Medical Expert Testifies George Floyd Died From Asphyxia -- Not Drugs

by Julie Scagell
CBS News/Youtube

Tobin’s testimony was in direct opposition to the prosecution’s claims that Floyd died from drugs

A doctor who has spent his career in respiratory medicine testified in court Thursday that George Floyd died of asphyxia. This was a result of being handcuffed facedown on the street and having former officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck.

Dr. Martin Tobin, who has studied respiratory physiology for 40 years, said Floyd died of a “low level of oxygen,” after he was caught in a “vice” between Chauvin and the street. Tobin is a critical care physician, pulmonologist, author, and academic recognized as an expert in acute respiratory failure, mechanical ventilation, and neuromuscular control of breathing. After 20 minutes of reading off Tobin’s credentials, I feel sorry for the person who dares to cross-examine him.

“This caused damage to his brain,” Tobin testified, “and it also caused a [pulseless electrical activity] arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop.” Tobin also pointed out that the way Floyd’s body was positioned did not allow him to intake any air into his lungs. “He’s turned prone on the street, that he has the handcuffs in place combined with the street, and then that he has a knee on his neck, and that he has a knee on his back,” Tobin said.

In a particularly heartbreaking moment during his testimony, Tobin also pointed out in the witness video that one of Floyd’s fingers can be seen pushing into the street and one of his knuckle’s pressing into the back tire of the police car. He was “literally trying to breath with his fingers and knuckles,” Tobin said while pointing to the video.

At the same time, Chauvin was placing his bodyweight on Floyd, pointing out to jurors in the video that the toe of his boot off the ground, which meant “more than half of his bodyweight” was coming directly onto Floyd’s neck. Tobin said Floyd’s struggle to survive was similar “to breathing through a drinking straw but it’s much worse than that,” painting a picture of just how horrifying the final minute’s of George Floyd’s life was.

“It was almost to the effect that if a surgeon had gone in and removed the lung,” he said solemnly. “Very little opportunity for him to be able to get any air to move into the left side of his chest.”

The pulmonary expert also told the jury that for nearly five minutes, Floyd is still speaking, which shows “that his oxygen levels were enough to keep his brain alive.” After that time, Tobin counted the final breaths that Floyd took, one by one. Chauvin continued to kneel on him for three additional minutes, looking emotionless into the growing crowd of stunned onlookers.

The prosecuting attorney pushed Tobin further on the claim that opioids, fentanyl, and methamphetamine, which were found in Floyd’s system during his autopsy, contributed to his death. Tobin told the jury that the signs Floyd gave in his last moments of life were not consistent with the claims that drugs caused his death.

“A healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died,” Tobin said. If there is anyone still on the fence about Floyd’s manner of death, Tobin’s testimony should put an end to it.