From our correspondent in the United States,
George Floyd’s breath was short. The blood rushing to his brain became depleted of oxygen. George Floyd passed out. His heart stopped. He is dead. With thoroughness, a pulmonologist delivered a damning analysis Derek Chauvin and his colleagues, Thursday, on the 9th day of the trial of the former police officer. And he strongly questioned the thesis of the defense of a death in part caused by an overdose of fentanyl.
The pulmonologist Martin Tobin testifies (not paid):
– George Floyd “died of low oxygen level”
– who “damaged his brain”, caused an “arrhythmia which caused his heart to stop”
– factors: “lying on your stomach”, “handcuffed”, “knee on neck, back and side” #ChauvinTrial pic.twitter.com/BBNbqnSzy4
– Philippe Berry (@ptiberry) April 8, 2021
Martin Tobin, a renowned pulmonologist, is one of the experts called to the bar by the prosecution. He analyzed the 9 minutes and 26 seconds that George Floyd was pinned to the ground, his neck compressed by Derek Chauvin’s knee. The prosecutor stressed that he was not paid for his expertise, as is often the case, in order to dispel any doubt about his motives.
Death by suffocation
The expert insisted that George Floyd’s death was due to “low oxygen levels” caused by difficulty in breathing, which “damaged his brain and caused an arrhythmia which caused his heart to stop.” Although he does not like this ambiguous term, he concedes that some qualify the phenomenon “asphyxia” or “hypoxia”.
This low level of oxygen was caused, according to him, by “shallow breathing”, with “small breaths” limited by “the forces exerted” on George Floyd. The main ones being “the prone position against the pavement”, with the stomach compressing the lungs, the “handcuffed hands” with the arms behind him, and “one knee on his neck, one on his back and one on his back. side ”.
For the prosecution, it is a key testimony which confirms a second autopsy carried out at the request of the family of George Floyd, which concluded in a death by “asphyxiation”. The autopsy of the medical examiner, she concluded a more generic cause of “cardiopulmonary arrest”, however, listing “neck compression” as the main factor.
The overdose thesis rejected by the expert
Calm and precise, Martin Tobin guided the jury, in particular by commenting on several videos. He notes that at times, Derek Chauvin lifts his left foot off the ground, putting “half of his weight” on George Floyd, or about 45 kilos.
The defense tries to make him recognize that his conclusions are based “on many assumptions and estimates”. “Almost everything is calculable,” retorts the expert. Proof in support, he counts the breaths of George Floyd in the last moments, noting the jury that his handcuffed arms rise slightly with each breath. “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8”. This therefore represents a “normal respiratory rate” of 22 cycles per minute.
Clearly, George Floyd breathes less deeply but at a normal speed. For the expert, this is proof that he is not overdosing on fentanyl, as the defense claims based on the high level of this opioid measured in his blood. According to Martin Tobin, in the event of an overdose, “fentanyl slows the respiratory rate by about 40%”. A person in an overdose therefore breathes at a rate of about “10 cycles per minute”.
The expert estimates that George Floyd lost consciousness after six minutes of immobilization, at 8:25 p.m. Thirty seconds later, “there is no more oxygen in his body”. According to the pulmonologist’s calculations, Derek Chauvin therefore continued to maintain his knee on George Floyd’s neck more than three minutes after his last breath.