In his motion for a new trial, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, through his attorney Eric Nelson, made an obvious point. Quoting case law, Nelson reminded the court of “the prosecutor’s inherently unique role in the criminal justice system, which mandates that the prosecutor not act as a zealous advocate for criminal punishment, but as the representative of the people in an effort to seek justice.”
Had the State prosecutors set out to honor this mandate and seek justice, they would not have presented the medical evidence they did. In fact, they would not have charged Derek Chauvin with second-degree murder or charged his colleagues as accomplices.
If justice were the goal, prosecutors would have taken two critical steps to assure that the medical testimony supported the charge of murder. The first was to run a controlled experiment to see if Chauvin’s actions could possibly have resulted in the death of George Floyd. The second was to make the court and the defense aware of the potential compromise of its star medical witness, Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker.
Dr. John Dunn did run such an experiment, and he made a video of the same. Dr. Dunn comes well credentialed. He is a former member and chair of the medico-legal committee for the American College of Emergency Physicians, board certified in legal medicine, and co-author with a pathologist of a chapter on forensics for a text published by the American College of Legal Medicine. He has followed the case from the beginning, studied the videos, and reviewed Floyd’s autopsy report.
Not content to speculate, Dr. Dunn enlisted the help of two men to determine whether or not the prone restraint used by Chauvin on Floyd could have asphyxiated and killed him. He recruited a 230-pound man to play the role of Floyd and a 170-pound man to play Chauvin’s role. At the time of the incident, Floyd weighed 223 pounds, and Chauvin, with his gear, weighed about 170.
The Chauvin proxy applied the handcuffs and placed the “suspect” in the prone restraint position. For a 10-minute period, he put his left knee on the man’s neck and shoulder, matching the pressure Chauvin put on Floyd. Throughout the experiment, Dunn used a pulse oximeter to monitor the oxygen level and pulse of the man being held in this prone restraint.
As Dunn attests and the video shows, “The results were that there was no impact on the oxygen level or the pulse of the restrained man for the full 10 minutes, and no ill effects at the time or two days later when he was interviewed.” Arguably, Dunn’s experiment has more evidentiary value than any contrary proof offered by the State.