Who is Daniel Isenschmid? Toxicologist says George Floyd’s ‘low level’ of fentanyl did not contribute to death

Forensic toxicologist Daniel Isenschmid, who testified for the prosecution, said on Thursday, April 8, though Floyd’s system had fentanyl and methamphetamine, it did not contribute to his tragic death on May 25, 2020


                            Who is Daniel Isenschmid? Toxicologist says George Floyd’s ‘low level’ of fentanyl did not contribute to death
Forensic toxicologist Daniel Isenschmid said the type of fentanyl found in Floyd's blood is not what is found often in fatal overdose victims (Getty Images)
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The ninth day of the Derek Chauvin murder trial saw two doctors and a forensic toxicologist testifying in the George Floyd case. Forensic toxicologist Daniel Isenschmid, who testified for the prosecution, said on Thursday, April 8, though Floyd’s system had fentanyl and methamphetamine, it did not contribute to his tragic death on May 25, 2020.

Isenschmid, a forensic toxicologist for the NMS Labs in Pennsylvania, told the jurors that the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office ordered him to test the blood taken out from the 46-year-old’s body the night he died. He went on to say that Floyd’s body had 11 nanograms of fentanyl per milliliter and 19 nanograms of methamphetamine per milliliter. The former chief toxicologist for the Wayne County, Michigan, Medical Examiner's Office, also said that the blood samples of Floyd also contained 5.6 nanograms of norfentanyl, or metabolize fentanyl, and traces of caffeine and THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.

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But Isenschmid noted that the discovery of the fentanyl and methamphetamine in the African-American man did not mean he died due to it. He added that the type of fentanyl found in Floyd's blood is not what is found often in fatal overdose victims, suggesting that his cause of death was not overdose. Isenschmid called his discovery of fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s blood “low level" traces, which was lesser than levels found in 94% of DUI cases.

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Philonise Floyd, George Floyd's brother, embraces Gwen Carr as he speaks outside the Hennepin County Government Center on April 6, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Getty Images)

The defense in the Floyd case has been trying to imply that the Black man’s cause of death was drug use, underlying health conditions, and the adrenaline flowing through his body. But it was dismissed by Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) Dr William 'Bill' Smock on Thursday. The doctor said that Floyd died from “positional asphyxia, which is a fancy way to say that he died because he had no oxygen in his body. Low oxygen is one way, no oxygen when the body is deprived of oxygen, in this case from pressure on his chest and back. He gradually succumbed to lower and lower levels of oxygen until it was gone, and he died.”

Smock, who is the head of the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention’s medical committee, added: “You can be fatally strangled, die of asphyxia, and have no bruising. The presence or absence of a bruise on a human body is dependent on multiple...variables.” When Smock was questioned by prosecutors about what was the right time to give Floyd CPR, he responded, “Way before it was as soon as Mr Floyd was unconscious.”

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Activists demonstrate near the Hennepin County Government Center following the start of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on March 29, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Getty Images)

While giving his testimony before the jurors, Smock also said that Floyd was not experiencing “excited delirium” on May 25 last year, a term that the defense attorney Eric Nelson “throughout the first phases of the murder trial has made passing reference to as he attempts to build a case for his client,” The Guardian’s Oliver Laughland noted.

But Laughland added, “‘excited delirium’ is a controversial and disputed expression often used in fatal cases of police violence. While certain medical bodies and experts recognize the term, many others do not, and there is no universally accepted definition of what it constitutes. Others have argued the phrase carries racial biases and is often used to justify lethal use of force by police, disproportionately against Black men.”

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Who is Daniel Isenschmid?

Isenschmid, the recipient of several Educational Research Awards from the Society of Forensic Toxicologists, has earned his B.S. degree in Biology from Adelphi University and received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in pathology and forensic toxicology from the University of Maryland at Baltimore, School of Medicine. He has also been honored with a number of Educational Research Awards from the Society of Forensic Toxicologists as well as with the Irving Sunshine Award and Alexander O. Gettler Award from the Toxicology Section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

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Besides, Isenschmid has also contributed and published papers on topics related to "postmortem forensic drug testing including medical examiner case reports, the interpretation of postmortem cocaine concentrations, the stability and analysis of cocaine and its metabolites, and the effects of cocaine on human performance,” the Center for Forensic Science Research & Education states.

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