We earlier reported that the Criminal Complaint filed against Derek Chauvin in the George Floyd death containe a big problem for the popular and seemingly intuitive narrative that Chauvin’s extended knee pressure on Floyd’s neck was the cause of death.


[Via YouTube]

The Criminal Complaint, however, revealed that the Medical Examiner’s preliminary autopsy report found “no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.”

The Criminal Complaint (pdf.) read, in part (emphasis added):

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner (ME) conducted Mr. Floyd’s autopsy on May 26, 2020. The full report of the ME is pending but the ME has made the following preliminary findings. The autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.

The defendant had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive. Police are trained that this type of restraint with a subject in a prone position is inherently dangerous.

The reason this is important to the criminal case, in that if the knee pressure to the neck was not the cause of death itself, then the prosecution would have to show that the general restraint of Floyd was criminally negligent. Given an indication in Criminal Complaint that there was some level of resistance by Floyd during the arrest process, proving that restraint itself was a criminal act could be problematic. (As with many things at this stage, more facts need to come out. There is a video of Floyd being put in the police car while struggling, but it’s not clear yet how he got from the vehicle back onto the ground.)

I noted in that post that the family had retained well-known pathologist Dr. Michael Baden.

Withing the past few minutes, the Medical Examiner released further information, declaring that Floyd had a heart attack from pressure from restraint and neck compression:

(added) Here is the report:


This will provide fodder for defense counsel, because neck compression was not mentioned in the prosecutor’s description of the preliminary findings. In any event, asphyxiation is not listed as the cause of death.

Baden, joined by another pathologist, has released his findings. At least as described in news reports, it finds asphyxiation. AP reports:

An autopsy commissioned for George Floyd’s family found that he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression when a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck until he stopped breathing, ignoring his cries of distress, the family’s attorneys said Monday.

The autopsy by a doctor who also examined Eric Garner’s body found the compression cut off blood to Floyd’s brain, and weight on his back made it hard to breathe, attorney Ben Crump said. He called for the third-degree murder charge against Officer Derek Chauvin to be upgraded to first-degree murder and for three other officers to be charged.

Here is the press conference where Baden presented his findings:

The Medical Examiner’s report has not been released. So far, we only have how the prosecution paraphrased the preliminary report and the short form conclusions, not the detailed findings.*

That means there are conflicting findings as to whether Chauvin holding his knee to Floyd’s neck was the cause of death. That’s a problem for the prosecution because the prosecution has to remove the possibility of reasonable doubt, not create it by contradicting the Medical Examiner.

[*The last two paragraphs were updated based on the release of the M.E.’s short form report]


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