Former police chief: Chauvin case may not be the “slam dunk” media pundits, political opportunists think it is – here’s why

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN- The mainstream media, leftist politicians, Hollywood know-it-alls and much of the public do not feel that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin requires a trial.

After all, the video showing Chauvin kneeling for around nine minutes on what appears to be the neck of George Floyd is all they need to see.

Nothing else matters, don’t you know? It’s on the video!

While that may be true, the State of Minnesota is still required to conduct a trial, and Chauvin is entitled to a fair trial that examines all the evidence…not just a video.

A deep dive was posted on The Unz Review, an alternative news source, by Anastasia Katz. The following information was gathered in part from that source. 

On day ten of the trial, the prosecution called a forensic pathologist, Lindsey Thomas to the stand. Thomas described the field as “where medicine and the law meet.” As part of her work, Thomas works on unexpected and suspicious deaths; she is qualified to determine causes of death.

Thomas testified that pathologists look into factors such as a patient’s history, run lab tests and examine what else was occurring at the time of death. She said her job is to gather that information and determine a cause of death. Prosecutors reached out to her for Chauvin’s trial and she did it pro-bono.

Based on her examination, she concluded Floyd’s death was caused by “asphyxia”—low oxygen.

Floyd’s cause of death, on his death certificate was determined to be, “Cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression.”

Thomas said that everyone dies when their heart stops, and inclusion of that fact doesn’t mean that Floyd died of a heart attack, or other fatal arrhythmia.

When asked what was meant by “complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression,” Thomas said:

“What it means to me, is that the activities of the law enforcement officers resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death, and that specifically those activities were the subdual, the restraint and the neck compression.”

She testified those conclusions matched those of the medical examiner, with whom she used to work.

Thomas gathered her conclusions that Floyd died from asphyxia based on review of the video of his arrest. She said that due to the position police officers place Floyd in for an extended period of time, his “bellows” malfunctioned, leading to a lack of oxygen which ultimately led to his demise.

She said there was “no indication” that he had suffered a “sudden death.” She also ruled out a Fentanyl overdose as a cause of death, saying that people who overdose become very sleepy. She also ruled out methamphetamine, noting such deaths are sudden and cause “full-blown seizures.”

Both Fentanyl and Meth were listed as “underlying conditions,” as was “arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease.”

Thomas explained that such conditions are part of a sequence of events which leads to a death.

The question of positional asphyxia, a phenomenon where a combination of restraint position and adrenaline can in fact lead to death. She said the combination of position and physiological stress has been known to cause death in some people, although studies showed there weren’t necessarily relevant changes in either ventilation or oxygenation.

On cross examination, Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney asked Thomas to explain what “complicating” meant on Floyd’s death certificate. She said that means “both things were present,” referring to Floyd’s heart stopping and the compression put on him by police officers.

Nelson then rotated over to Floyd’s health, and the fact that he had an enlarged heart. Thomas testified that the primary cause of an enlarged heart his high blood pressure, and acknowledged that Floyd suffered from hypertension. An enlarged heart requires more blood and oxygen to function than a healthy one.

In addition, Floyd had a 90 percent blockage in his right coronary artery and a 75 percent blockage in his left artery. Nelson then asked Thomas if both of these facts had been present, and Floyd had died at home, would she have concluded Floyd died of coronary heart disease.

Thomas said yes while acknowledging that she had certified deaths of that nature before.

Nelson then asked Thomas about a study from the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, entitled “Incidence and outcome of prone positioning following police use of force in a prospective, consecutive cohort of subjects.” Thomas asked, “Was that the Canadian study?”

Nelson acknowledged it was, and noted that while the study wasn’t conducted in a controlled environment, an analysis of encounters with police as well as other variables were examined, and out of 1,000 arrests where suspects were placed in the prone position, not one died…not one.

Nelson moved on to the question of drugs, and Thomas acknowledged there is no safe amount of methamphetamine and it can in fact increase someone’s heart rate.

She also said she was aware that Floyd had likely ingested “speedballs,” which is a combination of Fentanyl and methamphetamine before he died. Thomas likewise acknowledged that some controlled substances can have an effect on the ability to breathe, which obviously leads to low oxygen.

