Key Defense Witness Testifies George Floyd’s Death Had Several Contributing Factors, Not Just One
A lengthy day of testimony in the Derek Chauvin trial centered around a medical expert called by the defense to question if the singular cause of George Floyd’s death was the former Minneapolis officer pinning him down with his knee on his neck.
The day began with Judge Peter Cahill denying defense attorney Eric Nelson’s motion to acquit, and also Floyd’s friend Morries Hall invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
But court proceedings quickly moved to the testimony of Dr. David Fowler, the former chief medical examiner for the state of Maryland. He said that his analysis of Floyd’s death led him to conclude that he died of a cardiac arrhythmia brought on by heart disease, rather than direct police restraint.
Floyd had been known to have used fentanyl and methamphetamines, which were found in his system during his autopsy. The latter has been shown to narrow blood vessels, which can cause an arrhythmia. A tumor found in Floyd’s body, Fowler said, was also a contributing factor, as well as carbon monoxide coming from the squad car entering his system when he was on the ground.
His conclusion was that while Chauvin’s restraint could be acknowledged as part of the cause, it was no more a contributor than any other factor.
“There are multiple entities acting with each other and adding to each other,” Fowler testified under questioning from Nelson, reducing the amount of oxygen coming to Floyd’s heart. At a certain point, he said his heart ran out of its metabolic reserves and went into an arrhythmia.
Special prosecutor Jerry Blackwell cross examined Fowler and began with the assertion that carbon monoxide from the squad car was a contributing factor, questioning if Fowler even knew if the car was running.
“Do you agree with me that there was no finding of carbon monoxide poisoning from Mr. Baker’s autopsy review?” askedBlackwell.
“I do,” Fowler replied.
Blackwell also got Fowler to admit that Floyd did not exhibit deadly symptoms of a fentanyl overdose nor more than a prescribed therapeutic amount of methamphetamine. He also abandoned the notion that the tumor killed him.
Blackwell also got Fowler to take a cardiac arrhythmia out of a specific category. “Every one of us in this room will have a fatal arrhythmia at some point, because that’s kind of how you go, right?”
Finally, Blackwell addressed the notion of exactly when Floyd died. He was declared dead at Hennepin County Medical Center not long after ambulances arrived at the scene in south Minneapolis.
Fowler said Floyd’s death was sudden, but Blackwell asked if he was “able to generally characterize where the sudden death took place?”
Fowler defined the difference between a cardiac arrest and death, the latter of which can be reversed if immediate medical attention is given.
“Do you feel that Mr. Floyd should have been given immediate emergency attention to try to reverse the cardiac arrest?” Blackwell asked. Fowler agreed.
However on redirect, Nelson got answers out of Fowler which could create doubt in the minds of jurors. “Based upon your review of the video in this case, did you observe Mr. Chauvin’s knee obstructing the carotid artery of Mr. Floyd?” Nelson asked.
“The knee did not obstruct either carotid artery,” Fowler said, adding that even if the carotid artery were blocked, blood had other pathways to reach the brain.
Cahill recessed the court early for the day until Thursday morning. It is not clear yet if Chauvin himself will testify. If not, closing arguments could begin next week.
George Floyd’s Friend Formally Invokes Fifth Amendment To Avoid Testifying For Defense
Morries Hall, the friend of George Floyd who sat in the vehicle with him when he was arrested by Minneapolis police, has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and will not testify at the Derek Chauvin murder trial.
The development came during an early hearing before defense testimony got started on Wednesday (April 14). Hall is currently being held by Minnesota law enforcement authorities on unrelated charges after being extradited from Texas, where he fled shortly after Floyd died last May.
Hall’s public defender, Adrienne Cousins, told Judge Peter Cahill that her client would expose himself to criminal charges if he were to testify.
“If Mr. Hall puts himself in that car, he’s now establishing a timeline of events,” Cousins said, which could result in a third-degree murder charge against him on suspicion of giving Floyd the drugs found in his system when he was autopsied.
Cahill tells Hall that invoking the Fifth Amendment is his right, to which Hall responds: “I’m fearful of criminal charges going forward.”
