Chauvin trial: Prosecution case nears end

National

In this image from video, defendant, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, listens as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Friday, April 9, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd ‘s death enters its third week Monday, with the state nearing the end of a case built on searing witness accounts, official rejections of the neck restraint and expert testimony attributing Floyd’s death to a lack of oxygen.

NewsNation will provide live coverage of the trial on NewsNationNow.com and the NewsNation Now app. It will begin at 10:15 a.m. ET.

Derek Chauvin, 45, who is white, is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s May 25 death. Police were called to a neighborhood market where Floyd, who was Black, was accused of trying to pass a counterfeit bill. Bystander video of Floyd, pinned by Chauvin and two other officers as he cried “I can’t breathe” and eventually grew still, sparked protests and scattered violence around the U.S.

FILE-In this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson questions Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist, now retired, as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Friday, April 9, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. Like any defense attorney, Eric Nelson has a broader strategy as he questions witnesses at Derek Chauvin’s trial in George Floyd’s death. (Court TV via AP, Pool, File)

Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson argues that Floyd’s death was caused by drug use and underlying health conditions including a bad heart. He’s expected to call his own medical experts after the prosecution wraps its case, expected early this week. Nelson hasn’t said whether Chauvin will testify.

The second week of the trial was dominated by technical testimony, beginning with senior Minneapolis Police Department officials, including Chief Medaria Arradondo, testifying that Chauvin’s restraint of Floyd violated department policy.

Prosecutors called a string of medical experts to testify that Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen, led by Dr. Martin Tobin, a lung and critical care specialist who walked jurors through graphics and charts and had them feel their own necks as he analyzed evidence from videos.

Tobin testified that other factors, not just Chauvin’s knee, made it hard for Floyd to breathe: officers lifting up his handcuffs, the hard pavement, his turned head and a knee on his back. He pinpointed the moment when he said he could see Floyd take his last breath — and said Chauvin’s knee remained on Floyd’s neck another 3 minutes, 2 seconds.

“At the beginning, you can see he’s conscious, you can see slight flickering, and then it disappears,” Tobin said as he highlighted a still image from police body-camera video. “That’s the moment the life goes out of his body.”

Nelson sought to raise doubt about the prosecution’s case. During testimony about Chauvin’s use of the neck restraint, he sought to point out moments in video footage when he said Chauvin’s knee didn’t appear to be on Floyd’s neck. And he again questioned officers about how a gathering crowd might affect officers’ use of force.

A potential gap in prosecutors’ case appeared Friday when Hennepin County’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, testified that the way police held Floyd down and compressed his neck “was just more than Mr. Floyd could take” given his heart issues.

Baker didn’t attribute Floyd’s death to asphyxia, as several prosecution medical experts did. And while he said that neither Floyd’s heart problems nor drugs caused his death, he agreed with Nelson that those factors “played a role” in the death.

Ted Sampsell-Jones, a law professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, said Baker’s testimony might raise a reasonable doubt about cause of death, but that the legal standard for establishing causation is quite low. The state has to show only that Chauvin’s conduct was a substantial contributing cause.

“If the state had to show that Chauvin’s conduct was the sole or even primary cause of death, the case would be in real trouble,” Sampsell-Jones said.

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