Day 9 Derek Chauvin Murder Trial: Prosecution and Per·i·pe·te·ia

By Maryam Henein

per·i·pe·te·ia also per·i·pe·ti·a  (pĕr′ə-pə-tē′ə, -tī′ə)


A sudden change of events or reversal of circumstances, especially in a literary work.

BREAKING: Dr. Tobin states fentanyl had nothing to do with the death of George Floyd. It was Derek Chauvin’s KNEE.

State Testimony Asserts:

  • Fentanyl did not kill George Floyd
  • If it was fentanyl you’d have a respiratory rate of 10, but then counted out it was 22
  • Increased CO2 levels found in ER “solely” explained by someone who hasn’t had ventilation for some time

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Yesterday was an arguably bad day for the State in the Derek Chauvin murder trial, given that George Floyd arguably said “I ate too many drugs” while handcuffed on the pavement. Later in the day, the prosecution played the clip again and some claimed Floyd actually said “I ain’t do no drugs.”

Nonetheless, it was established that opiates were found in the car along with fake bills. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” certainly was weakened.

Today, however, things took a sudden turn in the prosecution’s favor when they brought to the stand Dr. Martin Tobin, a phenomenal witness for them who had firm opinions & engaged with the jury.

The Irish pulmonologist whose expertise is “breathing” stated unequivocally that just because “you can talk, doesn’t mean you can breathe,” contrary to critics.

Early on, there were people on social media talking about the “George Floyd Challenge,” including Google Whistleblower Zach Vorhies who asked me on May 28th to lean on his neck with my knee.

“I tried to recreate the choking of George Floyd by laying flat on the ground and having Maryam Henein put her knee on the back of my neck. What I found out is that my airway is completely free. Am I doing it wrong?”


“‘If you can talk, you can breathe,’ is a very dangerous mantra,” said Tobin who is a physician in pulmonary and critical care medicine based out of Chicago.

He went on to explain the anatomy of what happened with George Floyd’s breathing as a result of Chauvin’s knee. With confidence, he stated to the jury that it was the pressure on the neck for that duration that caused his death. (Consider that it was revealed this week that Chauvin arguably put his weight between Floyd’s shoulder blades too).

Despite some reports that show 3x the lethal amount, Tobin stated that the dose of fentanyl was not a factor “because his breathing rate was totally normal.”

“How does breathing “totally normal” conform with “I can’t breathe” being the reason for his death? This is an example of medical reasoning confusing most juries when presented this haphazard,” tweeted Constitutional attorney Robert Barnes tweeted.

“Wasn’t Floyd complaining about breathing problems before he was taken to the ground? What was causing those problems if it wasn’t Chauvin’s knees?” noted Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert F. Gruler and founding partner of R&R Law Group.

Unfortunately, Defense attorney Eric Nelson didn’t ask Tobin’s opinion on why Floyd said “I can’t breathe” seven times before Chauvin ever got there. And the defense didn’t object to his opinion on the cause of death since he is not a qualified expert in forensic pathology.

Tobin stated that a “low level of oxygen” caused damage to George Floyd’s brain, and it also caused a [pulseless electrical activity] arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop.”

He also went on to assert the rate of breaths would have been if he was dying of fentanyl. Fentanyl, he said, sharply reduces a person’s breathing rate which was not the case he asserted. “Basically it’s telling you fentanyl is not on board, it is not having an effect on his respiratory centers.”

He also said the high carbon dioxide levels were not due to fentanyl and that the increase is solely explained but what you expect to happen for someone who doesn’t have ventilation for that long.

“The cause of the low level of oxygen was shallow breathing; small breaths … that weren’t able to carry the air through his lungs down to the essential areas of the lungs that get oxygen into the blood and get rid of the carbon dioxide.”

A forensic pathologist is better suited to rule out the argument that fentanyl played a part in Floyd’s death.

Tobin even went as far as testifying that a person with no underlying medical conditions would have died under the same circumstances as George Floyd.

“A healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died as a result of what he was subjected to.”

Arguably a stretch.

He also said Floyd’s last breath was about three minutes before Derek Chauvin’s knee was lifted. After Floyd’s breathing stopped, Chauvin’s “knee remained on the neck for another 3 minutes and 2 seconds.”

Using “precise science,” Tobin said Floyd lapsed into unconsciousness shortly before 8:25 p.m. as his oxygen levels plummeted. He then said that he stopped breathing 23 seconds later and “didn’t have an ounce of oxygen in his body” less than a minute after losing consciousness.

