More defense-oriented (but not necessarily wrong) analysis from Legal Insurrection on the prosecution's cause-of-death witnesses:
https://legalinsurrection.com/2021/04/c ... witnesses/
In the case of both Thomas and Baker, there was a common pattern in the nature of their testimony. On direct questioning by Prosecutor Blackwell they would both say the magic words they certainly knew the state needed them to say on the witness stand—in effect, and perhaps even literally word-for-word—they identified the primary cause of George Floyd’s death as asphyxia complicated by law enforcement subdual restraint and neck compression.
When asked on direct if any of the other notable factors everyone knew the defense would raise on cross—the existing cardiovascular disease with 75% to 90% occlusion of all three major coronary arteries, the hypertension-induced enlarged heart, the presence of fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s system, the adrenaline induced by Floyd’s poorly made decision to fight four police officers for 10 minutes—could any of that have been the cause of Floyd’s death.
The answer was a flat no, period. Floyd’s death could only be attributable to asphyxia complicated by law enforcement subdual restraint and neck compression.
Good for the state, right?
On cross examination, however, both Thomas and Baker agreed that every single one of those factors, by themselves, even in the absence of any police involvement, or any of the other factors, if viewed in isolation could be an entirely reasonable cause of death for an official death certificate. (I’m amalgamating the responses of both Thomas and Baker, as they were so similar—video of their individual cross-examination testimony is embedded below for those wishing a more granular sense of what each said.)
In other words, had Floyd been found dead at home and autopsy revealed the 75% to 90% occlusion of his three major coronary arteries, would it have been reasonable for a medical examiner to attribute cause of death to that heart condition? Yes.
You’ve signed thousands of death certificates listing cause of death as atherosclerotic disease in patients with similar levels of occlusion as Floyd? Yes.
You’ve signed death certificates listing cause of death as hypertensive cardiomegalopathy in patients have a similar degree of enlarged heart as Floyd? Yes.
Did you tell investigators when interviewed that cardiovascular disease was a significant contributo rto Floyd’s death? Yes.
If Floyd had been found dead at home, and toxicology had revealed 11 ng/ml of fentanyl in his system, would it have been reasonable for a medical examiner to attribute cause of death to fentanyl overdose? Yes.
Have you signed death certificates as overdose deaths in cases where fentanyl levels were at 11 ng/ml? Yes. Below 11 ng/ml? Yes. As low as 3 ng/ml? Yes.
Would the presence of a combination of drugs, like fentanyl and methamphetamine, make overdose a more likely cause of death? Yes.
Could asphyxia of the heart be induced by methamphetamine creating a higher demand for oxygen by the heart than Floyd’s body could deliver? Yes.
However low the level of methamphetamine in Floyd’s system, is there any level which is safe? No. Would you recommend methamphetamine or even prescription amphetamine for a patient with Floyd’s cardiac status? No.
Would this the demand for oxygen of Floyd’s heart, and the inability of his body to deliver on that demand, be worsened by adrenaline resulting from Floyd’s physical confrontation with the officers? Yes.
So, even if we don’t consider Floyd’s exertion in fighting police, take the police out of the question entirely , pretend there was no impact made by the illicit drugs in Floyd’s system, a reasonable call on cause of death was simply Floyd’s existing cardiovascular disease and hypertension? Yes.
What percentage of restriction of the coronary arteries would be potentially fatal? 70% to 90%. What was the restriction of the coronary arteries in Floyd’s heart? 75% to 90%. Does a 90% stenosis of a carotid artery limit blood to the heart? Yes. Does adrenaline increase the heart’s demand for blood? Yes. Does meth increase demand for blood? Yes.
In the context of death being purportedly afflicted by subdual restraint and neck compression, Nelson also hammered on the absence of any objective evidence of actual force sufficient to achieve such a result.
Was there any bruising to the back of Floyd’s neck or back? No. Either on the surface or even deeper in the tissues? No. Would a knee and shin applied with substantial force be expected to cause a bruise? Yes, would be expected, but absence of bruising doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. That’s true of course, but one does not get to guilt beyond a reasonable doubt based on explaining away an absence of evidence.
Then, for both Thomas and Baker, on re-direct by Prosecutor Blackwell they would both once again parrot the magic words desired by the state: Floyd’s death could only be attributable to asphyxia complicated by law enforcement subdual restraint and neck compression. Not to heart disease? No. Not to hypertension? No. Not to fentanyl? No. Not to Meth? No. Not to fighting the police? No.
This generalized and simple-minded denial of the uncertainty and doubt raised in detail by the defense on cross may once again provide fodder for conviction-favorable headlines, but it doesn’t push the needle closer to certainty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.
I think this is the key issue in the case - can the state prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Chauvin's restraint caused Floyd's death? With so many other possible causes and the lack of trauma to the neck, the defense makes a strong case for reasonable doubt. Remember, these are the state's experts testifying - we haven't even gotten to the defense case yet.