Hall’s choice not to testify, leaves him out of being called as a defense witness. He could have testified if the prosecution had argued for immunity, but that did not happen. Thus, Cahill declared that Hall has protection under the U.S. Constitution and nullified the subpoena to have him called.
Later, Chauvin defense attorney Eric Nelson made a motion to acquit his client, which Cahill denied shortly before testimony resumed for the morning.
Defense Use of Force Expert Testifies Chauvin’s Actions Were Justified
A lengthy afternoon of testimony rounded out the first day of the defense case in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. After several witnesses testified Tuesday morning, answering relatively brief periods of questioning from prosecutors and the defense, Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson turned to its own use of force expert Barry Brodd to give what he felt would have been the defendant’s perspective.
Brodds, a former Santa Rosa, Calif., officer and now a private consultant, testified that he had given a review of the evidence of George Floyd’s arrest and concluded that Chauvin’s actions in restraining him were within acceptable police procedure.
“I felt that Officer Chauvin’s interactions with Mr. Floyd were…following current practices in policing and were objectively reasonable,” Brodd said, contenting that Chauvin did not use deadly force. The prone position Floyd was placed in, he said, was safe for both the suspect and the officers.
He also said that the officers responding had to be aware of the crowd, which he thought was becoming more hostile.
“The crowds started to grow in size, start to become more vocal. So now officers are always trained to deal with so what threat is the biggest threat,” Brodd testified. “Is it the suspect on the ground in front of me in handcuffs that we have relatively controlled? Or is it the unknown threat posed by the crowd?”
Brodd said that Floyd was non compliant, making it necessary for Chauvin to restrain him by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes. But in cross examination, special prosecutor Steve Schleicher questioned Brodd about exactly how long Floyd failed to comply with officers.
In one of the video clips shown in court, officer Thomas Lane suggests rolling Floyd onto his side, but Chuvin says to keep him where he is.
“Is there any non-compliance you were able to see in that clip?” Schleicher asked.
“Not in this clip, no,” Brodd replied.
“What part of this is non-compliant?” asked Schleicher.
“A compliant person would have both their hands in the small of their back … resting comfortably,” Brodd answered.
“Did you say resting comfortably, on the pavement?” Schleicher asked.
“Yes,” Brodd said.
“At this point in time, when he is attempting to breathe by shoving his shoulder into the pavement?” Schleicher continued.
“I was describing the signs of what a perfectly complain person would be,” Brodd explained.
“So attempting to breathe while restrained is being slightly non-compliant?” Schleicher retorted.
“No,” Brodd admitted.
‘This Has Really Taken Us Over the Edge’
Minneapolis is reeling from another police killing of a Black man, just miles from the Chauvin murder trial currently underway. How will the killing of 20-year old Duante Wright impact the case? New York Times Op-Ed Columnist and bestselling author Charles Blow, and activist, attorney and former President of the Minneapolis NAACP Nekima Levy Armstrong join the hosts of the Run Tell This podcast Mara Schiavocampo, Wesley Lowery and Keith Reed to offer their insights and analysis on the historic case.
Defense Testimonies Begin In Derek Chauvin Trial; Witness Said Floyd Begged Not To Be Shot
The first witnesses in the Derek Chauvin trial defense case gave fairly brief testimonies Tuesday (April 13) as attorney Eric Nelson questioned them to convince jurors against convicting the former Minneapolis policeman.
Among them was the woman in the back seat of the car when Floyd was arrested, Shawanda Hill, who said she simply ran into Floyd in the corner store where he was accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.
She said he appeared “happy, normal” when she saw him, but when he offered to give her a ride, he fell asleep in the vehicle, and that she tried to awaken him twice, but she also had called her daughter for a ride as well.
When employees of the store approached the vehicle to ask about the bill, “they were trying to wake him up, trying to wake him up over and over,” said Hill. “He woke up, he’ll say something, made a little gesture and nodded back off.” She said that Floyd mentioned to her that he was tired after a long work shift. He fully awakened when police approached the vehicle.
“Baby, that’s the police, open the door, roll down the window” she testified under questioning from Nelson, noting that an officer had his gun drawn. When he awakened, Floyd held onto the steering wheel and begged “please don’t shoot me.”
