Chauvin told the judge – before the jury returned to the courtroom – that it was his decision and his only decision. It was one of the few times the public had heard the ex-cop, who showed no emotion while scribbling on a notepad for nearly three weeks of testimony.
“If you were to try and think of all the different ways he could answer the question that burns in the minds of the jury … Why didn’t you just get off George Floyd’s neck?” Why didn’t you help him? Laura Coates, CNN’s senior legal analyst, said of the defendant.
“Remember that all of his potential answers will actually be the opposite of testimony they’ve seen before – from law enforcement experts, from his own police chief, from experts who talk about the concept of duty.” provide help even if someone is in your care. ”
“To offer an explanation, if not, a justification for what he did, which might be enough to sow it – not only a seed of reasonable doubt in the mind of a juror – but a seed of empathy” , she said.
After Chauvin invoked the fifth, the defense put his case to rest in the closely watched trial. The jury will be sequestered during deliberations next week.
“If I were you, I would plan long and hope short,” Judge Peter Cahill told jurors. “Basically it’s up to the jury how long you deliberate, how long you need to come to a unanimous decision on any count. “
Chauvin, 45, pleaded not guilty to unintentional second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter.
If convicted, Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for second degree murder, up to 25 years for third degree murder and up to 10 years for second degree manslaughter. The charges must be seen as separate, so that Chauvin could be convicted on all, some, or none of them.
Here are the highlights from the last week of testimonials:
The pulmonologist takes the helm a second time
Dr Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist who testified last week, returned to the stand Thursday for the prosecution in a brief rebuttal against a defense medical expert.
The state has sought to counter testimony from a medical examiner who told the jury on Wednesday that Floyd’s cause of death was “undetermined.” Floyd’s underlying heart problems were the main culprits, the pathologist said.
Dr David Fowler, who retired as Maryland’s chief medical examiner at the end of 2019, made a new defense: Carbon monoxide from the squad car exhaust may have be a contributor to Floyd’s death. Fowler admitted that there was no data or test results that could support his claim.
Tobin, in a brief rebuttal, told the jury that the carbon monoxide theory is proven wrong by another blood test which showed Floyd’s blood oxygen saturation to be 98%. This meant that his carbon monoxide level could be at most 2% – within the normal range.
Defense proposes a three-pronged legal strategy
The defense’s turn before the jury came on Tuesday when the prosecution rested after calling 38 witnesses for 11 days.
The state argued that Chauvin used excessive and unreasonable force when he knelt on Floyd’s neck and back for nine minutes and 29 seconds last May. The prosecution relied heavily on several videos of Chauvin’s actions, analysis by police experts, and medical testimony establishing that Floyd died as a result of the restraint.
The defense presented seven witnesses to reinforce its three-pronged strategy to clear the officer of his guilt: Floyd died of drug and health problems; Chauvin’s use of force was ugly but appropriate; and a hostile crowd of passers-by distracted the former officer.
At the heart of defense attorney Eric Nelson’s case is the argument that medical reasons, not Chauvin’s actions, caused Floyd’s death that night. In other words, Floyd’s use of methamphetamine and fentanyl, his initial resistance to officers, and his pre-existing heart problems all conspired to kill him.
“Their goal was to throw a bunch of arguments and hope something resonated with the jurors, but I just think it’s too hard to get over with this video,” said Jennifer Rodgers, CNN legal analyst. “I think their witnesses weren’t as strong as the prosecution. The cross-examination was very effective. “
Fowler testified that a sudden heart problem – not the police restraint – killed Floyd.
“In my opinion, Mr. Floyd had a sudden cardiac arrhythmia, or cardiac arrhythmia, due to his atherosclerosis and hypertensive heart disease… during his restraint and subdual by the police,” the medical examiner told the jury.
Floyd had narrowed the coronary arteries, known as atherosclerosis, according to Fowler. Her heart was enlarged due to her high blood pressure or hypertension.
Fowler also testified that Floyd’s consumption of fentanyl and methamphetamine, exposure to team car exhaust, and a tumor known as a paraganglioma also contributed.
Hennepin County medical examiner Dr Andrew Baker, who performed the autopsy on Floyd last May, had previously told the prosecution that Floyd’s death was “homicide.” The cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest – Floyd’s heart and lungs stopped. This happened during “law enforcement, restraint and compression of the neck,” the doctor said.
Baker said the paraganglioma was an “accidental” tumor that did not contribute to his death.
Four other medical experts have offered similar testimony for the condition: Floyd died of cardiopulmonary arrest caused by low oxygen levels due to stomach restraint and positional asphyxia. A cardiologist testified that Floyd’s heart showed no signs of injury.
But Baker told the jury that other “significant conditions” contributed to Floyd’s death, including hypertensive heart disease and his drug use. Some of Floyd’s blood vessels were severely constricted, and Baker testified that he could not find evidence at autopsy to support a conclusion of asphyxiation.
The Hennepin County medical examiner said Floyd’s blood contained about 11 nanograms of fentanyl per milliliter – more than in some overdose cases Baker has seen.
Expert: Chauvin justified kneeling on Floyd
Barry Brodd, a former police officer and use of force expert called by the defense on Tuesday, said Chauvin was justified in kneeling on Floyd for more than nine minutes and did not use lethal force.
“I felt that Derek Chauvin was justified and acted with reasonable objectivity, in accordance with Minneapolis Police Department policy and current law enforcement standards in his interactions with Mr. Floyd,” Brodd told the jury.
Brodd said he did not consider putting a handcuffed Floyd in the “stomach control” position on the street as a use of force. In fact, he suggested it was safer for the person because if they get up and fall they could injure their face.
“It doesn’t hurt,” Brodd said. “You’ve put the suspect in a position where it’s safe for you, the officer, safe for them, the suspect, and you’re using minimal effort to keep them on the ground.
Brodd’s testimony was at odds with prosecution police experts and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who said Chauvin’s actions were “in no way, form or form” in the policy, training, ethics or values framework of the department.
On the cross, Brodd said he did not view the prone control position as a use of force because it did not cause pain.
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher showed Brodd a still image of Chauvin’s knee sinking into Floyd’s neck. He asked if this position could cause pain. Brodd said he “could,” so Schleicher asked him if that meant Chauvin’s action was a use of force.
“In this photo, it could be a use of force,” Brodd said.
Brodd admitted that he was not specifically aware of the Minneapolis Police Department’s definition of force, which defines it as coercion that causes injury or pain. He also recognized that getting someone into the side recovery position is quick and easy.
At one point, Brodd said Floyd resisted police for “a few minutes” after being taken to the ground. Prosecutors have released several video clips of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd. Brodd then admitted that he wasn’t sure Floyd was struggling with the police or twisting on the ground.
“I don’t know the difference,” he says.
Other defense witnesses have testified about Floyd’s drug use, particularly in an earlier arrest in May 2019 in which he ingested opioids as police approached him in a vehicle.
Jury deliberations begin next week in a metropolitan area of Minneapolis reeling from other police-related deaths, including the police shooting of Daunte Wright last weekend. Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter has been charged with second degree manslaughter in the murder of the black motorist following nights of protests.