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I previously wrote that the key to conviction in the Derek Chauvin trial (and avoiding a cascading failure in all four cases) is the autopsy findings and the role of drugs (including fentanyl) in the body of George Floyd. Prosecutors are now asking the jury to effectively dismiss the findings of the only official autopsy in the case and insist, contrary to those findings, that Floyd died from asphyxia, or, lack of oxygen. Some new disclosures may make that claim more difficult for the prosecution.
Last week, special prosecutor Jerry Blackwell admitted to jurors that Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker pointed to cardiac arrest as Floyd’s cause of death. However, he insisted that the state would prove that “was … not a fatal heart event,” but asphyxiation.
It is a bold move since it could invite reasonable doubt on the cause of death. The question is whether a case of manslaughter could have been advanced without the need of opposing the state’s own coroner on such findings. The failure of Chauvin to respond to a medical emergency speaks more to manslaughter than murder but it could be framed consistently with these findings. Instead, the prosecution has asked the jury to effectively reject the coroner’s findings — a risky maneuver.