With them in the car was Morries Hall, a friend of Floyd’s who has not been called to the stand by the defense and is expected to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Both of them were detained by an officer at the corner across the street while Floyd was being restrained.
Prior to Hill, the first person called to the stand was retired Minneapolis police officer Scott Creighton, who described body camera footage in which Floyd was detained in a traffic stop while a passenger of a car in 2019. He said that Floyd would not obey his commands to place his hands on the dashboard.
“The passenger was unresponsive and noncompliant to my commands, I then had to physically reach in and I wanted to see his hands because I couldn’t see his hand,” said Creighton, describing Floyd as anxious and nervous. “I reached in to grab his hand and put up on the dash and that individual was taken from the vehicle.”
But under cross examination from Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Erin Eldridge, Creighton acknowledged that his commands to Floyd were confusing about where his hands should go. She also noted that he survived this incident, despite his behavior, which was not unlike that of his 2020 arrest that led to his death.
After Creighton stepped down, Nelson called Michelle Moseng, a retired Hennepin County Medical Center paramedic who testified that when Floyd was taken into custody at a police station, his blood pressure was extremely high and he told her that he had not been taking his blood pressure medicine. She said that he had also been taking opioid pills about every 20 minutes the day he was arrested.
In her cross examination, Eldridge asked Moseng about his behavior at the station and she said that he was alert and obeyed commands. She asked if he could walk properly and Moseng said he had trouble lying on the bed for treatment.
“He didn’t have a stroke while you were with him,” asked Eldridge.
“No,” replied Moseng.
“Didn’t stop breathing?” asked Eldridge.
“No,” Moseng said.
Later in the morning Minneapolis Park Police officer Peter Chang testified as video footage from his body camera was played. It showed him detaining Hall and Hill while Floyd was being subdued.
“Can I just see what y’all did to him? He [sic] on the ground and everything,” said Hill in the footage.
“Shawanda you’re not helping,” Chang responded. “Once my partners get over here they can explain to you guys.”
He told Nelson that the crowd to him seemed potentially hostile and that he moved away from Floyd’s car out of concern for the other officers. “I was concerned for the officers safety because of the crowd, so I wanted to make sure the officers were okay.” he said.
But under cross examination, Chang said that he was mainly focused on the two people he was detaining, rather than Floyd across the street.
“You assumed they were OK?” asked special prosecutor Mattew Frank.
Chang responded that he did.
Minnesota Prosecutors Rest Their Case Against Derek Chauvin
April 13, 2021
The prosecution has rested its case after two weeks and 38 witnesses in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. Bystanders at the scene of George Floyd’s arrest, medical experts, forensic experts police personnel, and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner were heard by the jury as a team of prosecutors presented evidence to prove Chauvin’s guilt of second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter.
Now defense attorney Eric Nelson begins Tuesday an attempt to show the jury that Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck while restraining him during an arrest on May 25, 2020, is not guilty of Floyd’s death.
Nelson began by calling retired Minneapolis police officer Scott Creighton, who pulled the driver of a car Floyd was riding in over during a 2019 traffic stop and arrested Floyd.
George Floyd’s Brother Tearfully Joins The Final Prosecution Testimonies
The final testimonies of prosecution witnesses in the Derek Chauvin trial completed on Monday (April 12) without prosecutors formally resting after 11 days of witnesses taking the stand, describing what happened to George Floyd, or explaining that Floyd was the victim of overzealous police restraint, despite drug use and health problems.
During the afternoon, there was brief testimony from Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother. He gave what’s called “spark of life” testimony to jurors, simply talking about his brother’s background, his life circumstances, his family and painting an overall humanizing picture of him.
“He was a big mama’s boy,” Philonise Floyd said after describing his brother in tears. “Every mother loves all of her kids but it’s so unique how they were. He would lay up on her like in the fetus position like he was in the womb.”
The defense did not question him.
Afterward, the rest of the afternoon was taken up by the testimony of the final witness, Seth Staughton, a use of force expert and criminal law professor at the University of South Carolina.
