Apr 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Forensic pathologist: George Floyd died from neck restraint

A veteran forensic pathologist testified Friday that the position of George Floyd's body appeared to show he could not get enough oxygen before he died, and that "there's no evidence to suggest that he would have died that night except for the interactions with law enforcement."

Why it matters: Her testimony confirms autopsies that show Floyd died from "asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain," after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck for over nine minutes.

What she's saying: "In a case like this, you don't need an underlying [cause] because it's all included in the first line," said Lindsey Thomas, who has worked in dozens of Minnesota counties and performed over 5,000 autopsies. "It's all due to the law enforcement's subdual restraint and neck compression."

  • Thomas said death due to drug overdose was unlikely, noting that meth as a cause of death would look more like a full-blown seizure, which does not fit with Floyd's death. She added that the amount of meth in his system was "very low."
  • She also ruled out death caused by heart disease: "This is not that kind of death."
  • Though she declined to use the word asphyxia to describe Floyd's death — she said there is no autopsy test to show low oxygen — Thomas did note "there may be physical findings that are consistent with a cause of death that may result in low oxygen."
    • The ER doctor who treated Floyd testified last week his cause of death was most likely oxygen deficiency.
  • Of note: Every juror took notes when Thomas said "there was nothing sudden about his death," per the press pool.

Between the lines: In the cross-examination, defense focused on Floyd's heart, which Thomas called "slightly enlarged," and attempted to show the condition could have contributed to his death.

  • Her testimony nonetheless could make it difficult for Chauvin's defense to prove the argument that Floyd died from a heart attack or drugs.

The big picture: Several experts have taken the stand to testify that Chauvin's use of force was excessive and "deadly."

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with more details from the testimony.

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