George Floyd

Medical Examiner Agrees That the Cops Killed George Floyd

Andrew Baker's account, like the testimony of other medical experts, implicates Derek Chauvin in Floyd's death.


Prosecutors argue that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd by pinning him facedown to the pavement for nine and a half minutes, which made it impossible for Floyd to get the oxygen he needed to stay alive. Although that account was reinforced last week by detailed testimony from Chicago pulmonologist Martin Tobin, it is complicated by Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner Andrew Baker's autopsy report, which said nothing about asphyxia, instead attributing Floyd's death to "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." But as Baker's testimony in Chauvin's murder trial on Friday demonstrated, this distinction matters less than Chauvin's defenders suggest.

Baker agreed with the defense that Floyd's heart disease and drug use, both of which were mentioned in the autopsy report, contributed to his death. But Baker said those factors were not "direct causes," and he reiterated his conclusion that Floyd would have survived the encounter, which happened after he was arrested for using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes on May 25, if police had handled the situation differently. "I would still classify it as a homicide today," Baker said.

Baker said Floyd had an enlarged heart due to hypertension, meaning his heart would have required extra oxygen, and substantially narrowed coronary arteries, meaning they had "a limited ability to deliver" that oxygen to the heart. Floyd also had a low level of methamphetamine in his blood: 19 nanograms per milliliter, which prior testimony indicated is similar to what would be seen in someone who had taken a single prescribed dose of the drug. Without commenting specifically on how methamphetamine affected Floyd, Baker said, "My understanding is that methamphetamine is hard on the heart. It is going to increase heart rate. It is going to increase the work of the heart because it is a stimulant."

But even allowing for those "contributing causes," Baker said, his judgment remains that "law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression" played a crucial role in Floyd's death, which is why he classified it as a homicide. "We apply the term homicide when the actions of other people were involved in an individual's death," he explained.

Baker noted that "cardiopulmonary arrest" is "really just fancy medical lingo for 'the heart and the lungs stopped'—no pulse, no breathing." He said the phrase "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression" means that Floyd's heart and lungs stopped functioning in that context. And that "top line" description, he noted, is "the most important thing that precipitated the death."

In Baker's view, the use of force against Floyd fatally interacted with his "very severe underlying heart disease." Here is how Baker described what he thinks happened:

He has a heart that already needs more oxygen than a normal heart by virtue of its size, and it's limited in its ability to step up, to provide more oxygen when there's demand, because of the narrowing of his coronary arteries. Now, in the context of an altercation with other people that involves things like physical restraint, that involves things like being held to the ground, that involves things like the pain that you would incur from having your cheek up against the asphalt and an abrasion on your shoulder, those events are going to cause stress hormones to pour out into your body….That adrenaline is…going to ask your heart to beat faster. It's going to ask your body for more oxygen so that you can get through that altercation. In my opinion, the law enforcement subdual, restraint, and the neck compression [were] just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions.

As to whether breathing difficulty caused by the prolonged prone restraint made it even harder for Floyd to get the oxygen he needed, Baker said, "I would defer to a pulmonologist." Tobin has exactly the sort of expertise to which Baker alluded, and he concluded that "Floyd died from a low level of oxygen" caused by obstructed breathing, which ultimately "caused his heart to stop." Tobin said even a perfectly healthy person would have died in these circumstances.

Forensic pathologist Lindsey Thomas, who also testified on Friday, likewise attributed Floyd's death to inadequate breathing. "Mr. Floyd was in a position, because of the subdual, restraint, and compression, where he was unable to get enough oxygen in to maintain his body functions," she said.

In all of these accounts, Chauvin's actions were the but-for cause of Floyd's death. Whether Floyd died because he could not breathe, as he repeatedly complained while he was pinned to the pavement, or because his heart could not handle the stress of this "altercation," as Baker suggests, the use of force was the crucial thing that killed him. Baker and the other medical experts agree on that point, even when they differ on the details.

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  1. The witness also said the main cause of death with fentanyl is hypoxia. Floyd said he couldn’t breathe even before he was placed on the ground. My problem with Chauvin is that he didn’t monitor Floyd’s condition. When Floyd passed out Chauvin should have rendered assistance as is his duty.

