New exhibits filed in George Floyd case point to overdose as cause of death

New exhibits filed in the case against the four former Minneapolis Police Officers accused of murdering George Floyd suggest the Hennepin County Medical Examiner thought George Floyd’s fentanyl levels were at a potentially “fatal level.”

Six pieces of evidence were filed in the case Tuesday one day after former officer Tou Thao’s attorneys requested the release of the full autopsy reports from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner and the private medical examiners hired by George Floyd’s family, KMSP reported.

The Armed Forces Medical Examiner filed a memorandum agreeing with the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s final conclusion that Floyd’s death was a homicide, saying, “His death was caused by the police subdual and restraint in the setting of severe hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, and methamphetamine and fentanyl intoxication.”

However, two other memos filed Tuesday from the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office about conversations with Chief Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker paint a different picture about the nature of Floyd’s death.

“AB said that if Mr. Floyd had been found dead in his home (or anywhere else) and there were no other contributing factors he would conclude that it was an overdose death.”

– Amy Sweasy

In one memorandum filed May 26 after a virtual meeting with Baker, the Attorney’s Office said Baker concluded, “The autopsy revealed no physical evidence suggesting that Mr. Floyd died of asphyxiation.” However, Baker told the attorney his investigation was incomplete pending a toxicology report.

The other memorandum filed June 1 by the Attorney’s Office indicated Baker said Floyd’s level of fentanyl was “pretty high,” and a potentially “fatal level.”

“[Dr. Andrew Baker] said that if Mr. Floyd had been found dead in his home (or anywhere else) and there were no other contributing factors he would conclude that it was an overdose death,” the June 1 memo said.

New evidencenew evidence

Among the new documents Tuesday was a memorandum outlining the findings from the independent medical examiners hired by the Floyd family, who list Floyd’s cause of death as “traumatic asphyxia due to the compression of his neck and back during restraint by police,” as was evident on bystander videos of the incident, according to KMSP

However, it’s important to keep in mind that Michael Baden never performed an actual (second) autopsy. Therefore, his opinions are greatly influenced by his payday. Moreover, he did not have access to toxicology results, tissue samples, or some organs, Law Officer reported.

Furthermore, the memo admits the findings could be incomplete because they were awaiting microscopic slides, pictures and other evidence from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s report.

The latest exhibits underscore problems the prosecutors will have trying to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The editorial team at Law Officer previously identified several areas, which appear to be problematic for the prosecution team; the apparent overdose among them. See list below:

  • The body camera footage, that the State tried to hide from public view shows that Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe well before he was ever restrained on the ground by law enforcement. Medical experts will likely testify this was the result of narcotics in his system.
  • Floyd’s autopsy and toxicology reports documented that his breathing difficulty was not by a knee on his neck or pressure on his back, but by the fact that he had a lethal dose of Fentanyl in his bloodstream. In fact, the Fentanyl that he had ingested was nearly four times the lethal limit.
  • Floyd’s blood draw at the hospital established the presence of “Fentanyl 11 ng/mL” (nanograms per mL), among other drugs.
  • The toxicology reports says, “Signs associated with fentanyl toxicity include severe respiratory depressionseizures, hypotension, coma and death. In fatalities from fentanyl, blood concentrations are variable and have been reported as low as 3 ng/mL.”
  • Similarly, the toxicology report also disclosed the presence of methamphetamine, which states, “capable of causing hallucinations, aggressive behavior and irrational reactions” as well as “restlessness, confusion, hallucinations, circulatory collapse and convulsions.”
  • The autopsy disclosed no physical injuries that could account for Floyd’s death.
  • The leaked bodycam footage corroborated signs/symptoms consistent with excited delirium. Will additional bodycam footage reveal more of the same?
  • While we don’t yet have all of the body camera footage, the transcript of video footage details a play by play of events that the prosecution will try to avoid because it exonerates the officers, including several statements that he couldn’t breathe, way before they placed him on the ground.
  • Officer Lane got into the ambulance and assisted with CPR on the way to the hospital.
  • The first version of the autopsy report didn’t mention “law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” and the criminal complaint filed by prosecutors stated that the autopsy “revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.” Why was the county report later changed?
  • Prior to issuing the autopsy report, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s preliminarily details found that the “autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.” (Intoxicants later proved to be a lethal dose.)
  • The preliminary HCME findings were included in the arrest warrant for Chauvin, dated May 29. The toxicology report was dated May 31. How could a prosecutor who is seeking truth file charges prior to completion of the toxicology report when there was reason to believe the cause of death would be revealed in the findings?
  • Michael Baden never performed an actual (second) autopsy. Therefore, his opinions are greatly influenced by his payday. Moreover, he did not have access to toxicology results, tissue samples, or some organs.
  • After Baden’s announcement that the case was “a homicide due to the way he was being subdued,” the Hennepin County Medical Examiner amended his report to include the reference to “complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” How and why did this occur?
  • Regardless of the viral video showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, the autopsy report said there was no “conjunctival petechiae” which is a sign of possible mechanical compression of the neck and jugular veins (e.g. choking, strangulation).
  • The autopsy report said there was: “No injuries of anterior muscles of neck or laryngeal structures” … “No scalp soft tissue, skull or brain injuries” … “No chest wall soft tissue injuries, rib fractures (other than a single rib fracture from CPR), vertebral column injuries, or visceral injuries.”
  • It is true that the technique used by officers was an approved use of force measure in department policy and it was true that accompanying training discussed. What is also true is the 2018 training on excited delirium given to officers that told them the protocol if they encountered someone exhibiting behavior like Floyd’s. Other experts will disagree with their protocol, but it’s apparently what they had.
  • So the entire case appears to rest on the perception of Chauvin’s “inhumanity” with his knee positioned on Floyd’s head/neck while Floyd was actually in the process of an overdose death.
  • The answer to these questions in court will likely seal Chauvin’s fate: Was he (Chauvin) actually complying with department policy? Did the department teach/advocate the procedures being used? Was Floyd’s death the result of an overdose of Fentanyl or some manner of positional asphyxia brought on by excited delirium?

Is there a legal storm brewing? We believe so.


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