Each day the Minnesota v. Derek Chauvin trial adds to its historical importance, and it took a significant turn the second week with testimony from Dr. Bradford Langenfeld and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. 

During the morning session on Monday, April 5, Dr. Langenfeld took the witness stand, detailing the events that led him to pronounce George Floyd dead. Dr. Langenfeld, the chief medic at the Hennepin County Medical Center, under questioning by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, told the court that he believed asphyxia was the cause of George Floyd’s death.

“Any amount of time that a patient spends in cardiac arrest without CPR markedly decreases the chances of survival,” Dr. Langenfeld said. When asked about Floyd’s condition upon arrival at the center, he said there was nothing in the paramedics’ reports to suggest they were concerned that Floyd had either suffered a heart attack or drug overdose. He could not recall if Floyd was still cuffed but did remember seeing indentations around his wrist where cuffs may have been placed.

He told the court that Floyd had no pulse when he arrived at the hospital, and decided resuscitation by various means would have been useless. On occasion, he explained, if the patient’s heart is strong enough it’s possible to induce a PEA (Pulseless Electrical Activity), shock treatment, to stimulate the heart.

When defense attorney Eric Nelson directed his cross examination on the high levels of carbon dioxide (CO 2) found in Floyd’s system, alluding to the notion that the drug fentanyl was the cause of death. Dr. Langenfeld concurred that Floyd had high levels of carbon dioxide in his blood gases but he said that such levels were consistent with an extended period of cardiac arrest.

According to the medical examiner’s office, Floyd’s death was classified as a homicide, death at the hands of someone else. While fentanyl and methamphetamine were listed in Floyd’s system, the report stated that he died of “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

Nelson’s line of questioning was to continue that Floyd’s death was not caused by Chauvin’s knee compressed on his neck for more than nine minutes. 

Police Chief Arradondo testified that pressing Floyd’s neck for nine minutes were not part of the department’s policy. “To continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back…that in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy,” he told the court. He added that Chauvin’s action was “not part of our training. And it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.”

He said that once Floyd had stopped “resisting, and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that that should have stopped.” Arradondo immediately fired Chauvin and the other cops, which their union had condoned. There was even a testy exchange between defense attorney Eric Nelson and Arradondo on the amount of pressure Chauvin applied to Floyd’s neck. “You are not a physicist,” Nelson remarked sarcastically. “No I’m not,” Arradondo replied.

The chief was followed on the witness stand by Katie Blackwell, a former training commander, whose testimony was in accord with Chief Arradondo, stating “That’ not what we train.” On Tuesday, April 6, there was testimony about training and the difference between conscious and unconscious neck holds. Meanwhile outside the courtroom, the Rev. Al Sharpton was joined by attorney Benjamin Crump, former New York Gov. David Paterson, Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, and members of Floyd’s family in a prayer vigil. Earlier Sharpton had said it was more than Derek Chauvin on trial, “it’s America on trial,” he said.