George Floyd: Weak As Kitten, Also Strong As Entirely Different Kitten
Let's check in on the trial of Derek Chauvin for the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd. It's been a tough few days for the former Minneapolis police officer, though not nearly as uncomfortable as the final nine minutes and 29 seconds of Floyd's life.
Monday, cardiologist Dr. Jonathan Rich of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago testified that in his expert medical opinion derived from having eyes and a human soul, Floyd didn't die from a primary heart event, a drug overdose, or random voodoo spell. That last one's made up, but we shouldn't give the defense any ideas.
"Mr. George Floyd died from a cardiopulmonary arrest. It was caused by low oxygen levels. And those low oxygen levels were induced by the prone restraint and positional asphyxiation that he was subjected to," Rich said.
Dr. Andrew Baker, the medical examiner who ruled Floyd's death a homicide, stood by his earlier determination on Friday. Floyd is still dead, so that makes sense. Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, engaged Dr. Baker in a hypothetical: What if Nelson found Floyd in his home and the only evidence of his death was a bum heart and fentanyl in his system? This was the worst murder mystery party ever, but Dr. Baker played along. Sure, he'd likely assume that Floyd stopped breathing because of his heart and the drugs, but Derek Chauvin isn't on trial in Fantasy Island.
"Mr. Floyd's use of fentanyl did not cause the subdual or neck restraint," Baker said. "His heart disease did not cause the subdual or the neck restraint."
George Floyd died because Derek Chauvin killed him.
Dr. Martin Tobin, a pulmonary specialist, delivered devastating testimony on Thursday on Floyd's cause of death, which he attributed to a lack of oxygen.
Tobin told the jury that the officers made it harder for Floyd to breathe when they pushed the handcuffs into Floyd's back and raised his wrists higher as he lay on the street.
"It's like [Floyd's] left side is in a vise. It's totally being pushed in, squeezed in from each side," he said, clasping his hands tightly together to illustrate his point. The effect directly interfered with Floyd's ability to breathe and rendered his left lung almost entirely unable to operate, Tobin said.
Nelson likely sensed he was getting nowhere with the argument that Floyd's body just gave out like his warranty had expired. Maybe Floyd had “superhuman strength." The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. It's the Blade Runner theory for the defense.
So, on Tuesday, Minneapolis police medical support coordinator Nicole Mackenzie was questioned about "excited delirium," a syndrome in "dispute among health professionals," probably because it's bullshit. However, this scary Black giant shit is taught to cadets at the Minneapolis Police Department. Former officer Thomas Lane, who's facing his own charges for aiding and abetting, suggested that this syndrome could explain Floyd's behavior. Granted, I don't personally have experience pressing my knee into people's necks, but Floyd's response to torture didn't seem that unusual. You don't need a fancy syndrome to explain why Floyd freaked out while Chauvin killed him.
Mackenzie said the training points out that the syndrome leads to psychotic behavior, agitation, incoherent speech, superhuman strength and hyperthermia among other symptoms.
Wow! Floyd possessed superhuman strength before his heart stopped like a common John Henry who a cop murdered in the street. That's a slightly less inspirational folk tale, though probably more true of the period.
During an interrogation after Floyd's death, former officer Tou Thao, who's facing charges as well, also claimed he thought Floyd might have “superhuman strength" as a result of a drug overdose. There are no issues of Action Comics where Lex Luthor kneels on Superman's neck for page after page as our hero cries for his mother. That would frighten the kids. Floyd obviously wasn't demonstrating superhuman strength. These cops were either incapable of human empathy or had it trained out of them with BS “excited delirium" conspiracies.
The defense's argument is that Floyd was simultaneously a walking heart attack and also superhuman. Either way, he's Schrödinger's Black man, an actual person only when a cop's not observing him.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."