy report was a source of significant controversy last year since it didn’t explicitly state that Floyd died because he couldn’t breathe. In his testimony, Baker made it clear that his determination was that Floyd died because he was being restrained. While drugs were present, Baker didn’t include those in his cause of death. The only factor that he did include: Derek Chauvin and his fellow officers. Without them, Floyd would still be alive.