From our correspondent in the United States,
For the past two weeks, we have been witnessing a one-sided trial. But on Friday, one of the most important witnesses was called to the stand: the medical examiner who performed the autopsy of George Floyd. And if he repeated that the “immobilization” of the victim by Derek Chauvin and a “compression of the neck” was the main cause of his death, Andrew Baker also ruled that the heart problems of the victim and the drugs present in it. her body were “contributing factors” to her death. “The prosecution scored points for the first time in the trial,” said 20 Minutes attorney Ted Sampsell-Jones. Who judges however that “the file of the prosecutors is solid”.
The forensic pathologist first did the text explanation. In his report, he listed as the cause of death, on the same line, “cardiopulmonary arrest” and “immobilization by the police, compression of the neck”, linking them by a strange grammatical form, “complicating “(And not” complicated by “). Translation by the person concerned: it means that “George Floyd’s heart and breathing stopped” and that it happened “as a result” of the action of the police.
George Floyd’s heart did not “bear” the weight of the police
Jerry Blackwelll, one of the prosecutor’s team, then had the doctor list all the injuries found, including an abrasion of the cheek and left shoulder “corresponding to the pressure exerted” by the police, notes l ‘expert. Who did not find fragment of pill in the stomach of George Floyd, an important point whereas the defense assures that he “ingested” a pill during his arrest.
If he has listed a high presence of fentanyl in the body of George Floyd, as well as a cardiac hypertrophy and a partial obstruction of his coronary arteries in the “other important pathologies”, the forensic expert judges that they “n ‘ did not directly cause ”his death. It was then that he added: “In my opinion, the immobilization of the police and the compression of the neck was more than what Mr. Floyd could take, considering the condition of his heart. “
🔴 “In my opinion, the immobilization of the police and the compression of the neck was more than what Mr. Floyd could take given the condition of his heart,” said the medical examiner. End of sentence on the heart potentially important for defense#ChauvinTrial pic.twitter.com/Sld5t5Y3ig
– Philippe Berry (@ptiberry) April 9, 2021
Feeling himself on dangerous ground, Jerry Blackwelll does not go on forever. He completed his questioning in 45 minutes. The day before, the testimony of the pulmonologist who had overwhelmed the police had lasted nearly 3 hours.
Derek Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, does not miss the opportunity during the cross-examination (cross-examination):
“Do you think his heart disease, high blood pressure and drugs played a role in Mr. Floyd’s death?”
– In my opinion, yes.
Nelson goes on to highlight many details of the autopsy report in an attempt to put the pressure exerted by the police into perspective. The coroner did not find any subcutaneous or muscle bruises on George Floyd’s neck or back. He also did not detect any brain damage or injuries sometimes associated with asphyxiation. Visibly uncomfortable, the doctor explains that “there is not always” and that it “depends on the types of asphyxia”. He half-heartedly acknowledges that fentanyl can slow breathing but points out that George Floyd, addict for years, arguably had a “high tolerance”. The day before, a renowned pulmonologist had categorically ruled out an overdose.
The prosecutor, who has the privilege of concluding an interrogation, tries to limit the damage. He recalls that the coroner concluded that there was a “homicide”. And Andrew Baker repeats it: George Floyd’s drugs and arteries “were not direct causes” of his death “but contributing factors”.
Secondary factors that can sow doubt
“Even if the prosecution’s case is overall very strong, the medical evidence on the cause of death is becoming its greatest weakness,” Judge Ted Sampsell-Jones. According to him “the jury has witnessed an equivocal testimony of the lawyer and begins to see why the prosecutors have distanced themselves by relying heavily on external experts”.
Derek Chauvin has been charged with three charges ranging from manslaughter to (unintentional) second degree murder ”. Having no history, he risks between 10 and 15 years of imprisonment. There is no exact equivalent in French law but the closest is “violence causing death without intention to give it”. Sampsell-Jones explains, “If the prosecution were to prove that Chauvin’s actions were the sole, or even the main, cause of death, the case would be in jeopardy. But she just has to prove it was a substantial cause. Richard Frase, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, nods. “From a causal standpoint, it doesn’t matter, in my opinion, to say that a healthier person would not have died, as long as Chauvin’s actions represent a substantial cause. “
Ted Sampsell-Jones concedes, however, that these secondary factors could “rise to the level of a reasonable doubt” in the minds of the jury. And Richard Frase recalls: “In the United States, a jury does not have to give an explanation on a verdict”, which must be pronounced unanimously by the twelve jurors. “It is always possible to have a single juror with a reasonable doubt. If this were the case, we would witness a mistrial, the trial would be called off. The prosecutor would then have to decide whether to drop the charges, request a new trial, or attempt to negotiate a plea deal. We should be fixed within four weeks.