Floyd’s Accused Killer Declines to Testify as Defense Rests (1)

April 15, 2021, 2:46 PM; Updated: April 15, 2021, 3:40 PM

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin declined to testify in his trial for the alleged murder of George Floyd as the defense wrapped its case.

Closing arguments are expected Monday, after rebuttal testimony from the state, and a verdict could be returned as early as next week.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson presented two days of witnesses arguing that Floyd died of a sudden cardiac arrest caused by a combination of fentanyl, methamphetamine, high blood pressure, an enlarged heart, and adrenaline—and not by his restraint by Chauvin, who was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck and back for more than nine minutes. The defense also cast doubt on prosecutors’ arguments that Chauvin’s actions were unreasonable and counter to Minneapolis Police Department training and policy.

Chauvin faces a second-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 40 years. Chauvin was also charged with third-degree murder, which carries a penalty of up to 25 years, and manslaughter, with a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Witnesses discussed Floyd’s past drug use and a 2019 encounter with police during which he was hospitalized related to opioid intoxication. Barry Brodd, a use of force expert called by the defense, told jurors, “Derek Chauvin was justified, was acting with objective reasonableness following Minneapolis police policy and current standards of law enforcement in his interactions with Mr. Floyd.”

On Wednesday, the defense called their star witness, retired Maryland chief medical examiner David Fowler, who voiced his conclusion that Floyd died of a sudden cardiac arrest and disagreed with the state’s argument that he was killed by low oxygen levels caused by his restraint by Chauvin.

Instead, Fowler said a variety of factors from Floyd’s drug use, existing health conditions, and even carbon monoxide from nearby vehicles could have contributed to his death.

Limited Rebuttal

Prosecutors made a last minute bid to rebut some of Fowler’s testimony Thursday. However, Judge Peter Cahill limited the state’s proposal to rebut portions of the defense’s case, rejecting special prosecutor Jerry Blackwell’s request to admit “newly discovered” test results from Floyd’s autopsy.

After Fowler testified to his conclusion that carbon monoxide from the police squad car exhaust contributed to a sudden cardiac arrest, the state asked the court for an opportunity to rebut. Cahill said he’d allow the state to present evidence about environmental factors related to carbon monoxide but any mention of the unearthed test results would result in a mistrial.

The state recalled pulmonologist Martin Tobin to discuss the effects of carbon monoxide and Floyd’s blood-oxygen levels.

(Updates with additional reporting throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Adam M. Taylor in Washington at ataylor@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Childers at achilders@bloomberglaw.com; Bernie Kohn at bkohn@bloomberglaw.com

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