On Monday, April 12, the courtroom had a lighter tone and line of questioning from the prosecution—for a moment. Philonise Floyd, the younger brother of George Floyd was called to the stand. Mr. Floyd shared intimate details about his brother, from growing up in the Cuney Homes housing project in the Third Ward to excelling as a college athlete at South Florida Community College. The jury was shown photos showcasing George Floyd’s life and the his impact on the lives of those who loved him most, family.
On May 30, 2018, Philonise recalls seeing his older brother George at the funeral of their mother, Larcenia. It would be the last time he saw his brother, alive.
Dr. Jonathan Rich, Cardiologist, Northwestern
Philonise O’Neal Floyd, George Floyd’s Brother
Seth Stoughton, Professor, University of South Carolina Law School
According to Dr. Jonathan Rich, coronary heart disease is common. “I can state with a high degree of medical certainty that [Floyd] did not die from a primary cardiac event, and he did not die from a drug overdose.”
The defense lists drug addiction and hypertensive heart disease as a significant contributors to Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020. However, Dr. Rich said that while it should be treated, high blood pressure is not in itself, a heart condition.
“High blood pressure in itself is not a heart condition,” said Rich. “If you have a strong heart you can also generate high blood pressure.” Dr. Jonathan Rich, a medical school professor at Northwestern University added that Floyd had “an exceptionally strong heart.”
Throughout the prosecution’s questioning, Dr. Rich noted that he also never discovered a diagnosis or any medical history of Mr. Floyd suffering a previous heart attack.
“Mr. Floyd died a “gradual death,” said Rich. “It would not be considered a classic sudden death.”
Just Leave Him
As Dr. Rich continued his testimony, the prosecution play footage of Floyd in the prone position. A Minneapolis police officer could be heard saying, “No, just leave him.”
When it was determined that Floyd no longer had a pulse, Dr. Rich said the immediate response would be to relieve Floyd of the restraint and begin basic life support.
“There is a significant opportunity to save a life,” said Dr. Rich. “But for every minute that transpires that you are not performing the basic life support and CPR measures, the literature would suggest an approximately 10 to 15 percent less chance of survival.”
When asked if Floyd’s death was preventable, Dr. Rich responded, “I believe Mr. Floyd’s death was absolutely preventable.”
According to Dr. Rich, the final determination for cause of death is cardiopulmonary arrest, lack of oxygen.
A Reasonable Officer
Seth Stoughton, a law professor from University of South Carolina took the stand and provided guidance on how a “reasonable officer” would have handled the fatal arrest of Floyd.
“Given the range of other alternatives available to the officer, it’s just not appropriate to prone someone who is at that point cooperative,” said Stoughton. “No reasonable officer would have believed that [the restraint used on Floyd] was appropriate, acceptable or reasonable force.”
Find out more about the trial of Derek Chauvin and past updates here.
Monique Wingard is an entrepreneur, educator, and doctoral student in communication, culture, and media studies. Follow her on Instagram @moniquewingard.