THE judge in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis policeman charged with George Floyd’s deadly arrest last May, denied a defence request yesterday to sequester the jurors after police in a neighbouring city fatally shot a Black man.
Testimony resumed in the murder trial as the prosecution called an expert in cardiology, Dr. Jonathan Rich, to testify that Floyd died as a result of the restraint used on him by police rather than a drug overdose, as suggested by the defense. Rich also said Chauvin had multiple opportunities to save Floyd’s life.
Prosecutors are nearing the end of their case to the jury.
Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges.
In a quirk of Minnesota murder trials known as “spark of life” testimony, Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd is expected to be among the last witnesses to testify on Monday before prosecutors rest their case.
Here are some important moments from the 11th day of witness testimony:
CHAUVIN’S UNSUCCESSFUL BID TO SEQUESTER JURY
Before jurors were brought into the courtroom, Chauvin’s lead lawyer, Eric Nelson, sought to have the panel sequestered in light of the fatal police shooting a day earlier of a Black man named Daunte Wright in a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, a suburban city just north of Minneapolis.
Nelson noted parallels with his own client’s case: Chauvin, who is white, and other officers were arresting Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, on suspicion of his using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a grocery store. Chauvin was captured on video kneeling on the neck of Floyd for nine minutes. The arrest prompted protests against racism and police brutality in many cities in the United States and around the world.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill denied the request, though he plans to sequester jurors by confining them to a hotel once they begin deliberations in downtown Minneapolis, which is already heavily fortified against potential unrest based on the outcome of the high-profile trial.
Police shot Wright, 20, after stopping him for having an air freshener dangling from his car’s rear-view mirror in a breach of state law, his family said. The shooting, which police said happened after Wright got back in his car while officers were trying to arrest him on an outstanding warrant, sparked a night of angry protests, with Brooklyn Center police firing rubber bullets and chemical irritants to injure some in the crowd.
Nelson, who has previously complained about extensive negative publicity prejudicial to his client, referred to Sunday’s protests as “some fairly extensive civil unrest.” Nelson said at least one juror lived in Brooklyn Center.
“It does not involve the same parties, but the problem is the emotional response: ‘I’m not going to vote not guilty because I’m concerned about the outcome,'” Nelson said. “This incident last night highlights and I think brings to the forefront of the jury’s mindset that a verdict in this case is going to have consequences.”
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher opposed the request, saying the court could not react to “every single world event that might affect somebody’s attitude or emotional state” by sequestering or rescreening jurors.
The judge said he would deny the defense request because sequestering “would only aggravate” any worries jurors had.
DR. JONATHAN RICH, CARDIOLOGIST
Rich, a cardiologist and medical school professor at Northwestern University in Illinois, was the seventh and final medical expert called by prosecutors.
Rich echoed the testimony already given by a pulmonologist, toxicologist, forensic pathologist and others in supporting the conclusion last year by the Hennepin County chief medical examiner that Floyd’s death was a homicide at the hands of police.
“I can state with a high degree of medical certainty that George Floyd did not die from a primary cardiac event, and he did not die from a drug overdose,” Rich told the jury.
There were several moments when Chauvin could have saved Floyd’s life, Rich said: by not pinning him into the ground with his knee in the first place; by moving Floyd out of the prone position; or by beginning to give Floyd chest compressions once another officer noted Floyd’s heart had stopped beating.
Rich, who specializes in heart transplant surgery, said Floyd’s heart was slightly enlarged but had no pre-existing heart issue, and so a heart attack was ruled out.
“Every indicator is that Mr. Floyd had an exceptionally strong heart,” Rich testified.