The pathologist who performed an autopsy on Eric Garner testified Wednesday that the banned chokehold performed by Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo sparked a “lethal sequence of events” that led to his death.
Dr. Floriana Persechino said the maneuver sparked an asthma attack, that led to Garner not being able to breathe as he was arrested on Staten Island on July 17, 2014.
After reviewing the video, first released by the Daily News, Persechinio testified at Pantaleo’s NYPD trial in Police Headquarters that the officer clearly has Garner in a chokehold as he took the larger man down to the ground face first.
“That maneuver is a chokehold,” said Persechino, who has performed upwards of 4,000 autopsies and has been trained on how to check for signs to see if a chokehold played a role in someone’s death.
“It is my opinion that the injury, the chokehold, the chest compression, set in motion a lethal sequence of events... a cascade of events," she explained.
Using grisly autopsy photos of Garner, 43, as a guide, Persechino painstakingly reviewed her findings.
When the Civilian Complaint Review Board announced that autopsy photos would be shown, Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr and Iris Baez left the courtroom. Baez’s son Anthony, died after a cop put him in a chokehold in 1994.
Persechino said found signs of trauma below four layers of tissue and that none of Garner’s bones were broken because his weight acted as a cushion to prevent breakage.
Yet an exam of Garner’s eyes showed hemorrhaging blood vessels, signs of asphyxiation.
“The hemorrhaging was due to the compression of the neck by the chokehold," she said. “Application of pressure to the interior neck is a painful phenomenon.”
Persechino was the sixth and final witness the CCRB put on in their case against Pantaleo, who is accused of performing a banned chokehold on Garner, killing him.
Pantaleo’s lawyer alleged that Garner had so many medical problems that a bear hug could have killed him and that he’d be alive today if he hadn’t resisted arrest.
Under questioning by the cop’s attorney, the doctor admitted some of Garner’s injuries could have been caused by efforts to revive him. She also said that a bear hug “could have triggered" the same deadly reaction in Garner.
On a recross examination, Pereschino was asked if she saw Pantaleo give Garner a bear hug.
“I saw a neck compression, a chokehold,” the doctor replied.
Outside of One Police Plaza, the lawyer, Stu London re-iterated that Garner’s health gave him “no margin of safety.”
“He was a ticking time bomb,” London said.
Carr also spoke about the defense strategy. “It’s disgusting,“ she said.
Pantaleo and other officers confronted Garner after responding to a complaint about the sale of loose unlicensed cigarettes on Bay St. in Tompkinsville. Garner argued with the cops before Pantaleo put his arm around Garner’s head and took him down.
Garner repeatedly pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” before losing consciousness.
The city medical examiner ruled Garner died from the chokehold and chest compression, and said Garner’s weight, asthma and cardiovascular disease were contributing factors.
His mother vows to attend every day of the two week trial.