Key Moments Entering Day 9 of the Derek Chauvin Trial
Here’s what you need to know:
The trial of the former officer Derek Chauvin will continue on Thursday after a day of testimony focused on Mr. Floyd’s drug use on the day of his death. Mr. Chauvin’s defense has tried to argue that Mr. Floyd died from a possible overdose, but the prosecution blames the actions of Mr. Chauvin, who pinned Mr. Floyd with his knee for about nine and a half minutes.
Here are some key takeaways as Day 9 of the trial began.
A pulmonologist says Mr. Floyd ‘died from a low level of oxygen.’
Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a pulmonologist and critical care physician from the Chicago area, was the first witness prosecutors called to the stand in the Derek Chauvin trial on Thursday.
When the prosecutors asked if he had formed a medical opinion on what had caused George Floyd’s death, Dr. Tobin said, “Mr. Floyd died from a low level of oxygen, and this caused damage to his brain that we see, and it also caused a P.E.A. arrhythmia because his heart stopped,” referring to pulseless electrical activity, or cardiac arrest.
The low level of oxygen was caused by “shallow breathing,” he said. Mr. Floyd’s prone position and being handcuffed and Mr. Chauvin’s knee on his neck and back contributed to his shallow breathing.
“He’s jammed down against the street,” he added, “and so the street is playing a major role in preventing him from expanding his chest.”
The testimony was an attempt to discredit defense arguments that Mr. Floyd’s drug use contributed to his death.
Dr. Tobin also showed two photos of Mr. Floyd’s finger and knuckles digging into the street and a police car’s tire. “To most people this doesn’t look terribly significant. But to a physiologist this is extraordinarily significant because this tells you that he has used up his resources and he is now literally trying to breathe with his fingers and knuckles,” adding that he was “using his fingers and his knuckles against the street to try to crank up the right side of his chest. This is his only way to try to and get air into the right lung.”
An expert said no force was needed once Mr. Floyd was subdued.
On Wednesday, a use-of-force expert, Sgt. Jody Stiger, who works with the Los Angeles Police Department Inspector General’s Office, testified that “no force should have been used” once Mr. Floyd was subdued, handcuffed and facedown on the pavement. The sergeant also said that Mr. Chauvin put Mr. Floyd at risk of positional asphyxia, or a deprivation of oxygen.
“He was in the prone position, he was handcuffed, he was not attempting to resist, he was not attempting to assault the officers — kick, punch, or anything of that nature,” Sergeant Stiger told prosecutors.
Responding to questions from the defense, Sergeant Stiger said that Mr. Floyd resisted arrest when officers tried to put him in the back of a squad car. In that moment, Mr. Chauvin would have been justified in using a Taser, Sergeant Stiger said.
There was contradictory testimony about Mr. Floyd’s drug use.
Asked to interpret footage from a police body camera on Wednesday, Senior Special Agent James D. Reyerson of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension initially said Mr. Floyd appeared to say, “I ate too many drugs.” But in later testimony, Mr. Reyerson changed his assessment and said Mr. Floyd had actually shouted, “I ain’t do no drugs.”
His revised judgment could chip away at Mr. Chauvin’s defense, which has tried to argue that Mr. Floyd died from complications of drug use, not the actions of Mr. Chauvin. A toxicology report found methamphetamine and fentanyl in Mr. Floyd’s system.
Pill fragments with Mr. Floyd’s DNA were found in a squad car.
McKenzie Anderson, a forensic scientist with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, processed the squad car that Mr. Floyd was briefly placed in on the night he died. An initial processing found no drugs in the vehicle, she said, but during a second search requested by Mr. Chauvin’s defense team in January, the team discovered fragments of pills with DNA matching Mr. Floyd’s.
Breahna Giles, another forensic scientist with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, testified that some of the pills recovered at the scene were tested and found to contain methamphetamine and fentanyl. They were marked with letters and numbers that indicate pharmaceutical-grade acetaminophen and oxycodone, though illicit pills are sometimes marked by drug dealers to give the false impression that they came from a pharmacy.