George Floyd death caused by law enforcement, expert tells court

Former police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial accused of the murder of George Floyd. Credit: AP

George Floyd's death was caused by the manner in which he was restrained by police officers, an expert has told the court during Derek Chauvin’s murder trial.

Mr Floyd died after the officer knelt on his neck following his arrest for trying to use a counterfeit note at a convenience store.

Dr Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist who retired in 2017 from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office, told the court: “This is a death where both the heart and lungs stopped working.

"The point is, it’s due to law enforcement subdual, restraint and compression."

Chauvin's defence team claim Mr Floyd's drug use or heart disease killed him.

The autopsy itself ruled out heart attack, aneurysm and other causes, and Dr Thomas said it was not a drug overdose death, either.

George Floyd died after a police officer knelt on his neck. Credit: Twitter/@AttorneyCrump

“There is no evidence to suggest he would have died that night except for the interactions with law enforcement,” she testified.

The chief county medical examiner Dr Andrew Baker said Mr Floyd died from cardiopulmonary arrest complicated by the way police restrained him and compressed his neck as he lay on the pavement last May.

Dr Thomas said she agreed with Dr Baker’s findings, but she went further in specifying Floyd died of asphyxia. She said that there was nothing in Mr Floyd’s autopsy that noted that, but she said that is not uncommon.

Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter over Mr Floyd’s death on May 25 last year.

Bystander video of Mr Floyd crying that he couldn’t breathe as onlookers yelled at the white officer to get off him sparked protests and scattered violence around the US.

Chauvin's attorney Eric Nelson has argued that the now-fired white officer did what he was trained to do and was not responsible for Mr Floyd’s death.

Mr Floyd had high blood pressure and heart disease, and an autopsy found fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system.

Dr Thomas said she believed Mr Floyd’s heart was “slightly” enlarged under cross-examination.

Mr Floyd’s death certificate listed certain contributing conditions: narrowed arteries, high blood pressure, fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use. But Dr Thomas said that they did not directly cause his death and that such factors are commonly included on death certificates to inform public health officials.

Also on Friday, Judge Peter Cahill called in a juror and questioned her about whether she had been subject to any outside influences. She replied that she briefly saw TV coverage with the sound off and said that her mother-in-law had texted her: “Looks like it was a bad day” but that she didn’t reply.

The judge allowed her to remain on the jury.

The trial continues.