Testimony resumed Thursday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the fired Minneapolis officer charged in the death of George Floyd. Dr. Martin Tobin, an expert who specializes in pulmonology and critical care, was the first witness called to the stand.
Tobin, a Chicago-based physician who is a renowned expert on pulmonology (medical issues involving the lungs and respiratory system), testified that Floyd died of a low level of oxygen.
Tobin said Floyd’s “shallow breaths weren’t able to carry air through his lungs, down to the essential areas of the lungs that get oxygen into the blood and get rid of carbon dioxide.”
Tobin testified Floyd’s position was akin to being caught in a vise between the pressure from the officers atop him and the street below, interfering with his ability to expand his left lung. Tobin said the weight of Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck compressed his airway, also compromising his breathing.
His testimony on Floyd’s cause of death follows evidence presented Wednesday about Floyd’s drug use. A forensic scientist testified that she found Floyd’s blood and pills with Floyd’s DNA on them in the squad car where he struggled with officers.
The testimony is significant because Floyd’s cause of death has been a key point of dispute at the trial. The defense has suggested Floyd, who suffered from heart disease, died of a heart arrhythmia brought on by drugs he ingested. The prosecution argues Floyd died of oxygen deprivation from being pinned down under Chauvin’s knee.
Chauvin, who was seen in disturbing videos kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, is charged with second-degree murder,and second-degree manslaughter.
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty. The other three officers involved are charged with aiding and abetting, and are expected to be tried jointly in August.