Closing arguments are scheduled to be heard Monday in the trial of former Minneapolis Police (MPD) Officer Derek Chauvin for George Floyd’s murder after the defence and prosecution rested their cases Thursday.
Chauvin waived his right to testify in his trial, a surprise as the defence rested following two days of testimony.
“I will invoke my fifth amendment privilege today,” Chauvin, 45, told defence lawyer Eric Nelson as Judge Peter Cahill observed.
Chauvin, who is white, is accused of second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter by killing Floyd, 46, by keeping his body weight on the Black man’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Floyd was arrested after allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a neighbourhood market.
The Fifth Amendment is a part of the US Constitution that allows a person accused of a crime to remain silent in order not to incriminate themselves.
Legal experts had told Al Jazeera Chauvin would need to testify to instill doubt in the jury.
Nelson had built Chauvin’s defence by challenging the state’s account of how Floyd died by calling witnesses to testify that Floyd’s health and drug use were contributing factors.
The prosecution had spent two weeks on its case and called a wide range of experts to testify Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s back was the cause of death. They also called current MPD officers, including the chief, to say Chauvin’s restraint of Floyd was excessive force. Witnesses who were at the scene detailed the events of May 25, the day Floyd died, and recounted their feelings of helplessness.
Chauvin’s defence made the case that his use of force was within the confines of his training, and called a former MPD officer to testify about a previous arrest of Floyd.
On Wednesday, the defence called the former chief medical examiner for the state of Maryland, Dr David Fowler, who said Floyd’s “enlarged heart” was the main cause and the poisonous carbon monoxide in the exhaust fumes of a nearby police car could have contributed.
The defence rested on Thursday, paving the way for the prosecution’s rebuttal. It called one witness, then rested its case.
After Chauvin waived his right to testify early Thursday, the prosecution told the court it had received new evidence on the carbon monoxide levels in Floyd’s blood from Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner.
Baker, who performed Floyd’s autopsy, saw Fowler’s testimony and approached prosecutors about test results related to the carbon monoxide in Floyd’s system.
“He had heard the testimony and thought that this record might exist because he thought that, well, he was aware that there’s a panel of the tests that are run by the machine and then those that would go to the ER physicians would be the ones that they request to see the values,” prosecuting lawyer Jerry Blackwell told the court.
Blackwell stressed the prosecution did not seek out the information, but Cahill said it would not be allowed, as it “prejudiced” the defence.
The prosecution called Dr Martin Tobin, a lung specialist who previously testified for the prosecution, to rebut the defence’s narrative. Tobin said measurements showed Floyd had a blood oxygen level of 98 percent which meant carbon monoxide levels had to be below two percent.