Former police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with murder in the death of George Floyd, refused to testify at trial.
The defense chose not to make him take the stand to avoid questioning by the prosecution. The jury will begin deliberating next week.
The defense in the murder trial of former officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd concluded their case Thursday without putting the defendant on the stand, presenting two days of testimony within two weeks of the prosecution.
Chauvin informed the court that he would not testify, saying that he would avail himself of his Fifth Amendment right not to take the stand.
“Is this your decision not to testify?” Judge Peter Cahill asked. “It is, Your Honor,” Chauvin said. Without giving his testimony, he will not be able to be questioned by the prosecution either, something that could have harmed him.
Some rebuttal testimony to the prosecution was expected to be produced on Thursday. Closing arguments are set for Monday, after which the jury, made up of people of various races, will begin deliberating.
Minneapolis remains in suspense, and the court is heavily guarded for a repeat of the protests and violence that erupted last spring over Floyd’s death.
The question is whether Chauvin will testify that he was the subject of weeks of speculation.
The stakes were high: Testifying could expose him to a devastating questioning, in which prosecutors would replay the arrest video and force Chauvin to explain, frame by frame, why he continued to pressure Floyd. But taking the stand could also have given the jury a chance to see or hear any remorse or sympathy he might feel. Also, he would have had to remove the COVID-19 mask that he should have worn on the defense table.
The only time Chauvin has been heard publicly defend himself was when the jury heard the body camera footage at the crime scene last May. After an ambulance took Floyd away, Chauvin told a passerby, “We have to check on this guy because he’s a sizeable guy … and it looks like he’s probably drugged.”
The decision not to testify was announced a day later by a coroner who testified that Floyd died of a sudden heart attack due to heart disease. That contradicts prosecution experts who said Floyd succumbed to oxygen deprivation from the way he was immobilized.
A former chief medical examiner in Maryland, David Fowler, who now works for a consulting firm, said Wednesday that fentanyl and methamphetamine in the Floyd system and carbon monoxide poisoning from pipes in-car tails were factors. That contributed to the death of the 46-year-old black man last May. “They all combined to cause Mr. Floyd’s death,” he said.
Fowler also stated that he would classify the manner of death as “indeterminate,” rather than homicide, as ruled by the county’s chief medical examiner. He said there were many contradictory factors in Floyd’s death, some of which could be described as genocide and some as accidental.
Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, is trying to show that the 19-year-old former Minneapolis police officer did what he was trained to do and that Floyd’s death was caused by drug abuse and health problems.
Prosecutors say Floyd’s death was begun by a white officer’s knee being held on Floyd’s neck or neck area for nine and a half minutes as he reposed on the floor on his stomach, his hands handcuffed behind him and his face stuck against the floor.
Fowler listed a multitude of factors or possible factors: Floyd’s narrowing of arteries, his enlarged heart, his high blood pressure, his drug use, the stress of his retention, his escape from the vehicle, and a tumor or growth on his abdomen. Lower which can sometimes play a role in high blood pressure by releasing ‘fight or flight hormones.
Fowler said that all of these factors might have worked together to make Flood’s heart work harder, suffer from pity or abnormal rhythms, and stop abruptly.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell launched an offensive cross-examination, attacking Fowler’s results along the line.
He got Fowler to recognize that even someone who dies from lack of oxygen ends up dying from an arrhythmia.
Several medical experts summoned by prosecutors have said that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen because his breathing was restricted by the way he was restrained. A cardiologist rejected the idea that Floyd had died of a heart attack, saying everything showed that his exception was a strong heart.
Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death following his arrest on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $ 20 bill at a neighborhood market. The video of Floyd gasping for breath as bystanders yell at Chauvin to get away from him sparked protests and violence around the world and a furious examination of racism and policing in the United States.