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The defense for the ex-cop who kneeled on George Floyd tried to argue in court Friday that he was in the same position as someone at the chiropractor or lying “by the pool in Florida”—despite multiple experts testifying that handcuffing the 46-year-old Black man facedown on the ground contributed to his death.
“I could be laying by the pool in Florida, on my stomach in the prone position,” Derek Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson said to Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist and medical examiner in Minnesota for 37 years. “Not inherently dangerous.”
Nelson repeatedly asked the now-retired doctor, who trained the medical examiner who completed Floyd’s autopsy, hypothetical questions that were, as Nelson said, “general” in their scope and left out the lethal physical force three cops used when arresting Floyd for allegedly using counterfeit money at a local convenience store last May. Nelson asked about drug side effects, the size of the human heart, and the prone position.
A day earlier, Dr. Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist, or a breathing expert, testified that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen when Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes and pushed his lungs into the ground—and no other reason.
Still, the defense continued to argue differently.
“I mean, chiropractors put people in the prone position, massage therapists put people in the prone position?” Nelson asked Thomas in Hennepin County Court in downtown Minneapolis Friday. “The prone position in and of itself is not inherently dangerous.”
During a redirect, the prosecution immediately addressed the comparison with an analogy of their own.
“You were asked a number of questions that were to the effect that if we take the police subdual, restraint, and neck compression out of this, what would you conclude Mr. Floyd to have been?” state prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said. “Aren’t those questions a lot like asking, ‘Mrs. Lincoln, if we take John Wilkes Booth out of this...’ ”
Blackwell was then cut off by Judge Peter Cahill saying his statement was argumentative. Regardless, the prosecutor’s point was received.
“The cause of death was the law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” Thomas said. “And the manner of death was homicide.”