Derek Chauvin trial: George Floyd’s death ‘absolutely preventable’, doctor testifies

George Floyd’s death was “absolutely preventable” and he would have lived if Derek Chauvin had not pinned him to the street, a medical expert said on Monday in the murder trial of the white former Minneapolis police officer.

Chauvin denies murdering Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, last May, when he knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest.

Jonathan Rich, a cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, took the stand as the last medical expert called by the prosecution. He told the jury he was certain Floyd did not die of a heart attack, heart disease or a drug overdose.

The heart specialist said Floyd died of cardiopulmonary arrest – when adequate heart function and breathing stop – caused by low oxygen levels.

When prosecutor Jerry Blackwell asked what caused the oxygen deficiency, Rich said it was “induced by the prone restraint and positional asphyxiation that he was subjected to”.

It was the 11th day of testimony in the historic trial. The prosecution is close to resting its case before the defense calls its witnesses. It is expected that relatives of Floyd will be allowed to address the court, to talk about his life and character.

Floyd’s death was caught on video and sparked the largest civil rights uprising in the US since the 1960s.

Chauvin led three other officers last 25 May in forcing Floyd to the ground, face down and handcuffed behind his back, as they arrested him on suspicion of using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes in a corner store.

Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, the court has heard, as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe and cried for help before passing out.

Illicit drugs were found in Floyd’s system and he had underlying health conditions which the defense intends to argue killed him, while Chauvin’s actions were reasonable in dealing with a large, struggling suspect who was high on a mix of the opioid fentanyl and methamphetamine.

But Rich told the jury that in his opinion Floyd had been restrained by Chauvin “in a life-threatening manner” and was alert, awake, conversant and walking when the officers encountered him, the opposite signs and symptoms of someone who was overdosing.

“I believe that Mr George Floyd’s death was absolutely preventable,” he said.

The prosecutor asked if Floyd would have lived had it not been for Chauvin pressing down on his neck for more than nine minutes.

“Yes I believe he would have lived,” Rich said.

Earlier, the judge, Peter Cahill, denied a request by the defense to sequester the jury owing to the potential influence of the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old Black man by police in a suburb of Minneapolis on Sunday, which sparked protests.

The trial in downtown Minneapolis continues.

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