The prosecution then cued the final moments as seen in the bystander video.

“At the beginning, you can see he’s conscious, you can see slight flickering, and then it disappears, so one second he’s alive and one second he’s no longer,” Tobin said. “…That’s the moment the life goes out of his body.”

Tobin listed the factors leading to Floyd being unable to take in oxygen, among them, “He is turned prone on the street, that he has the handcuffs in place combined with the street, and that he has a knee on his neck, and he has a knee in his back and side.”

“It’s like the left side is in a vice, it’s being pushed in from the street at the bottom and the way the handcuffs are manipulated … totally interferes with central features of how we breathe,” he said.

Tobin said Floyd also used his left shoulder in an attempt to create chest space to draw a breath, but “the shoulder is a very ineffective way of breathing.”

“Basically, on the left side of his chest,” Tobin continued, “it’s as if a surgeon almost went in and removed the lung … and left him totally reliant on his right side.”

Tobin makes a lot of assumptions about the what and why behind Floyd’s actions. Nonetheless, he continues using a photo of Floyd’s knuckles as proof he was gasping for air.

“To most people, this doesn’t look terribly significant, but to a physiologist, this is extraordinarily significant, because this shows he has used up all his resources and showed he is trying to breathe with his fingers and knuckles.”

With his left lung rendered useless, the doctor said that Floyd “is totally dependent on getting air into the right side. He’s using his fingers and knuckles against [a squad tire and the street] to try and crank up his chest. This is his only way to get air into the right lung.”

He likened it to trying to suck air through a straw.

“We know what happens physiologically, when you have this level of narrowing this is going to happen to everybody.”

He gave his last breath at 20:21:16

Tobin then focused on the amount of weight being pressed onto Floyd’s neck. He noted that Chauvin kept his upper body erect while having his left knee on Floyd’s neck while at times lifting his left toe.

“The toe of his boot is no longer touching the ground, this means that all of his body weight is being directed down at Mr. Floyd’s neck,” testified Dr. Tobin.

Tobin showed jurors how Floyd was positioned with the officers on top of him and how it contributed to his inability to take sufficient breaths.

“We’re talking half of his body weight and half of his gear [weight], and all of that is coming down,” he said. A graphic accompanying this part of his testimony read that lifting the toe increased the weight pressed on Floyd’s neck from about 86 pounds to more than 91.

Tobin also focused on a specific passage of time of Chauvin having his knee on Floyd’s neck. He said that various videos from the scene indicated Floyd suffered brain injury about 5 minutes into his restraint on the street. This is when Floyd “kicked out his leg in an extension form” and that response is when “we see he suffered a brain injury from a low level of oxygen.”

Along with the left knee on the neck hindering Floyd’s ability to breathe, Tobin said Chauvin’s right knee on the back made things more difficult while the street was “playing a huge part … and totally preventing every action on the front.”

With both knees on the body, “you are now seeing a 43% reduction” in Floyd’s lung capacity.

Again quite the precision with the percentage.

Cross Examination — Cause Of Death Crux Of Contention

Cause of death has provided a strong divide between the state and the defense. The prosecution is saying Floyd died from a lack of oxygen, while the defense has argued that Floyd died of a cardiac arrest resulting from illicit drug use and ongoing health problems, including heart disease and high blood pressure.

Under cross-examination, Nelson made it clear that Tobin has never been involved in a criminal suit and because of that did it for free, waiving his $500 an hour rate. He has testified in dozens of malpractice cases.

Unlike Nelson who has one assistant, the state’s prosecution team consists of at least 10 people, giving them the ability to review and prepare much faster than Nelson.

You could tell there was a smooth rehearsed rapport between Tobin and the prosecution and Nelson revealed that they’ve met four times and spent substantial time to prepare.

“You have had a lot of time to prepare with the prosecution team. I just got these notes yesterday night.”

Nelson began by saying “You’ve taken this case and distilled it into a nanosecond.”

He then lays the groundwork on Floyd’s possible fentanyl ingestion and discusses “peak respiratory depression” following ingestion.

He does get Tobin to state that fentanyl can cause death, “in part,” as a result of low oxygen to the brain.

Tobin was on the stand for three hours!

Top image: Artist’s renderings of the scene are displayed in Dr. Tobin’s attempt to explain how he evaluated George Floyd’s condition during the incident.

You can read reports from past trial days at Maryam Henein’s article archive HERE.

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