George Floyd died because he was trapped in a “vice-like” restraint by officers and couldn’t get enough oxygen, a world renowned doctor has told a court.
The lung specialist gave dramatic testimony at the trial of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin on Thursday.
Chauvin, 45, was sacked after the fatal arrest of George Floyd, 46, on May 25 last year.
Dr Martin Tobin told the US court how "four main forces" led to Mr Floyd’s death:
- Because he was prone on the street
- He had handcuffs in place which were pushed up.
- Because he had a knee on his neck.
- And because he had a knee on his back and side.
The respected Irish-born doctor, who outside the hearing is described as a "supreme scholar", said Mr Floyd was "squeezed" and "squashed" between the officers and the street.
He said "shallow breaths" led to his death.
"It was almost as if a surgeon had gone in and removed the lung," he told the court.
The jury were shown the exact moment Mr Floyd died as the officer knelt on his neck.
The doctor pointed out the flickering of his eyes just before the “life goes out of his body”
“The knee remains on the neck for another three minutes and 27 seconds after he takes his last breath,” he told the court.
“After there’s no pulse, the knee remains on the neck for another 2 minutes and 44 seconds. After the officers found themselves there was no pulse.”
He testified that Mr Floyd showed signs of a brain injury five minutes before Derek Chauvin lifted his knee.
The prosecutor, Jerry Blackwell, asked ‘What is your opinion of the cause of Mr Floyd’s death?"
Dr Tobin replied: "Mr Floyd died from a low level of oxygen and this caused damage to his brain…an arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop."
He said it "has been called asphyxia" but he feels what "we are really talking about is a low level of oxygen".
The court heard Mr Floyd had existing health conditions including a tumour which can cause sudden deaths.
But the Dr added: “A healthy person subjected to what Mr Floyd was subjected to, would have died.”
Describing the effect of a knee on your neck, he said: "When you have to breathe through a narrow passageway, it's like breathing through a drinking straw, but it's much worse than that."
Talking about all the pressure on Mr Floyd, he said: "There was virtually very little opportunity for him to get any air to move into the left side of his chest.
"They are pushing the handcuffs into his back and pushing them high and on the other side you have the street. He’s against a hard asphalt street.
"His left side is in a vice. It’s totally been pushed in, squeezed in each side. He’s being squashed.
"The street is also playing a huge part."
He agreed with the prosecutor who described it as being “pancaked”.
The accused, he said, was knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck for 90 per cent of the nine minutes and 29 seconds filmed.
While his left knee was on Mr Floyd’s back for 57 per cent of the time.
He said low oxygen caused Mr Floyd brain damage within five minutes and three seconds.
"For four minutes and 51 seconds, from the time there was a knee on his neck, he made vocal sounds.
“You cannot speak without a brain being active," he said.
But he said you then see a seizure where Mr Floyd’s leg straightens out.
He said: "That is something we see as clinicians in patients when they suffer a brain injury as a result of a low level of oxygen."
The jury were also shown a picture of Mr Floyd pressing his knuckle against the wheel of the police car.
He explained: "This is extraordinarily significant because this tells you he has used up his resources and he is now literally trying to breathe with his fingers and knuckles…
“This is the only way to get air into his right lung."
And in another image his face is seen "rammed" into the road and Mr Floyd trying to "crank" up his chest to try and get hair.
The doctor told the jury to touch their necks as he tried to describe what happened to Mr Floyd.
The Judge told them they didn’t have to follow these instructions but almost all of them did.
Mr Floyd, 46, warned dozens of times he could not breathe as the officer knelt on his neck after he was arrested for allegedly using a fake $20 note.
Chauvin denies all charges against him which are second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Three other officers will face separate trials.
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