The one witness most responsible for the conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the “murder” of George Floyd was Irish-born, Chicago-based pulmonologist Dr. Martin Tobin.
“You’re seeing here fatal injury to the brain from a lack of oxygen,” Dr. Tobin told the jurors as they watched the famed video of Floyd’s last minutes.
According to the New York Times, Tobin claimed that Chauvin and the other officers “restricted Mr. Floyd’s breathing by flattening his rib cage against the pavement and pushing his cuffed hands into his torso, and by the placement of Mr. Chauvin’s knees on his neck and back.”
“I don’t think I’ve seen an expert witness as effective as this,” a former public defender told the Times, and its cheerleading reporters seemed fully to agree. “Jurors appeared to be riveted by Dr. Tobin’s ability to break down complex physiological concepts, at times scribbling notes in unison,” they gushed.
Watching from his home in Texas, Dr. John Dunn was not as enthused by Tobin’s performance. “Appalled” would be more like it.
Unlike Tobin, who admitted to having “never done this type of work in this nature before,” Dunn has “made a business of studying cause of death and sudden cause of death.” Dunn has been an emergency physician since 1974, his last post being as a contract faculty member for the Army Emergency Medicine training program at Fort Hood Texas.
Dr. Dunn is a former chairman of the medico-legal committee for the American College of Emergency Physicians. He is also board certified in legal medicine and co-author with a pathologist of a chapter on forensics for the American College of Legal Medicine.
A law school grad and an (inactive) member of the bar in three states, Dunn has been a lecturer in medical-legal matters for more than 35 years. He has followed the case from the beginning, studied the videos and reviewed the autopsy report.
“Asphyxiation was not the cause of George Floyd’s death,” he tells me. “It was cardiac arrhythmia during an episode of excited delirium, a well-known cause of sudden death that was the subject of an extensive research project and monograph by the American College of Emergency Physicians, published in 2009.”
“An honest reading of the autopsy leaves cardiac arrhythmia as the most likely cause of death – amplified by the tox and autopsy that showed meth on board, high levels of fentanyl and bad cardiac disease, both arteriosclerotic/atherosclerotic coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease (thick muscled big heart).”
Dr. Dunn continues, “Both of these cardiac problems produce a heart at risk of sudden death from a fatal rhythm disturbance. Exertion and excitement and stimulant drug effects increase that risk. Fentanyl is not a stimulant but can certainly contribute to delirium and excitement – meth is all about stimulant.”
In language too colorful for this publication, Dunn flatly rejects Tobin’s notion that Chauvin suffocated Floyd. He makes the ironic case that pulmonologists routinely put their COVID patients who need a ventilator in the prone position to better ventilate their lungs.
Dunn argues, “All of this talk about the prone position ignores the fact that the prone position has long been standard police practice especially for large, aggressive men like Floyd.”
The reason is simple. Prone is the one position that best neutralizes the suspect’s ability to fight back. “This was not a homicide,” says Dunn bluntly. “It was death while resisting arrest.”
Dunn makes the common-sense point that when a man with a heart condition dies while shoveling snow, cardiac arrest is almost inevitably the diagnosis.
But when a man with “severe coronary artery disease” as well as intoxicating levels of opiate and a stimulating level of amphetamine dies after a massive exertion, the State attributed the death to asphyxiation.
“Imagine what it would take to asphyxiate a 223-pound, 6-4 man [when] there is no evidence of a choke hold?” asks Dunn.
If Dunn is right, the State of Minnesota convicted an innocent man of murder in the second degree. Without the asphyxia diagnosis, there is no murder case against Chauvin and his fellow officers.
Tobin did, however, put on a good show. To sell asphyxia as the cause of death, he had to. His assignment was made all the more difficult since the one man to examine Floyd’s body, Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker, failed to notice any signs of asphyxia.
Conceded the Times, “[Tobin’s] testimony may help prosecutors overcome the fact that the official autopsy report did not use the word ‘asphyxia,’ and seemed to make irrelevant the exact position of Mr. Chauvin’s knees.”
As Baker noted, Chauvin’s knees did no damage. “Layer by layer dissection of the anterior strap muscles of the neck discloses no areas of contusion or hemorrhage within the musculature,” wrote Baker on the autopsy report. “The thyroid cartilage and hyoid bone are intact. The larynx is lined by intact mucosa.”
In addition, observed Baker, “The ribs, sternum, and vertebral bodies are visibly and palpably intact.” In the final analysis, it may not have mattered what Tobin said. The jurors were as eager to convict as was the State.
Tobin and the other physicians who testified for the State, Dunn argues, “are a classic example of science hijacked by politics – kind of like COVID, climate scares, the social sciences, most professional scientific work.”
Dunn adds, “Politics dominates everything and that means racial politics for sure.”
Jack Cashill’s latest book, “Barack Obama’s Promised Land: Deplorables Need Not Apply,” is now on pre-sale. His recent book, “Unmasking Obama: The Fight to Tell the True Story of a Failed Presidency,” is widely available. See www.cashill.com for more information.
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