    1. It is but as several witnesses explained death from opiate overdose doesn’t play out like what we saw on the videos.

      1. Except he wasn’t just on fentanyl, he was also on meth

        1. There was very little meth in his system and meth overdose presents entirely differently than opioid overdose. All of this was explained by the witnesses.

          1. He was on both, which was also explained by the witnesses. This significantly confounds the symptoms of overdose, which was ALSO explained by the witnesses.

            You seem to think only paying attention to the testimony you like will somehow work.

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        2. Plus he had a cop kneeling on his neck till he died.

      2. There is no single way it plays out… no witness has said there is only one way it plays out…

    2. Tobin even counted out his respirations from the video in the first half of the restraint. It was 22 in the normal range. Minutes later he stopped breathing completely. That is not what happens in opiate overdose.

      1. Again, not every death is the same. You just stated that an OD can cause respiratory deaths. The examiners have also said this can cause heart failure in cases. So by your own evidence, the OD could have caused the failure of his heart. You have not proven that it was the knee on his back.

        You do know how criminal trials work right?

        1. Defense will have its own witnesses but all of these doctors have reached the same conclusion and explained it in detail.

          1. Except more than one has said in no uncertain terms that if they had seen his autopsy and medical reports in isolation that he would have been recorded as an overdose.

            You need to view the cross examination, not just the direct.

            1. Would those reports have included the fact that he had a cop kneeling on his neck till he died?

      2. “That is not what happens in opiate overdose.”

        Sure it is. In fact it is exactly what happens in some opiate overdoses.

        1. A knee on the back of the neck, before during and after death, doesn’t happen in overdose deaths.

          1. Could you at least TRY to make sense?

            1. What don’t you understand?

        2. Except as the pathologists explained. Heart attack is ruled out by the autopsy. There would be physical findings. He also had no signs of heart failure as medicals use the term.

          If you have ever seen a fentanyl overdose which can happen even in medical use, the person first basically falls asleep, they don’t thrash about like he did in the first three minutes. That is what you want to happen. Then respiration can be gradually depressed. It is not a sudden event.

          Saying something could hypothetically happen is not reasonable doubt. Police arrest people who are intoxicated and on drugs every day and they do not die while coincidentally in the level of restraint we see here. In fact they are given aid.

          1. Police arrest people who are intoxicated and on drugs every day, with this level of restraint, and they don’t die. Maybe that’s why this method was in the police instruction manual.

            1. Yes and the use of fentanyl and many other potential dangerous potentially lethal drugs is in the “medical manual”.

              The safe skills to fly an airplane is in many manuals and requires training and experience.

              So where in the police manual does it say to continue the level of force until the individual is not breathing, not resisting, pulseless, non responsive, dead.

              1. To my recollection, the protocol is for an officer, believing this restraint method is warranted due to excited delirium, is to do so until medical help arrives.

              2. I asked Judge Dred. It’s right there in the manual. “Kneel on neck till dead”.

      3. It can when you exhaust yourself fighting the police while cuffed. Perhaps he should have behaved, you know, with his heart condition and all.

        1. Aren’t you the guy who said the one medical expert you would believe is the coroner who did the original autopsy — well, here he is.

          1. The autopsy showed no signs that the knee was on Floyd’s back.
            Medically, if the coroner didn’t know about the restraint, it would have been ruled a death by overdose. His ruling of it as a homicide was not based on medical observations.

    3. If he was wearing a mask, everyone was safe.

    4. Look, Chauvin beyond all doubt killed Floyd, despite lack of bruising to indicate force, but the vaccine definitely didn’t kill DMX, despite his sudden death a week after taking it.
      Get with the narrative, comrade.

    5. They had already called EMTs. What were they going to do, do CPR on a man that just ingested Fentanyl and admitted to being positive for Covid? Is Floyd responsible in any way?

      1. Chest compressions. They could have gotten on his side and then on his back if needed and done chest compressions. Any layman can do that. They don’t to mouth to mouth anymore.

