New evidence filed in the murder case against four former Minneapolis Police Department officers charged with killing George Floyd is raising questions about the alleged murder and the circumstances of Floyd’s death.
On Tuesday, six pieces of evidence were filed following a request by the attorney of one of the four officers arrested in the case asking for the release of the entire autopsy report conducted by the county medical examiner.
According to a report by Fox9, two of the memos filed as evidence Tuesday seem to challenge the official results of the autopsy.
Forty-six-year-old George Floyd died on May 25th during an arrest operation in Minneapolis, after he attempted to pass off a counterfeit bill.
After footage recorded on a cell phone of part of the arrest showed an officer pinning Floyd down with a knee to the back of the neck, the officer, Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder. The charges were later amended to second-degree murder.
Three other officers present during the arrest - Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao – were later arrested and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
An autopsy performed by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, the results of which were released in early June, concluded that Floyd’s death was likely the result of homicide, concluding that Floyd had died as a result of police force during his arrest, while noting the additional influence of fentanyl intoxication and heart disease.
Floyd, the autopsy said, died of “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression.”
Later, a memorandum filed by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner – one of the documents entered into evidence – confirmed the autopsy’s finding, writing: “His death was caused by the police subdual and restraint in the setting of severe hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, and methamphetamine and fentanyl intoxication.”
But according to the newly released memos, Floyd’s toxicology report from May 31st raised questions about the conclusions made in the autopsy report. Even prior to May 31st, one memo shows medical examiners were uncertain of the cause of death.
The first memo was filed on May 26th by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, following a conversation by Assistant County Attorney Amy Sweasy with Chief Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker.
In her memo, Sweasy wrote that Baker had concluded that: “The autopsy revealed no physical evidence suggesting that Mr. Floyd died of asphyxiation.”
Baker also said that the investigation was incomplete without the full toxicology report.
Six days later, a second memo was filed by Sweasy summing up a conversation the day before with Dr. Baker, following the full toxicology report.
Baker, Sweasy wrote, “shared his screen and showed us the results. He said that where it says, ‘Hospital Blood,’ those samples are from Mr. Floyd’s hospital admission and were not acquired at autopsy.”
Baker “said that these samples are better for determining actual blood toxicity than samples taken at autopsy. Samples taken at autopsy may have undergone ‘post mortem distribution’.”
Sweasy noted that when Baker discussed Floyd’s fentanyl levels based on the hospital blood sample – rather than the sample taken during the autopsy – Baker said the levels would have been fatal even “under normal circumstances”.
“He said, ‘that’s pretty high.’ This level of fentanyl can cause pulmonary edema. Mr. Floyd’s lungs were 2-3x their normal weight at autopsy. That is a fatal level of fentanyl under normal circumstances.”
Baker, Sweasy continued “said that if Mr. Floyd had been found dead in his home (or anywhere else), and there were no other contributing factors he would conclude that it was an overdose.”
If Floyd had been suffering from pulmonary edema at the time of his arrest, it would account for claims by officers present at the scene that Floyd was foaming at the mouth. It would also suggest that the cause of death may not have been the manner in which he was immobilized during the arrest.
Former federal prosecutor George Parry blasted the handling of the indictments against the four officers in the case, writing in the conservative American Spectator that the newly released evidence demolished the prosecution’s case.
“Translation: this toxicology report drives a stake through the heart of our murder case. How do we justify criminally charging these police officers and explain away our colossal screw-up?”
An additional document filed in evidence Tuesday, however, presents the case differently, apparently not concluding definitely the death was a can of overdosing.
The handwritten note penned on June 2nd – a day after the second Sweasy memo – reads in part “Fentanyl at 11 ng/ml — this is higher than chronic pain patient. If he were found dead at home alone & no other apparent cause, this could be acceptable to call an OD. Deaths have been certified w/ levels of 3.”