Apr 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Medical examiner: Police restraint was "just more than Floyd could take"

The medical examiner who performed George Floyd's autopsy testified Friday that law enforcement's restraint and compression of Floyd's neck was "just more than [he] could take," given his heart's condition.

Why it matters: Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner, is a key witness "for prosecutors who hope to convince jurors that Derek Chauvin killed Mr. Floyd when he knelt on him for more than nine minutes last May," the New York Times writes.

Flashback: Baker last year ruled Floyd’s death a homicide and listed the cause as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

What they're saying: Baker testified he “intentionally” did not watch video of Floyd’s arrest prior to conducting the autopsy, saying he"did not want to bias my exam by going in with any preconceived notions that might lead me down one pathway or another."

  • In answering questions from the prosecution, Baker said Floyd's drug use and heart conditions were “contributing” factors but “not direct causes of Mr. Floyd’s death.”
  • “Mr. Floyd’s use of fentanyl did not cause the subdual or neck restraint. His heart disease did not cause the subdual or the neck restraint,” Baker testified.
  • “He has a heart that already needs more oxygen than a normal heart, by virtue of its size, and it’s limited in its ability to step up to provide more oxygen when there’s demand because of the narrowing of his coronary arteries,” Baker later said.
  • "In my opinion, the law enforcement subdual restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions,” he added.
  • He later noted that the police restraint of Floyd "tipped him over the edge."

Chauvin's defense attorney has argued it was the condition of Floyd's heart and drug use, not their defendant's knee, that ultimately led to Floyd's death.

  • While under cross-examination Baker agreed that Floyd's heart disease and drug use "played a role," he said they were not the primary cause of death.

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