Prosecutors in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd have rested their case.
Derek Chauvin is charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Prosecutors have said he knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds, during an arrest last May.
The trial is now be in the hands of the defense, which has argued Floyd’s use of illegal drugs and his underlying health conditions caused his death.
Prosecutors sought to prove to the jury that Floyd died from asphyxia, or insufficient oxygen, from Chauvin kneeling on his neck.
Almost 40 witnesses were called to the stand, including the Minneapolis police chief and other experienced officers, who openly condemned Chauvin’s treatment of Floyd, as well as bystanders and medical experts.
The prosecution also called two “spark of life” witnesses to the stand to humanize Floyd — his girlfriend, Courteney Ross, and his brother Philonise Floyd.
Police had been called to Cup Foods, a convenience store, on May 25 after a cashier suspected that Floyd had used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Chauvin, who is white, was recorded in a widely viewed bystander video kneeling on Floyd, who was Black. Chauvin and three other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — were fired a day after Floyd died. Kueng, Lane and Thao are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter and are scheduled to stand trial in August.
Floyd’s death sparked international protests against racism and police brutality.
Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Floyd and declared his death a homicide, testified last week that fentanyl and heart disease had been contributing factors, but that the police officers’ actions were the main cause.
To convict Chauvin of murder, the jury needs to find that his restraint of Floyd was a “substantial causal factor” in his death.
The testimony of other medical experts, including a world-renowned pulmonologist, has bolstered prosecution claims that Floyd died from being held down by Chauvin.
“A healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died,” said Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a pulmonologist and critical care physician, who testified Thursday.
Tobin said Floyd died from a low level of oxygen. He said it was not a sudden death.
Minneapolis’ police chief testified that Chauvin violated a number of departmental policies that he had been trained in, such as use of force, neck restraints and de-escalation. It is rare for a police chief to testify against a police officer.
“To continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy,” Chief Medaria Arradondo said. “It is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or values.”
Scott Creighton, a retired Minneapolis police officer, was the first witness to testify for the defense Tuesday about a May 2019 traffic stop, during which Floyd was arrested.
Before the testimony of Creighton and the second defense witness, Michelle Moseng, the paramedic who treated Floyd after his arrest, Judge Peter Cahill told the jury that they would hear evidence of an occurrence for the “limited purpose of showing the effects the ingestion of opioids may or may not have had” on Floyd’s physical well being and that it was not evidence about his character.
Prosecutors had tried to get video and testimony about the arrest excluded. Cahill limited what could be introduced.
Portions of body camera video from the arrest showed the arresting police officer approaching Floyd with his gun drawn. At one point, Floyd, who was in the passenger seat, said: “Don’t shoot me man!” before he was pulled from the car and handcuffed.
Creighton testified that “it escalated real quick.”
Under cross examination by prosecutor Erin Eldridge, Creighton admitted that he had cursed at Floyd and gave him conflicting commands on where to place his hands. She also pointed out that Floyd did not go to the ground — as he did during his arrest in May.
“Mr. Floyd didn’t drop dead while you were interacting with him, correct?” Eldridge asked.
“No,” Creighton responded.
Moseng, the paramedic who treated Floyd at a precinct after his arrest, testified that Floyd told her he had been taking Percocet, an opioid, every 20 minutes that day and was addicted to them. She did not testify that he had swallowed them as the police approached, as the defense has claimed he did in May 2020 outside Cup Foods.
Eldridge questioned Moseng as to whether Floyd was alert, able to walk, obeyed commands, and whether his respiration and pulse rates were normal, which Moseng wrote in his health report. Moseng said Floyd was resistant to go the hospital but that she took him to the hospital. Asked if she could recall whether he was monitored for two hours and released, as records indicate, Moseng said she did not know.
Nelson will call witnesses over the next few days to support his position that Floyd died as a result of his illegal drug use and serious heart problems.