    6. Here’s the scenario as I see it. When the cops arrive, Floyd is tripping on meth. Symptoms include a rapid heart rate and hyperventilation, confusion, agitation, delusional paranoia. Frankly, stimulant overdose looks a lot like a panic attack, and probably feels like one. You’re hyperventilating, but feel like you’re not getting enough air.

      When the cops arrived, his dealer encouraged him to ingest a bunch of meth-laced fentanyl. Or maybe he did it of his own volition? But I suspect it was at the behest of the dealer, since the dealer has reportedly said if he’s forced to testify he’ll plead the fifth across the board.

      Because he was behaving like he was ODing on stimulants, the cops treated him as if he were ODing on stimulants. You ever see someone ODing on stimulants? I got a front row seat from an emergency bed once. It took 6 cops and two orderlies to move the guy from the stretcher to the emergency bed next to mine and get him strapped back down. And he wasn’t a big guy–about 5’8″ and maybe 150lbs. Even with 8 men moving him, he managed to bite one of the cops so severely he needed stitches (and a leave of absence until the HIV and hepatitis test results came back).

      The guy would struggle like mad, then stop. Then they’d try to let up on him so they could get an IV in, and he’d start up again.

      If the cops didn’t know he’d also taken fentanyl, they’d have been worried about changing anything they were doing, in case they set him off again. And without knowing he’d taken fentanyl AND having naloxone on hand, there was probably nothing they could have done anyway.

      Then there’s the situation outside the situation. A not so great neighborhood, a crowd of people who are already agitated and angry at you, the ambulance is taking a longer than expected, and for all you know, the moment you get off the guy he’s going to flip his shit and the crowd’s going to side with him.

      It’s entirely possible the meth kept him alive right up until the fentanyl in his system overpowered it.

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  2. Well the fix is in no matter what the truth isn’t important. But MN and it’s main city are the target and the flames were fanned by the governor, mayor, city council, and AG. None of them should ever serve in government again but this is the exact kind of democrat they want to help destroy the nation.

    1. They aren’t even waiting for the trial to conclude before starting the burning.

      1. That is just spring training. The Jordans that they looted last year aren’t even broken n yet.

    2. “the flames were fanned by the governor, mayor, city council, and AG

      The very people responsible for the policies and procedures that were used by the police. They, and a good portion of the prosecution “witnesses” should be in the dock right next to Chauvin.

      1. It’s hilarious to me that the “leaders” who join with BLM don’t seem to understand that the protestors are complaining about them.

        Protestors: Your police are racist!

        Mayor: Yeah!

        Everybody else: WTF? Why didn’t you do something about it then?

      2. Ranking police officials, including the chief of police, have testified that Chauvin´s conduct was contrary to his training.

  3. Defense really should have just started each cross with asking every government official if they have recieved threats against both themselves and their family in relation to this trial and situation. Then introduce into evidence some of the more gruesome threats they’ve recieved for if they don’t help in a conviction. Everyone testify is operating under a very real possibility of violent reprisal if they don’t say what the mob wants to hear, and their testimony should be weighed knowing those conditions are effecting their judgement.

    1. You seem kind of upset that a killer cop is actually going to prison for a change

      1. You seem upset at the facts presented at trial and want an emotional and political prosecution.

      2. You seem like yet another Jeff sock.

      3. it is even more pathetic than that…. some politician they don’t like said this cop was a murderer, and that is the only reason they care at all…..

      4. You seem upset over a dead, violent felon. Does he remind you of a relative?

    2. Some how I think asking the chief of police and the Sargent who was his supervisor if they are lying, questioning their credibility, because of fear of personal reprisal would not go over very well.

      It looks like they will keep chipping away at the drugs and heart condition. They will probably also try to establish that the hold was an appropriate technique.

      Juries can misunderstand reasonable doubt by focusing on what ‘could happen’ hypothetically and not ‘what did happen’.They have been doing that all along.

  4. LOL… man Sullum, that was your take away? Did you watch the cross? Where the examiner said he only said cops did it because of the video, that absent the video he would have labeled it a heart attack or OD? He was biased by politics. They train examiners not to look or research cases before performing their autopsies, so they aren’t biased. The examiner gave up so much in regards to reasonable doubt in the cross as to make his feelings baseless. His facts pointed to other causes of deaths, and other reasonable estimates of cause of death.

