George Floyd was diagnosed with COVID-19 prior to his death on May 25, 2020. He survived. Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds. He did not survive. While the prosecution continues to present that single act as Floyd’s cause of death, the defense is working to prove otherwise with expert witness testimony.
The Derek Chauvin murder trial continued on Tuesday and Wednesday with the defense presenting its case on the cause of George Floyd’s death. Of the many reasons mentioned, sudden death, carbon monoxide, and hypertension. Even Floyd’s stature has become part of the expert witness testimony.
Barry Brodd, Use of Force Expert
Peter Chang, Minneapolis Park Officer
Scott Creighton, Retired Hennepin County Paramedic
Dr. David Fowler, Forensic Pathologist
Shawanda Hill, Associate of George Floyd
Michelle Moseng, Retired Minneapolis Paramedic
Shawanda Hill, an associate of Floyd, was in the car with him before his death on May 25, 2020. On Tuesday, Hill testified that Floyd was asleep when store clerks approached the car to confront him about an alleged counterfeit $20 bill.
The Blame Game
Former Minneapolis police officer, Scott Creighton testified that he pulled his service weapon on Floyd during a May 2019 traffic stop when he couldn’t see Floyd’s hands. Mr. Floyd could be heard pleading with the officer to not shoot him.
A retired Minneapolis paramedic, Michelle Moseng also took the stand to provide details of Floyd’s condition after the 2019 arrest. During her testimony, Moseng said that Floyd had been taking a form of opioid, had hypertension, and had not been taking his medication. Judge Peter Cahill informed the jury that any mention of drugs is intended to show the effects of ingesting opioids on Floyd’s wellbeing, not to reflect the character of Mr. Floyd.
Retired forensic pathologist, Dr. David Fowler testified that the primary cause of Floyd’s death was cardiac arrest, caused by a combination of police restraint, and Floyd’s heart condition. Fowler also listed drugs and exposure to carbon monoxide from the car nearby as contributing factors. “In my opinion, Mr. Floyd had a sudden cardiac arrhythmia,” said Fowler.
“His significant contributory conditions would be; since I’ve already put the heart disease in part one; he would have the toxicology, the fentanyl, and methamphetamine. There is exposure to vehicle exhaust, so potentially carbon monoxide poisoning or at least an effect from increased carbon monoxide in his bloodstream.”
“Mr. Floyd was a very tall, robust-looking individual,” said Fowler. “So, I would expect him to have a larger heart.” Fowler followed with data on the Mayo study, which measures the size of adult males who have died. Height and weight are factors in the study, which tops out at 510 grams. “Bottom line is, he has an enlarged heart.”
Barry Brodd, a former police officer, said that he was served as a use-of-force expert in more than 140 cases, including the trial of the former Chicago police officer who shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
“I felt that Derek Chauvin was justified, was acting with object reasonableness following Minnesota police department policy and current standards of law enforcement in his directions with Mr. Floyd,” said Brodd. “I felt that that level of resistance exhibited by Mr. Floyd justified the officers and higher levels of use of force that they chose not to select.”
Additionally, Brodd stated that he does not consider the prone position as use of force.
Officer Peter Chang was nearby at the time of Floyd’s arrest at Cup Foods. Chang went to the scene after hearing a request for assistance on his radio. Chang testified about the growing crowd of onlookers at the scene “becoming more loud and aggressive.” Chang says he was concerned about the safety of the officers.
Find out more about the trial here.
Monique Wingard is an entrepreneur, educator, and doctoral student in communication, culture, and media studies. Follow her on Instagram @moniquewingard.