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Mr. Nelson then asked Thomas if she found someone at home who had invested as much Fentanyl as Floyd had on the day he died, would she determine this to be an overdose. She said yes, she would.

See how the state’s case is falling apart?

When the medical examiner testified, he explained that he classified Floyd’s death as a “homicide,” while clarifying that this simply means that others’ actions are involved in the person’s death and clarified that on a death certificate, it is used as a medical term, not a legal term.

Many people have focused on the classification as a homicide, but even fatal motor vehicle accidents are classified as “vehicular homicides” by medical examiners.

Under cross examination, Baker was asked the same line of questioning with some of the same hypotheticals, to which Baker agreed with much of what Thomas had said.

He was also asked about the “Other Contributing Conditions” potion of the death certificate, and Baker testified that those conditions were relevant to Floyd’s death.

“We don’t put something on there [death certificate] that doesn’t play a role.”

Baker also acknowledged that being placed in the prone position has been shown by medical literature as not being “inherently dangerous.” This contradicted earlier testimony where some witnesses made the claim that the prone position is dangerous and causes positional asphyxia.

When asked about a past comment he had made that had Floyd been found at home with the same levels of Fentanyl in his system, where he said he would have “called Floyd’s death an overdose, Baker explained:

“I don’t recall specifically what I told the county attorney, but it almost certainly went something like this: Had Mr. Floyd been home alone in his locked residence with no evidence of trauma, and the only autopsy finding was fentanyl level, then yes, I would certify his death as due to fentanyl  toxicity. But again, interpretation of drug concentration is very context-dependent.”

Baker also acknowledged that he didn’t believe Chauvin had blocked Floyd’s carotid artery, and even if he had, the other artery would have provided blood to Floyd’s brain. He further said Chauvin’s knee was to the back of Floyd’s neck, and that doctors don’t see pressure to the back of someone’s neck as being causative of asphyxiation.

Some other highlights from the Chauvin case:

Dr. Bradford Langenfield, the emergency room physician who treated Floyd was asked by Nelson about Floyd’s high carbon dioxide levels, and whether it was possible that could be caused by Fentanyl, to which Langenfield answered in the affirmative.

“…the primary reason” Fenatanyl is so dangerous is that it depresses the lungs. A high CO2 level causes shortness of breath, even without stress. Langenfield also acknowledged that Fentanyl causes sleepiness. In his opening statement, Nelson said he would produce a witness who would testify that Floyd was very sleepy prior to the arrival of the Minneapolis PD.

Nelson showed Lt. Johnny Mercil of the Minneapolis PD a photo of a paramedic checking for a carotid pulse on Floyd by feeling the side of his neck, while Chauvin still had his knee in the area of his neck.

“In your experience, would you be able to touch the carotid artery if the knee was on the carotid artery?” Mercil replied, “No, sir.”

The defense team then showed a screenshot from one of the body cameras worn by Chauvin’s backups, which showed Chauvin holding Floyd down. Mercil agreed that Chauvin’s shin appeared to be across Floyd’s shoulder blade, not his neck.

Two other screenshots with different time stamps showed Chauvin’s shin across Floyd’s shoulder blade, not his neck.

Mercil was asked if he ever had to restrain someone for ten minutes in his career, and he acknowledged that he has held people in restraint while waiting for EMS, and that he had trained officers to do exactly that.

Nelson asked Minneapolis Police Chief Arradondo if he was familiar with a concept called “Camera Perspective Bias,” to which Arradondo said he was not. The concept refers to the fact that the point of view from which an incident is seen can change one’s opinion of it.

 At this point, two videos where played in court, separately and side-by-side. The side-by-side videos matched the timing of the two videos, so the same incident was available from two separate points of view.

One video was taken by 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, the one we have seen played thousands of time on the news, which frankly did give the appearance that Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck.

The second video was taken from the body camera of Officer J. Alexander Kueng, and showed Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s shoulder blade, a perspective which the chief agreed with. He said up until that time, he thought the knee has been on Floyd’s neck.

This is probably one reason why the prosecution has tried changing the narrative to Chauvin’s knee being on “Floyd’s neck area.”

You never know how things go with a jury, but this case is nowhere near the slam-dunk many people, cops included, thought it was originally. There is plenty of “reasonable doubt” to go around.

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