Good morning, and welcome back to our live coverage of the Derek Chauvin murder trial. Proceedings are entering their 14th day of witness testimony.
We don’t know whether Chauvin will take the stand in his own defense, and we won’t know until it does or doesn’t happen. But judge Peter Cahill’s previous comments about trial scheduling give a sense of a potential time-frame if that were to take place.
Cahill has said several days ago that he expects testimony to end this week and will potentially give jurors the day off Friday, with closings starting on Monday; this would suggest that Chauvin would testify today should he do so.
Chauvin, a white former officer with Minneaoplis’ police department, is standing trial for charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, over the 25 May 2020 death of George Floyd. While arresting Floyd, who is Black, Chauvin pressed his knee against the man’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Floyd, who was pushed against the pavement, subdued in the prone position, died after being restrained.
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty pleas to the counts against him.
As Chauvin’s trial appears to near a close, Minneapolis remains on edge, both due to these proceedings and the police killing of a Black man, 20-year-old Daunte Wright, during a traffic stop in a nearby suburb Sunday night. Former Brooklyn Center, Minnesota police officer Kim Potter was arrested Wednesday on a second degree manslaughter charge, in Wright’s shooting.
Potter resigned from the police department on Tuesday; the department’s chief, who has said that she meant to fire her Taser, not her gun, has also resigned.
Here’s a recap of what happened during Wednesday’s proceedings:
- Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, called forensic pathologist Dr David Fowler to the stand as an expert witness. Fowler claimed that Floyd might have suffered carbon monoxide poisoning while on the ground, as that his head was near the tail pipe of a police vehicle. “There is exposure to a vehicle exhaust, so potentially carbon monoxide poisoning, or at least an effect of carbon monoxide in his bloodstream,” he testified. Fowler maintained Floyd’s heart conditions, fentanyl and methamphetamine consumption, and possible carbon monoxide poisoning, “all of those combined to cause Mr Floyd’s death”.
- The prosecution, during cross-examination, pointed out what seemed to be a big problem for this defense theory. The police vehicle would have had to be running to emit carbon monoxide for Floyd to be exposed to it and its possible dangers. Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell pushed Fowler to explain whether he could substantiate this. “Cutting even more to the chase, how do you even know the car was on?” Blackwell said. Fowler testified that he “made the observation” of liquid “dripping from a tail pipe”. Blackwell pressed Fowler to explain whether this connection was guess-work. “It’s not an assumption. It was an evaluation which, in my mind, the vehicle was running,” he responded.
- In what appeared to be a positive turn for prosecutors, Fowler also stated during cross examination that Floyd should have received emergency medical aid on the scene of his arrest. Fowler made this statement after differentiating between death and cardiac arrest. Chauvin’s defense has repeatedly argued that Floyd passed away from an acute cardiac event, which was caused by longstanding heart problems and/or his drug use. By distinguishing between cardiac arrest and death, Fowler enabled more questioning on this topic. Blackwell pressed Fowler on whether immediate medical aid could have prevented cardiac arrest from becoming deadly. “Immediate medical attention for a person who’s gone into cardiac arrest may well have reversed that process,” Fowler commented.
- Blackwell’s cross examination extensively hammered this point, pushing Fowler to say whether he felt Floyd should have gotten emergency medical aid. “As a physician, I would agree.” Blackwell then said “are you critical” of the fact that Floyd didn’t get this medical attention. “As a physician, I would agree,” Fowler commented.
- Cahill ruled that Morries Hall, who was with Floyd in the car before his deadly encounter with police, had successfully argued that he could invoke his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. This meant Hall would not take the stand. Hall told Cahill he wouldn’t answer questions, saying: “I’m fearful of criminal charges going forward. I have open charges that’s not settled yet about personal stuff.” Hall’s attorney had contended that even if Hall’s testimony were limited to his being in the car with Floyd, it could expose him to potential drug possession or even third-degree murder charges. Without going too much into the legal weeds, the basic gist of this concern is that one might be held criminally liable for a death in Minnesota if behavior, like drug possession, might have helped cause this death.
That’s it for the moment. We will be back soon as news develops.