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Floyd died from lack of oxygen, not drugs, medical expert testifies

Prosecutors began the ninth day of the Derek Chauvin trial with testimony from pulmonologist Dr. Martin Tobin. After showing prepared illustrations and photos of the events, Tobin concluded that Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck caused narrowing of the hypopharynx — a critical area for getting oxygen into the lungs — and led to his death.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Today's testimony at the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin centered on the perspective of medical experts. They spoke of how George Floyd died from a lack of oxygen as Chauvin knelt on his neck and his back, and not from drugs or health issues.

    Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro has our report.

  • Fred de Sam Lazaro:

    Prosecutors began the ninth day of the Derek Chauvin trial with testimony from pulmonologist Dr. Martin Tobin. A Chicago-based critical care physician and lung specialist, Tobin testified today that shallow breathing led to George Floyd's death.

  • Jerry Blackwell:

    Would you please tell the jury what that opinion or opinions are?

  • Dr. Martin Tobin:

    Yes, Mr. Floyd died from a low level of oxygen. And this caused damage to his brain that we see, and it also caused a PEA arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop.

  • Fred de Sam Lazaro:

    Tobin said several main forces led to Floyd's shallow breathing, his prone position, being handcuffed and pressure from Chauvin's knees placed on Floyd's neck back.

    After showing prepared illustrations and photos of the event, Tobin concluded that Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck caused narrowing of the hypopharynx, a critical area for getting oxygen into the lungs.

  • Jerry Blackwell:

    I want to go to the period of time when Mr. Chauvin was on the back and neck of Mr. Floyd.

  • Martin Tobin:

    Yes.

  • Jerry Blackwell:

    Did you see him get off of the back of Mr. Floyd by the nanosecond, by the millisecond, by any seconds, in the nine minutes and 29 seconds that you saw him on him?

  • Martin Tobin:

    No, I did not.

  • Fred de Sam Lazaro:

    Tobin testified that Chauvin's knee remained on Floyd's neck another three minutes and two seconds after Floyd took his last breath.

  • Martin Tobin:

    You can see his eyes. He's conscious. And then you can see he isn't. That's the moment the life goes out of his body.

  • Fred de Sam Lazaro:

    The defense has argued Floyd died due to poor health and drugs in his system. But prosecutors tried to undercut that argument today.

    Dr. Daniel Isenschmid, a forensic toxicologist with a private company that analyzed Floyd's autopsy, testified that the levels of methamphetamine and fentanyl in Floyd's system were not a factor in his death.

    That finding was supported by both Tobin earlier and the day's final witness, Kentucky police surgeon Dr. Bill Smock.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," this is Fred de Sam Lazaro.

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