    1. So far, experts conclude the police officer killed the victim wrongfully.

      Plenty of totally-not-racist, colorblind, traditional values, non-woke laymen, however, reject that elitist nonsense and have reached conclusions that flatter the White man with a badge at the expense of the Black guy.

      It’s like an argument between 1951 and 2021.

      1. Lololol your people are burning down cities and you endorse it, you lost. You resorted to violence.

      2. “Experts”? You mean the “paid experts”, right? And this medical examiner fella, what does he have to lose? Only his home, his family’s safety, and his life.

        1. Well I know for sure that Tobin was not paid and one of the pathologists said that she was not paid. Not sure about all of them. Dr Rich who is a top level cardiologist only took $1200 a day and only for the actual trial. Nothing for his prep time which usually upwards of $200 per hour last I heard. He could have made more than that by working. Average income for a cardiologist is $450k a year and up from that.

          The incentive is that this is a very interesting case from a medical science view. It is unusual to have this much evidence available. There are multiple factors involved. It is like solving a puzzle and geeky doctor types like that.

          1. Nothing that happens in that courtroom means a thing in a medical science view.
            That’s a bullshit reason for these medical “professionals” to weight in, when under other, non-incendiary circumstances they would charge a fee.
            Them NOT taking money says volumes about their motivations.

            1. So if they take money they are paid mercenaries. If they don’t they have an agenda. There is no medical science involved in this case and they are “professionals” with scare quotes around the term.

              So just ignore all of the medical evidence then.

    2. Yes the Mrs. Lincoln ruse. “Other than your husbands assassination, how was your evening at the theater?” The prosecution actually started to say that when the judge stopped him. Then he rephrased it.

      Absent all of the other critical evidence would you have made a different conclusion? It is a trick question because that is not what happened.

      1. Ok but he was on several powerful, potentially deadly illegal drugs.

        That’s reasonable doubt and this entire farce is a waste of time because people like you think that is something the rest of us want, when we just understand that’s just how it IS.

        1. Well if you went to the grocery today you walked by at least a dozen people on powerful, potentially lethal drugs, legal or not.

    3. Yes, if they had found him in his recliner dead they would have said that the level of drugs in his system was the likely cause of death, because there was no evidence of anything else happening. If they had found Floyd with his neck slashed open they probably wouldn’t attribute it to an overdose even if the same level of fentanyl had been found in his blood.

      In this case there’s video evidence of someone kneeling on Floyd’s back for nine minutes while he was complaining about not being able to breathe. There’s video evidence of Chauvin staying on Floyd’s back after he stopped talking, and stopped breathing, and stopped registering a pulse.

      1. Autopsies are to determine the medical cause of death.
        Videos are not part of the autopsy process.
        If the coroner hadn’t seen the video, he would have come to a different conclusion, most likely an OD.
        Reasonable doubt as to Chauvin causing the death.

        1. If the coroner hadn’t seen the video, he would have come to a different conclusion, most likely an OD.

          Yes, we’re actually saying the same thing. If the medical examiner had ignored factual evidence that someone was kneeling on the victim’s back causing the victim to not receive sufficient oxygen, then he likely would have attributed Floyd’s death to an overdose based on the level of fentanyl in his blood. That does not conclusively mean Floyd died of an overdose at the moment of his death.

  5. Are any of these leftist hacks at Reason going to mention what happened after the clowns on the Prosecution were done with the witness? Correct me if I’m wrong, but the defense gets a turn with that witness, and so far, the defense is crushing them and making them look foolish. They never mention that part. Reason, like CNN and MSN, only report on half of the story. Do they get incentive pay when Minneapolis is burned by the misinformed, poorly educated, denizens of the ghetto? Why not report the whole story?

    1. I can’t recall the last time I saw an even-handed account of a legal controversy here in Reason. They always slant it to support some narrative or other.

      Mind, usually they present the defense narrative, even after somebody’s been convicted, so this is a little different.


