Medical examiner who ruled Floyd's death a homicide takes stand in 3 ex-cops' trial

A man behind a desk speaks.
Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker testifies during the trial of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on April 9, 2021. He conducted the autopsy on Floyd’s body and ruled the man’s death a homicide in 2020.
Screenshot of Court TV video

Updated: 3:17 p.m.

The medical examiner who performed the autopsy on George Floyd testified Tuesday in the federal trial of former Minneapolis police officers accused of violating Floyd’s civil rights.

Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker started his testimony on Monday afternoon where he concluded that Floyd's cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual restraint and neck compression.” Baker said Floyd also had heart disease and drugs in his system, which he said were conditions that contributed to his death.

On Tuesday, defense attorney Robert Paule questioned Baker extensively about his experience with the controversial condition known as “excited delirium.” Baker said he has listed the condition as cause of death on some death certificates during his career, but did not put it on his report about Floyd.

Baker also testified that he and his staff received hundreds of harassing and threatening phone calls after Floyd’s killing. 

Baker testified at the criminal trial of former officer Derek Chauvin in state court last spring, where he said that the law enforcement use of force on Floyd was just more than Floyd could take.

Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after then-officer Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes in south Minneapolis.

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Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane are charged with failing to provide Floyd with medical treatment.

Kueng and Thao are also charged with failing to intervene with Chauvin’s use of force on Floyd.

J. Alexander Kueng, from left, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao
J. Alexander Kueng, from left, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP

Christopher Douglas, a safety training officer at Hennepin County’s Department of Community Corrections and Rehabilitation, who trained Lane when he worked for the department also took the stand on Tuesday.

Douglas said positional asphyxia is a concept that’s introduced early on and revisited throughout the trainings he conducts.

“Once handcuffs are applied in the prone position, our goal should be to roll the person into the recovery position so they can expand their lungs and breathe,” Douglas said. “The moment you apply restraints to a resident, you are responsible for their safety.”

Douglas told the court that Lane took at least two trainings warning about the dangers of positional asphyxia while employed by the county.

Court proceedings wrapped up early for the day after a prosecution witness got sick, but the prosecution will continue to call witnesses on Wednesday morning.

3 cops did ‘nothing’ to help Floyd

Minneapolis police Inspector Katie Blackwell concluded her testimony Monday. She testified that the defendants had not followed department training or policies in restraining Floyd and failing to intervene with Chauvin.

Blackwell also testified that the defendants did “nothing” to intervene with Chauvin or provide medical aid to Floyd when he was in police custody, although she admitted under defense questioning that Lane assisted paramedics with CPR after Floyd was put into an ambulance.

Defense attorneys have focused on a controversial condition called “excited delirium,” which is a concept that’s widely trained for in police departments around the country, although it’s not recognized by some medical experts.

A woman in a police uniform sits in front of a microphone
Minneapolis police Inspector Katie Blackwell of the 5th Precinct answers questions under oath during the trial of Derek Chauvin in April 2021.
Courtesy of Court TV

Blackwell said Minneapolis police did teach officers to deal with “excited delirium” when the defendants were trained. A statement from Minneapolis interim Chief Amelia Huffman, said the term is no longer used in the department.

“MPD training emphasizes identifying altered mental status as a potentially serious medical emergency and obtaining EMS assistance as soon as possible,” she said.

Defense attorneys have also questioned the adequacy of training at the Minneapolis Police Department, arguing that policies like “duty to intervene” weren’t explained well and that there were low standards for field training officers who were paired with inexperienced officers.

The first full week in court included testimony by first responders and bystanders who witnessed his killing.

Jury selection in the trial started on Jan. 20. The judge has told jurors that he expects the trial to last about a month.