What to Know
The New York City Medical Examiner took the stand Wednesday at the departmental trial of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo
Dr. Dr. Floriana Persechino testified that she felt his injuries were caused by a chokehold
Pantaleo allegedly used a banned chokehold on the 43-year-old New York City father who died in 2014
Graphic autospy photos were submitted into evidence in the NYPD trial of the cop accused of killing Eric Garner Wednesday as the medical examiner took the stand, where she testified that she felt his injuries were caused by a chokehold, while the defense argued that he did not die of the chokehold itself.
Describing the chokehold as the first event in a lethal cascade of events, Dr. Floriana Persechino said she found hemorrhages on muscles inside the neck, root of tongue and the back of his neck. She said there was a 2-inch hemorrhage in front of his larynx. The hemorrhages, she said, occurred around the time of Garner's death. She noted that she found no visible injuries under Garner's neck, but said in her medical opinion, the 43-year-old father was put in a chokehold.
Persechino clarified that "chokehold" or "neck hold" is also a forensic term.
During her testimony, Persechino also said that her autopsy found other underlying medical issues including heart disease, a large heart, hypertension and obesity.
Garner's official cause of death was compression of the neck/chokehold, chest compression with contributing factors of asthma, obesity, cardiovascular disease and hypertension, she said. The manner of death was ruled homicide.
The infamous video of Pantaleo putting his arm around Eric Garner's neck just before his death was played again Wednesday as Persechino testified. She said she first saw it when conducting the autopsy.
During the third day of trial, graphic autopsy photos submitted to evidence. Before the medical examiner's testimony began, Garner’s mother and several other relatives stepped outside and did not stay for testimony.
During cross examination, Pantaleo's attorney, Stuart London, tried to establish that Garner did not die of the chokehold itself. Persechino agreed that it triggered a series of lethal events. Additionally, when asked if a bear hug could have triggered same series of events she said it could have.
The defense also tried to argue that there should have been more damage to trachea and other parts of neck if Garner was put in chokehold, but Persechino disagreed saying that she does not determine how much pressure is applied but rather that his neck injuries are consistent with neck compression that caused the asthma attack.
Additionally, Persechino said, that since she has seen the video, she can call it a chokehold becuase it is part of her forensic training. She added that this case was the first time in which she had video to review in addition to her autopsy findings in a neck compression case. She said that without the video she would have called it a neck compression, but because of the video she can call it a chokehold.
On Tuesday, an NYPD training expert testified that the move seen on the video "meets the definition of a chokehold." That contradicts the defense's claim that Pantaleo used an approved technique called a "seat-belt hold."
Pantaleo is not facing criminal charges. However, he could lose vacation days or be fired depending on the outcome of the disciplinary trial.
The disciplinary hearing kicked off amid protests on Monday. The first day of trial proved to be emotional as Garner’s sister left a Manhattan courtroom wailing.
Pantaleo and other officers were trying to handcuff Garner, an unarmed black man, after stopping him on a city street corner for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, when Garner started to struggle. He later died.
The medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide caused in part by the cop's apparent chokehold. He was heavyset and had asthma, which were also contributing factors, the medical examiner's office said.
Garner's family received $5.9 million from the city in 2015 to settle a wrongful death claim. Federal prosecutors have until July to file civil rights charges against Pantaleo.