    U.S.—Media organizations across the country announced today they are relieved to be covering the good kind of riots again, now that people are looting Targets for justice again instead of protesting their government.

  7. “In all of these accounts, Chauvin’s actions were the but-for cause of Floyd’s death. Whether Floyd died because he could not breathe, as he repeatedly complained while he was pinned to the pavement, or because his heart could not handle the stress of this “altercation,” as Baker suggests, the use of force was the crucial thing that killed him.”

    “But-for cause” only tells you so much.

    Say I go to the grocery store to get eggs late at night, and I carefully proceed at a stoplight after it turns green. Nobody else is around. Drunk driver plows through red light and runs into me, killing themselves.

    Me going to the store to get eggs is a “but-for” cause of their death, because it wouldn’t have happened but for me going to the store.

    But there’s nothing wrong with going to the store to get eggs, or with proceeding at a green light. You need more than a “but-for” cause.

    1. Too bad there’s something wrong with kneeling on a guy’s back after they’ve stopped breathing and registering a pulse.

      1. Not how the legal standard works at all.

        1. We’ll see. If they can prove that kneeling on someone’s back after being told they’ve stopped breathing and registering a pulse demonstrates either negligence of or indifference to the subject’s condition, then you can convict of second degree manslaughter.

          1. Who told him?
            The people, screaming at him and who would use any phony reason to give Floyd a chance to escape?
            Chauvin, if he was told this, surely considered the source, and gave it all the consideration it was due.

            1. It was a police fellow officer who told him he couldn’t get a pulse out of Floyd, but Chauvin probably figured that faking not having a pulse is the oldest trick in the book.

  8. “In all of these accounts, Chauvin’s actions were the but-for cause of Floyd’s death.”

    Why is Sullum reporting on these issues if he makes legally incoherent statements like this? But-for causation is pretty meaningless in a criminal trial. As M L rightly points out, there are hundreds of but-for causes to any result. The question is whether the but-for cause rose to high enough import to constitute proximate cause. This is criminal law 101.

  9. Is Chauvin guilty? It is basically a done deal. BLM has threatened nationwide riots if he’s not tried and convicted to their liking. It’s great that the rioters, loiters and arsonists now dictate policy.

    1. Cunt

      1. Are you talking to me?

        1. Well I’m the only one here.

  10. It seems there is a real question as to the cause of Floyd’s death. Was it the drugs he took, his poor health, the stress and/or asphyxiation caused by the defendant, or some combination of all of those things? If the standard to convict must be “beyond a reasonable doubt”, it is hard to see how that standard can be met in this case.

    1. Sure, all you have to believe is that Floyd would have died exactly when and how he did no matter if he had interacted with the police or not. Easy peasy!

      1. Given the toxicology report, it seems plausible that he was on his way to that great gig in the sky by way of overdose. But maybe he would have been OK without having been held down for that long? Not so easy peasy for me, but I don’t claim to be the brightest bulb.

      2. No, all you have to prove is that the police performed, in good faith, the training they had received, as they understood it.
        That Floyd’s condition resulted in his death, while the officers were not going beyond what they were trained to do, is not to be blamed on the cops.

        1. I have yet to see the part of the training manual that instructs police to remain on someone’s back after they’ve stopped breathing or registering a pulse.

    2. I can see a negligence conviction. Chauvin didn’t check on Floyd. He didn’t even know he was restraining a dead man.

      However, the prosecution’s own use of force expert testified that he had held down a suspect until EMS arrived. He testified that unconscious men often come back up swinging. He also testified that Chauvin could have used his taser initially but didn’t.

      I still don’t see the murder charges sticking, and I think the harder they push for them, the less likely they are to convict on the manslaughter.

  11. So, another entry in the “prosecution witnesses continue to say things that back prosecution’s case” series at Reason.

    1. REASON’s reporter thinks “The defense may now cross examine the witness” is his signal to leave the courtroom.

  12. if police had handled the situation differently. “I would still classify it as a homicide today,” Baker said

    … and if Floyd had handled the situation differently?? Like NOT resisting arrest?

    1. “Resistance is futile”

      The Borg

  13. I will wait to see what the defense presents.

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