US Cop Convicted With George Floyd's Murder, go for Fifth Amendment at Trial
Before the jury was led into the courtroom, Chauvin removed his COVID-19 mask and told the judge that he would not testify, citing his Fifth Amendment right not to take the stand.
The defence rested its case in the murder trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd on Thursday, after delivering a total of two days of evidence to the prosecutions for two weeks.
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin Monday morning, after which the case will be assigned to the jury.
Before the jury was brought into the courtroom, Chauvin removed his COVID-19 mask and told the judge that he would not testify, citing his Fifth Amendment right not to take the stand.
It would have been the first time Chauvin had given his version of events in public. “Is this your decision not to testify?” Judge Peter Cahill inquired. “It is, your honour,” Chauvin replied.
The prosecution shortly called in a lung and critical care specialist to knock down a defence witness's theory which carbon monoxide poisoning from a squad car's exhaust contributed to Floyd's death. Dr Martin Tobin stated that hospital tests revealed Floyd's level was at most 2 within the range of normal.
With that, both parties had finished arguing their claims.
Following closing remarks, the racially mixed jury will begin weighing up at the barbed wire-ringed courthouse, with Minneapolis bracing for a repeat of the demonstrations and violence that erupted over Floyd's death last spring.
Cahill reminded the jurors that they would be sequestered beginning Monday, saying, "If I were you, I would prepare for the long run and hope for the short."
The issue of whether Chauvin would testify dominated the news for weeks.
The stakes were extremely high. Testifying may have exposed him to debilitating cross-examination, including prosecutors replaying the footage of the arrest and asking Chauvin to justify why he kept pushing down on Floyd one frame at a time.
However, taking the stand would have helped the jury to see or hear any guilt or sympathy he may have felt. He should have removed the mask he had to wear at the defence table.
The only moment Chauvin has been heard openly defending himself was last May when the jury watched a body-camera video from the scene. After an ambulance took Floyd away, Chauvin told a bystander, "We gotta monitor this guy because he's a big guy and he looks like he's probably on something."
The choice not to testify came a day after a forensic pathologist testifying for the defence claimed that Floyd died as a result of a sudden heart rhythm disruption caused by his heart disease. That challenged prosecution experts who said Floyd died of a lack of oxygen as a result of the way he was pinned down.
Dr David Fowler, a defence witness, testified Wednesday that fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd's system, as well as possible carbon monoxide poisoning, were factors in the 46-year-old Black man's death last May.
Fowler even testified that the cause of death should be classified as undetermined rather than murder, as the county's chief medical examiner concluded. Floyd's death, he said, had so many competing causes, some of which could be ruled murder and some of which could be ruled accidental.
Chauvin, 45, is convicted of murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death after being arrested on suspicion of passing a bogus $20 bill at a nearby store. The video of Floyd gasping for air as bystanders screamed at Chauvin to get off him sparked worldwide demonstrations, abuse, and a furious review of racism and policing in the United States.