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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Defense rests without Derek Chauvin testimony at George Floyd murder trial

Before the jury was brought into the courtroom Chauvin his COVID-19 mask removed in a rare courtroom moment informed the judge that he would not testify saying he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to take the stand.

By: AP | Minneapolis |
Updated: April 15, 2021 10:24:33 pm
Derek Chauvin, Derek Chauvin trial, George floydIn this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson left, and defendant, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, right, listen as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over jury selection in Chauvin's trial, Tuesday, March 9, 2021 at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. (Court TV, via AP, Pool)

The defense at the murder trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd rested its case Thursday without putting Chauvin on the stand presenting a total of two days of testimony to the prosecutions two weeks.

Closing arguments are set to begin Monday morning after which the jury will get the case.

Before the jury was brought into the courtroom Chauvin his COVID-19 mask removed in a rare courtroom moment informed the judge that he would not testify saying he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to take the stand.

It would have been the first time Chauvin publicly told his side of the story.

“Is this your decision not to testify?” Judge Peter Cahill asked.

“It is, your honor,” Chauvin said.

The prosecution briefly recalled a lung and critical care expert to knock down a defense witness theory that carbon monoxide poisoning from a squad cars exhaust might have contributed to Floyd’s death. Dr Martin Tobin noted hospital tests that showed Floyd’s level was at most 2 within the normal range.

And with that both sides finished presenting their cases.

After closing arguments, the racially diverse jury will begin deliberating at the barbed wire ringed courthouse with Minneapolis on edge against a repeat of the protests and violence that broke out last spring over Floyd’s death.

Cahill reminded the jurors they will be sequestered starting Monday and said “If I were you I would plan for long and hope for short”.

The question of whether Chauvin would testify was the subject of weeks of speculation.

The risks were high. Testifying could have opened him up to devastating cross-examination with prosecutors replaying the video of the arrest and forcing Chauvin to explain one frame at a time why he kept pressing down on Floyd.

But taking the stand could have also given the jury the opportunity to see or hear any remorse or sympathy he might feel. He would have been able to remove the mask he has had to wear at the defense table.

The only time Chauvin has been publicly heard defending himself was when the jury listened to bodycamera footage from the scene last May. After an ambulance had taken Floyd away, Chauvin told a bystander “We gotta control this guy cause hes a sizable guy and it looks like he’s probably on something”.

The decision not to testify was announced a day after a forensic pathologist, testifying for the defense, said that Floyd died of a sudden heart rhythm disturbance as a result of his heart disease. That contradicted prosecution experts who said Floyd succumbed to a lack of oxygen from the way he was pinned down.

The defense witness Dr David Fowler said Wednesday that the fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s system and possibly carbon monoxide poisoning were contributing factors in the 46-year-old Black man’s death last May.

Fowler also testified that he would classify the manner of death undetermined rather than homicide as the county’s chief medical examiner ruled. He said Floyd’s death had too many conflicting factors some of which could be ruled homicide and some that could be considered accidental.

Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death after his arrest on suspicion of passing a counterfeit 20 at a neighborhood market. The video of Floyd gasping that he couldn’t breathe as bystanders yelled at Chauvin to get off him triggered worldwide protests violence and a furious examination of racism and policing in the US.

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