He said that the cameras of the officers responding gave a better perspective on the incident than in other cases he’s consulted on. Criteria including, the severity of the crime a suspect is being arrested for, whether that suspect poses an immediate threat and whether that suspect is actively resisting arrest.
“While threat can justify use of force, risk can’t,” said Staughton under questioning from special prosecutor Steve Schleicher. “The idea is the officer cannot use more force than the situation justifies.”
In viewing the videos of George Floyd’s arrest, Staughton said he was exhibiting “active resistance” but in a “non-aggressive” way, so a reasonable officer should not have looked at iot as “active aggression.” Floyd didn’t seem to be intending to attack the officers. He was not a threat, even though he physically could have been aggressive, he had no intention to do so.
Staughton said that one of the officers noted that Floyd seemed to be losing consciousness and that one of the officers, Thomas Lane saw that he was not responding so, the indication was that the police restraint was “having deleterious effects on Mr. Floyd’s health.”
The use of force that Chauvin undertook, based on national police standards, was excessive and “no reasonable officer would have believed that that was appropriate, acceptable or reasonable force,” Staughton said.
Under cross examination from defense attorney Eric Nelson, Staughton testified that it is true that an officer may at times have to suspend a suspect in the prone position, but their shin should be placed across the suspect’s upper back, not their neck. He also said the prone position is intended to be transitory. A suspect should be turned 90 degrees onto their side.
“Both the knee across Mr. Floyd’s neck and the prone restraint were unreasonable, excessive, and contrary to generally accepted police practices,” Stoughton said.
The defense is expected to begin presenting its case Tuesday morning. Judge Peter Cahill notified jurors that it could be as short as three days, with his preference being that they have Friday off before closing arguments, then deliberations get underway possibly next Monday.
Medical Expert Agrees With Prior Witnesses That George Floyd Died Due To Police Restraint
An expert medical witness brought in by the prosecution at the Derek Chauvin trial on Monday said that George Floyd had high blood pressure, anxiety and a drug problem, but none of those were contributing factors to his death last May.
“I can state with a high degree of medical certainty that George Floyd did not die from a primary heart event and he did not die from a drug overdose,” said Dr. Jonathan Rich, an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University and cardiologist at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.
What Floyd did die of, in his opinion, was cardiac arrest caused by the restraint he was under when Chauvin pinned him to the ground with his knee on his neck. The testimony repeated that of other medical and forensic experts that have already testified. Others, including Dr. Andrew Baker the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, who performed the autopsy on Floyd testified Friday, that the physical stress Floyd was under when he was arrested was what killed him.
When looking at his medical records, Rich said he noted no heart problems and that in watching the video, he exhibited no chest pains and no sign of a heart attack. The defense has argued that heart disease or drug use was what was culpable for Floyd’s death.
There was “no evidence at all to see that a fentanyl overdose caused Mr. Floyd’s death,” said Rich, who made it clear that his opinion was that Floyd would have lived if he had not been restrained by Chauvin in the manner that he was.
On brief cross examination, Chauvin defense attorney Eric Nelson asked if Floyd would have survived if he had gotten into the police car when officers arrested him, to which Rich agreed. He also acknowledged Nelson pointing out that Floyd’s medical records only went back three years.
Prosecution Begins To Wind Down Its Case in Derek Chauvin Trial
April 12, 2021
10: 10 a.m.
The third week of the Derek Chauvin murder trial is set to get underway Monday morning in Minneapolis after a dramatic week in which several experts testified that George Floyd died from oxygen being cut off as a result of Chauvin kneeling on his neck.
It also comes amidst unrest over the death of a 20-year-old man in suburban Brooklyn Park, MN, after he was shot by police in a traffic stop.
Prosecutors in the Chauvin trial are expected to wrap up their case early this week and the defense begins to present its case. It is still unclear if Floyd’s friend, Morries Hall, will testify but has said through his attorney that he is invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Hall was in the car with Floyd when he was arrested May 25, 2020, but soon after his death, he fled to Texas and was taken into custody and extradited on unrelated charges.
On Friday (April 10), Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, who performed the autopsy on Floyd testified that despite the multiple medical issues that he dealt with and the small amount of opioids found in his system, the law enforcement restraint that he experienced was “just more than Mr. Floyd could take.”