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The preposterous defense of George Floyd’s killing has a long, dark history

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s felony protection group is nonetheless attempting to point out that George Floyd died of a drug overdose or hypertension or one thing—something—apart from Chauvin’s knee pressed down on his neck.

In August, his protection argued that each one fees in opposition to Chauvin must be dropped as a result of, legal professional Eric Nelson mentioned, an overdose of fentanyl was chargeable for Floyd’s demise. Hennepin County Decide Peter Cahill was not satisfied, however at this week’s pretrial hearings, Nelson was back on this argument, asking Cahill to permit proof about one other time Floyd swallowed tablets and suffered from very hypertension.

The concept that 46-year-old George Floyd coincidentally died of pure causes precisely eight minutes and 46 seconds after Derek Chauvin began squeezing his neck is preposterous. The Hennepin County medical expert dominated Floyd’s demise a murder. A second impartial post-mortem confirmed the officers, and never the drug, killed Floyd.

However, right-wing media has careworn his well being issues, together with coronary artery illness, hypertension, and a long-running battle with habit.

Floyd did in truth have a major quantity of fentanyl in his system when he died. However we all know he did not die from a fentanyl overdose. An opioid overdose unfolds in a predictable order: The individual drifts off to sleep and finally stops respiratory.

Floyd, in contrast, was wakeful and begging for his life because the officers handcuffed him and pressed him face down into the concrete. Floyd’s determined protests that he could not breathe are additional proof that he wasn’t overdosing. Opioids numb the agonizing feeling of breathlessness that indicators you aren’t getting sufficient air.

The assorted medicine in Floyd’s system (one in every of which was methamphetamine), and his hardened arteries, could have made him extra weak to demise throughout restraint, however that is legally irrelevant to Derek Chauvin’s culpability.

“That is the basic eggshell cranium,” Chauvin prosecutor Matthew Frank mentioned, referring to the legal principle {that a} sufferer’s fragility doesn’t reduce an assailant’s guilt.

When you punch somebody within the head they usually die as a result of they’ve a fragile cranium, you are not any much less responsible, even when a wholesome sufferer would have survived. Decide Cahill agreed:

“The officers need to take care of their arrestee as they discover him.”

The protection’s technique is a part of an extended historical past of scientifically doubtful makes an attempt guilty detainees for dying. Police have been utilizing the doubtful label of “excited delirium syndrome” (ExDS) to excuse deaths in custody for many years. The label helped officers keep away from fees within the deaths of Elijah McClain (August 2019) and Daniel Prude (March 2020), and different unarmed Black males who’ve died in police custody.

In Texas, one in six non-shooting deaths in police custody was blamed on “excited delirium syndrome,” and almost 85 % of the victims had been Black or Hispanic males, in response to a 2017 evaluation by the Austin American-Statesman.

The situation is alleged to be most typical amongst youthful males with histories of stimulant drug use and/or psychological sickness. The sufferer is claimed to be reduce off from actuality, impervious to ache, extraordinarily sturdy, and really aggressive. ExDS just isn’t a analysis acknowledged by the American Psychiatric Affiliation, the American Medical Affiliation or the World Well being Group. Proponents of the ExDS label admit there are no standard criteria for diagnosing it, and no goal indicators at post-mortem.

There is no there there.

Above all, “excited delirium syndrome” is a narrative purporting to elucidate why a younger wholesome individual may drop useless in police custody via no fault of the officers. It’s alleged to be a deadly illness already well-advanced by the point the police present up. It is this so-called “illness” that causes the individual’s combative conduct and the “illness” that in the end claims his life. The “excited delirium narrative” can be excellent to justify speedy escalation of pressure and excessive types of restraint.

As Floyd lay on the sidewalk, rookie cop Thomas Lane requested if he must be rolled onto his aspect, saying, “I’m nervous about excited delirium, or no matter” (stress added).

“That is why we have him on his abdomen,” Chauvin replied, utilizing the suspicion of “excited delirium syndrome” to justify excessive and harmful police restraint.

Critics say deaths ascribed to “excited delirium” are a predictable results of hog-tying extraordinarily agitated individuals: If a person is struggling, he is utilizing additional oxygen. His adrenaline is pumping, which will increase coronary heart pressure. The stress on his torso makes respiratory shallower. So he could also be taking in oxygen, however unable to blow off carbon dioxide—which acidifies the blood and units the stage for lethal issues. There is no have to posit a mysterious illness to elucidate why individuals typically die this fashion.

“Excited delirium” has at all times been a racialized idea. The time period was coined within the 1980s by a Miami medical expert in search of to elucidate why 17 useless Black sex workers had been discovered semi-nude with non-lethal ranges of cocaine of their techniques. Dr. Charles Wetli hypothesized that the ladies had been achieved in by a deadly mixture of sex and drugs. “For some purpose,” Wetli mentioned, “the male of the species turns into psychotic [after chronic cocaine use] and the feminine of the species dies in relation to intercourse.” These ladies had been later discovered to have been strangled by a serial killer, however that did not cease the idea from evolving into the go-to excuse for deaths of restrained individuals in police custody.

If the police should take their arrestee as they discover him, then they’re legally accountable in the event that they do one thing reckless that kills him—even when the identical remedy would not have killed a more healthy individual. The enchantment of “excited delirium” is that it supposedly breaks the causal chain between the law enforcement officials’ actions and the individual’s demise.

The Chauvin protection group’s deal with Floyd’s drug use and continual well being points is simply an underhanded method to invoke “excited delirium” protection by one other title.

Source: The preposterous defense of George Floyd’s killing has a long, dark history

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