The trial of Derek Chauvin is rapidly approaching its conclusion as the defense rested its case Thursday.
Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was accused of killing George Floyd during an infamous arrest that took place on May 25, 2020. During the arrest, Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for roughly nine minutes and Floyd became unconscious. Floyd died that day.
The state has levied three charges against Chauvin — second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The state’s case for conviction hinged on two arguments — first, that Floyd died specifically due to Chauvin’s actions and second, that Chauvin used excessive and unreasonable force while restraining Floyd.
In its own case, the defense hoped to offer reasonable doubt on both fronts.
In order to do so, Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, focused much of his argument on a 2019 arrest of Floyd as well as testimonies from a handful of expert witnesses.
Floyd’s 2019 Arrest
The defense began its case by showing the jury a video from Floyd’s 2019 drug-related arrest, hoping to show parallels to the erratic behavior displayed by Floyd during the 2020 arrest involving Chauvin.
In the footage of the 2019 arrest, Floyd repeatedly failed to comply with officer commands, which quickly escalated tensions between him and officers.
One officer was also heard saying “open your mouth, spit up what you got,” suggesting Floyd had swallowed evidence of some kind. Following the 2020 arrest, spit-up pills — laced with meth and fentanyl — were found in the back of a police vehicle Floyd briefly sat in, according to KARE-TV.
During her testimony, Michelle Moseng — a former paramedic who was called to take care of Floyd following his 2019 arrest — claimed Floyd admitted to ingesting several narcotics prior to the arrest.
Floyd told her he had been taking multiple “opioid-based” drugs “every 20 minutes” and had taken a pill as officers approached him.
The arresting officer who approached Floyd in 2019, retired Minneapolis narcotics investigator Scott Creighton, also testified on behalf of the defense.
“The passenger was unresponsive and non-compliant to my commands,” Creighton said.
Aside from the video, the defense brought forward two expert witnesses of note — use-of-force expert Barry Brodd and Dr. David Fowler, a forensic pathologist who has testified in a number of similar high-profile cases involving alleged use-of-force violations.
“I felt that Derek Chauvin was justified, was acting with objective reasonableness, following Minneapolis Police Department policy and current standards of law enforcement in his interactions with Mr. Floyd,” Brodd said while on the stand.
“In this situation there were space limitations, Mr. Floyd was butted up against a patrol car, there was traffic still driving down the street, there were crowd issues that took the attention of the officers and Mr. Floyd was still somewhat resisting, so I think those were all valid reasons to keep him in the prone.”
According to Fowler’s expert medical opinion, Floyd died of cardiac arrhythmia due to various pre-existing conditions — he had narrowed coronary arteries, an enlarged heart due to high blood pressure, and a tumor known as a paraganglioma, according to WDJT-TV.
The high levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s system were also contributing factors, Fowler claimed.
While the pathologist also suggested exposure to a police vehicle’s exhaust could have served as yet another contributing factor, the prosecution later recalled one of their expert witnesses — Dr. Martin J. Tobin — who refuted this claim.
Objectively speaking, the defense brought forward far fewer experts than the prosecution.
With closing arguments taking place Monday, the jury is expected to reach a verdict sometime this week.
Whether their collective testimonies — along with footage of the 2019 arrest — were enough to introduce reasonable doubt as to Chauvin’s guilt, remains to be seen.
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