Two doctors who were recruited by the George Floyd family attorneys to conduct an “independent autopsy” won’t be called to testify at former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, according to court documents.
Drs. Michael Baden and Allecia Wilson appeared at a June 1 press conference with attorney Ben Crump to announce that Floyd died of “asphyxiation from sustained pressure.” The claim was picked up by countless media outlets and ahead of the June 3 release of Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker’s full autopsy.
At the top of her remarks, Wilson admitted that she and Baden hadn’t seen Floyd’s toxicology results, likely because they weren’t released to the public until Baker issued his full 20-page report.
“While beneficial, second autopsies do have their limitations as we are not seeing the tissues in their original state and some items may have been kept by the original pathologist,” said Wilson. “With that acknowledgement, we feel those items will not change or alter the primary cause of death of mechanical asphyxia.”
Baden and Wilson appeared to base their findings on the video of Floyd’s death and a medical history provided by Floyd’s family.
An initial one-page summary from Baker’s office listed the cause of death as “cardiopulmonary arrest” complicated by “law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” but his full report didn’t explicitly list a cause of death.
Unlike the independent autopsy, Baker’s report didn’t identify asphyxia as a causal factor in Floyd’s death.
In fact, the initial criminal complaint filed again Chauvin said the “autopsy revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation.”
“Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease. The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death,” the complaint said.
Nearly 400 witnesses could be called in the trial, including several doctors, police officers, and eyewitnesses. But neither Baden nor Wilson are included on the state’s witness list or the defense’s witness list.
Defense counsel Eric Nelson filed a motion last week to prevent the state from seeking “testimony about medical examinations performed by anyone other than Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Baker.”
“Granted. State has disclosed that it does not intend to call any other such witnesses,” Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill responded.
Attorney Scott Johnson said the case hinges on the question of cause of death, making Baker one of the key witnesses in the trial. According to former prosecutor George Parry’s analysis, Baker amended his findings to include a reference to “law enforcement subdual” after the independent autopsy was released.
During his opening statement Monday, Nelson stressed that Baker’s report was “the only autopsy” performed on Floyd.
“Dr. Baker found none of what are referred to as the telltale signs of asphyxiation,” he said. “And the state was not satisfied with Dr. Baker’s work and so they have contracted with numerous physicians to contradict Dr. Baker’s findings.
“This will ultimately be another significant battle in this trial. What was Mr. Floyd’s actual cause of death?” Nelson added.