Takeaways from Day 6 of the Derek Chauvin Trialavril 5, 2021
The sixth day of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd, brought two key witnesses to the stand: the doctor who spent 30 minutes trying to save Mr. Floyd’s life before pronouncing him dead, and the chief of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Both witnesses provided testimony that could bolster the arguments of the prosecution, which has argued that Mr. Floyd died because Mr. Chauvin knelt on him for more than nine minutes, rather than by complications of drug use or a heart condition. Here are the key takeaways from Monday.
Dr. Bradford T. Wankhede Langenfeld, who was a senior resident at the Hennepin County Medical Center, said he believed that Mr. Floyd died from a lack of oxygen. Mr. Floyd’s cause of death will prove to be a determining factor in this case. The prosecution has maintained that “asphyxia,” or a deficiency of oxygen, caused Mr. Floyd’s death. During a cross-examination, Dr. Wankhede Langenfeld told Eric J. Nelson, Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, that asphyxia can be caused by a number of factors, including drug use; a toxicology report found methamphetamine and fentanyl in Mr. Floyd’s system.
Dr. Wankhede Langenfeld’s testimony also gave jurors a clearer understanding of what happened after Mr. Floyd was taken away from the scene of the arrest, at the Cup Foods convenience store. Last week, jurors heard from two paramedics who arrived at the scene. One of them, Derek Smith, said he had tried to revive Mr. Floyd using several techniques, but that none were effective. Mr. Smith said Mr. Floyd appeared to be dead by the time he arrived at Cup Foods.
On Monday, Dr. Wankhede Langenfeld said he had tried to save Mr. Floyd for about 30 minutes before pronouncing him dead. Dr. Wankhede Langenfeld said that, at the time, he viewed an overdose as a less likely cause of death because the paramedics who brought Mr. Floyd to the hospital made no mention of an overdose. In addition, the doctor said that patients experiencing cardiac arrest have a 10 to 15 percent decrease in their chance of survival for every minute that C.P.R. is not administered. Police officers did not administer C.P.R. at the scene, even after Mr. Floyd lost consciousness.
The chief of the Minneapolis Police Department, Medaria Arradondo, testified on Monday that Mr. Chauvin “absolutely” violated the department’s policies when he knelt on Mr. Floyd for more than nine minutes. “Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting, and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that, that should have stopped,” Chief Arradondo said. The statement was an unequivocal rebuke of Mr. Chauvin from the chief, and an unusual display of an acting chief testifying against a police officer.
Mr. Chauvin’s defense pushed back on the issue of any possible policy violations, asking Chief Arradondo whether police officers often have to evaluate many factors when applying force to a suspect, such as any possible threat from a nearby crowd. Throughout the trial, Mr. Nelson has pointed to the crowd of bystanders who gathered along the sidewalk during the arrest, suggesting that they may have hampered Mr. Chauvin’s ability to provide medical aid to Mr. Floyd.
The court also heard from Inspector Katie Blackwell, a veteran Minneapolis police officer who said she has known Mr. Chauvin for 20 years. Speaking about use-of-force training, Inspector Blackwell said officers should be careful when holding a handcuffed person on their stomach, because the position could make it difficult to breathe. Asked when officers should remove people from this position, she said, “As soon as possible.” Mr. Floyd was kept on his stomach for more than nine minutes, pinned to the ground by Mr. Chauvin’s knee.