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Derek Chauvin Trial, April 8: Lung Expert Says George Floyd Died From Low Level Of Oxygen

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Dr. Martin Tobin described what he says was the fatal combination of pressure on George Floyd’s neck and back from officers and on his chest from the concrete pavement, Esme Murphy reports (3:23) WCCO 4 News At 5 - April 8, 2021

Video Transcript

- Medical experts took the stand today in the ninth day of testimony in the Derek Chauvin trial. Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter in the May 2020 death of George Floyd. Video of the incident taken by outspoken bystanders sparked protests around the country. It shows Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck. The officers initially responded to a report of a fake $20 bill. In court today, a doctor used detailed images to explain why he thinks Floyd died from a lack of oxygen. Esme Murphy begins our team coverage with a closer look at the testimony of the breathing expert. Esme.

ESME MURPHY: Hi there, Emillio. Well, what we heard today was from a leading expert on pulmonary lung function. He's written what's considered the Bible of textbooks about it. And he gave remarkable testimony, breaking down at times second by second some of those now infamous body camera videos, describing what he says was George Floyd's fatal loss of oxygen.

MARTIN TOBIN: Mr Floyd died from a low level of oxygen.

ESME MURPHY: From there, Dr. Martin Tobin described what he says was the fatal combination of pressure on George Floyd's neck and back from officers. And on his chest from the concrete pavement.

MARTIN TOBIN: On the right image, you see his knuckle against the tire. And to most people, this doesn't look terribly significant. But to a physiologist, this is extraordinarily significant. He's using his fingers and his knuckles against the street to try and crank up the right side of his chest. This is his only way to try and get air to get into the right lung.

ESME MURPHY: He says Derek Chauvin's knee made that difficult.

MARTIN TOBIN: The toe of his boot is no longer touching the ground. This means that all of his body weight is being directed down at Mr Floyd's neck.

ESME MURPHY: Using animations and diagrams, Doctor Tobin charted Floyd's declining lung capacity and narrowing trachea. He discounted defense theories of Floyd's pre-existing medical conditions and drug use.


ESME MURPHY: He counted Floyd's respiratory rate as normal.

MARTIN TOBIN: With fentanyl, his respiratory rate should be down at around 10. Instead of that, it's right in the middle of normal.

ESME MURPHY: But the defense asked about the pills containing methamphetamine, fentanyl, and George Floyd's DNA that were found both in Floyd's car and the police squad car. And that the defense argues Floyd consumed.

ERIC NELSON: Is it fair to say that you would expect the peak fentanyl respiratory depression within about five minutes?

MARTIN TOBIN: Right. I mean, obviously it would depend on how much of it was ingested.

ESME MURPHY: And that led the prosecution to this comeback.

JERRY BLACKWELL: If somebody is suffering from a fentanyl overdose, you would see a depression in the respiratory system.


JERRY BLACKWELL: Did you see any depression in Mr Floyd's ability to breathe, whatsoever, before he went unconscious?

MARTIN TOBIN: No. Absolutely not.

ESME MURPHY: Now, late this afternoon, we did hear from a forensic scientist who testified that both fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in George Floyd's blood. We also heard from another medical doctor, yet another prosecution expert, who said he agreed with Dr. Tobin, that in his opinion, that George Floyd's death was caused by a lack of oxygen.

- A lot of information today, Esme. Thank you.