George Floyd 'died from lack of oxygen', leading breathing expert tells trial, as Derek Chauvin watches on

April 08, 2021

A world-renowned breathing expert has told the George Floyd murder trial that the 46-year-old died from "lack of oxygen".

Dr Martin Tobin, a lung and critical care specialist from Chicago, said in his testimony at the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin that Mr Floyd's breathing was too shallow to take in enough oxygen while he was pinned facedown with his hands cuffed behind his back for around nine-and-a-half minutes.

Watch and follow live coverage as Derek Chauvin stands trial for murder

He said he had watched footage of the arrest "hundreds of times" to help make a diagram of where the officers were positioned in relation to Mr Floyd when he was on the ground.

The diagram (seen above) was presented to the jury and shows Chauvin's left knee on Mr Floyd's neck and his right knee on his arm and chest.

Dr Bill Smock, an emergency doctor who works in forensic medicine, supported Dr Tobin's conclusions.

A police surgeon for the Louisville Metro Police Department, he is an expert in asphyxia - or strangulation - and also told the trial Mr Floyd died because "he had no oxygen left in his body".

Both doctors' evidence came just a day after a use-of-force expert also said Chauvin had his knee on Mr Floyd's neck area - and for the entire time he was being pinned down.

And on Thursday the jury was shown an image of the move.

In the photo, the toe of Chauvin's boot is off the ground.

Dr Tobin said that meant all of the ex-officer's body weight was "being directed down onto Mr Floyd's neck", at this point in the arrest.

This was calculated at 91.5 lbs.

Dr Tobin told the court on Thursday that the positioning of handcuffs at Mr Floyd's back as he was arrested, and the fact that he was face down on the street, was key evidence.

The handcuffs were pushed high into Mr Floyd's back through the actions of the officers, and he was effectively sandwiched between the street and the officers, putting his left side "in a vice", the court heard.

Dr Tobin said the effect on his left lung was deadly.

"Because of the knee that was rammed in against the left side of his chest... basically on the left side of his lung... it was almost... to the effect as if a surgeon had gone in and removed the [left] lung," he said.

"Not quite, but along those lines."

There was "very little opportunity" for Mr Floyd to get oxygen into his lungs, Dr Tobin added.

The jury was shown an image from Mr Floyd's arrest and asked to look at his fingers, which he appears to be pressing against the tyre of the police car he was pinned down next to.

Mr Floyd is using his fingers and knuckles to lift up his right side in a bid to get oxygen into his lungs, Dr Tobin says.

"In the left image you see [his hand] on the street. Over on the right you see his knuckle against the tyre.

"To most people this doesn't look terribly significant, but to a physiologist it's extraordinarily significant, because this tells you he has used up his resources and he's now literally trying to breathe with his fingers and knuckles."

Chauvin, 45, is charged with the second and third-degree murder and manslaughter of Mr Floyd, following his death on 25 May last year.

Mr Floyd had been arrested after being accused of trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes in a neighbourhood shop in Minneapolis.

The defence argues that drug use killed Mr Floyd and not Chauvin's actions.

Fentanyl was one of the drugs found in Mr Floyd's system during his post-mortem, and under questioning by prosecution lawyer Jerry Blackwell, Dr Tobin says typically people who have taken the drug do have a reduced respiratory rate, usually around 10.

But based on his analysis of Mr Floyd's breathing, he had a respiratory rate of 22 just before he lost consciousness, suggesting drugs were not the cause of death.

The trial continues.

George Floyd Killing: The Trial - Follow live continuous coverage of court proceedings in the trial of Derek Chauvin on our website, app, YouTube and Sky Pop Up Channel on 524

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