A chilling detail has been highlighted by the prosecution in the case against Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 45, who stands accused of murder after kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for more than nine minutes.
Images shown from a video of the incident last May – which went viral and sparked racial justice protests across the United States and the world – could hold the key to the fate of the accused cop.
While pressing his knee against the downed man, Chauvin's toe on the same leg was shown to be not touching the ground, meaning all the pressure and weight of the officer was being borne by Mr Floyd's neck.
Prosecutors zoomed in to make the argument.
“The toe of his boot is no longer touching the ground, this means that all of his body weight is being directed down at Mr Floyd’s neck,” prosecution witness Dr Martin Tobin, a lung and critical care specialist, said.
The lack of oxygen resulted in brain damage and caused his heart to stop, the witness said.
Analysing images shown in the court room of the three officers restraining Mr Floyd for what prosecutors say was almost nine-and-a-half minutes, Dr Tobin testified Chauvin’s knee was “virtually on the neck” more than 90 per cent of the time.
The expert calculated that at times when Chauvin was in a near-vertical position, with his toes off the ground, half of Chauvin’s body weight with his gear included — 41.5 kilograms — was directly on Mr Floyd’s neck.
Chauvin kept his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for three minutes and two seconds after he took his last breath, Dr Tobin said.
The expert witness pinpointed what he said was a change in the man’s face that told him Mr Floyd was dead. That moment happened about five minutes after police began holding Mr Floyd down.
“At the beginning, you can see he’s conscious, you can see slight flickering, and then it disappears,” he explained.
“That’s the moment the life goes out of his body.”
Officer's action 'like removing a lung'
Using easy-to-understand language to explain medical concepts and even loosening his necktie to illustrate a point, Dr Tobin told the jury Mr Floyd’s breathing was severely constricted during the heavy-handed arrest by the officers.
The expert testimony emphatically rejected the defence's theory that Mr Floyd’s drug use and underlying health problems caused his death.
“A healthy person subjected to what Mr Floyd was subjected to would have died," Dr Tobin said.
The lack of oxygen resulted in brain damage and caused his heart to stop, he told the court, saying it was almost “as if a surgeon had gone in and removed” Mr Floyd’s lung.
Chauvin’s attorney has repeatedly shown the jury still images from the video that he said depicted the officer’s knee on Mr Floyd’s shoulder blade, not his neck.
However nearly all of those images were captured after the five-minute mark, according to the time stamps.
Chauvin faces second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges in Mr Floyd's death.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com