Nation on edge for verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial

The trial of Derek Chauvin inched closer to the finish line as the defense rested after calling seven witnesses to testify on behalf of Chauvin this week. Chauvin’s name did not make the defense witness list because he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

Like most of the trial, Chauvin sat emotionless as he put an end to any musing of him potentially testifying during his trial. While speaking to the judge, Chauvin reassured the court the decision against testifying was made by him and him alone. The jury has been instructed not to hold Chauvin’s decision not to testify against him.

Derek Chauvin Trial
A woman holds a Do You Feel Us? sign at a silent march for justice for George Floyd in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota on the day before the beginning of the trial of Derek Chauvin. Photo credit: Laurie Shaull

It would have been interesting to hear how Chauvin defended his use of force against Floyd but one can admit, his testimony probably would have done more harm than good. Instead of using Chauvin’s words to prove his innocence, the defense chose to double down on their previous attempts to pin George Floyd’s death on anyone but Chauvin.

On April 15, Chauvin’s lawyer Eric J. Nelson called Dr. David Fowler, a retired chief medical examiner, to testify on behalf of the defense. During his testimony, Fowler said he reviewed things like ambulance, medical, and toxicology reports amongst a handful of other documents before coming to his own conclusion of what he believes actually caused George Floyd’s death.

Fowler testified in his opinion, he believed Floyd died from cardiac arrhythmia and not because Chauvin pressed his knew in Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes. Among other contributions to Floyd’s death. Fowler said drug use, heart disease, and exposure to carbon monoxide were other factors in Floyd’s death.

Heart disease and Floyd’s drug use are not new factors brought up by the defense but their claim that carbon monoxide exposure was also a factor in Floyd’s death is new.  It’s an interesting claim seeing as the only reason Floyd was exposed to carbon monoxide was because Chauvin held Floyd down with his knee near an exhaust pipe for nearly 10 minutes.

This is not the first time Fowler has testified in the death of a black man caused by police officers. In 2018, 19-year-old Anton Black was killed in police custody after being held on the ground for six minutes by Maryland police officers.

Derek Chauvin
March 29, 2021 – Minneapolis — Protesters rally and march through Downtown Minneapolis on the day opening statements began in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. Chauvin is accused of murdering George Floyd on May 25th, 2020. Photo credit: Chad Davis

Like his testimony in Floyd’s trial, Fowler determined Black’s death was an accident and stated cardiac arrest and bipolar disorder were the contributing factors of the cause of death.

Even though there was video evidence of police officers chasing, tasing, and pinning Black face down to the ground, Fowler ruled against ruling Black’s death a homicide. No officers were ever charged in the death of Black.

It’s hard to overlook the consistencies between the cases of Black and Floyd. Fowler’s testimony this week was eerily similar to his autopsy report of Anton Black over two years again

After the defense rested, prosecutors called Dr. Martin Tobin, who testified earlier in the trial back to the stand to refute Fowler’s assertion of carbon monoxide contributing to Floyd’s death. While back on the stand, Tobin said the carbon monoxide argument was “simply wrong”. He reiterated the test performed after Floyd’s death showed a normal level of oxygen saturation in his blood.

Carboxyhemoglobin is formed during carbon monoxide poisoning and should have been present in high levels in Floyd’s body if it contributed to his death. While on the stand, Fowler asserted Floyd’s carboxyhemoglobin level might have been as high as 10-18 percent while also acknowledging he has not seen any test results to prove this.

Derek Chauvin Trial
Minnesota State Patrol troopers stand in formation, wearing riot gear and holding wooden batons, at Minnehaha Avenue and 27th Avenue South near the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct, as the Minneapolis Fire Department battles blazes at Lake Street businesses, following the publication of a video showing a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a handcuffed and unarmed Black man, killing him. Photo credit: Tony Webster via Flickr

When called back to the stand, Tobin said Floyd’s body was also tested for carboxyhemoglobin and results showed there could not be more than two percent present in Floyd’s blood at the time of death.

On Thursday, Judge Peter Cahill rejected a request by the prosecution to enter newly discovered evidence that contained information about Floyd’s carbon monoxide levels during his arrest. The judge warned any further attempts to enter this information in the trial would result in a mistrial as it is unfair to the defense.

“It’s untimely to give the notice and it prejudiced the defense by the late disclosure, even if it’s not due to bad faith but the late disclosure has prejudiced the defense, it’s not going to be allowed.” Judge Cahill said.

Now that the prosecution and defense have both rested their cases, the only thing left is closing statements which will begin on Monday. After that, the jury will be sequestered, and deliberation will begin. Before the jury was sent home Thursday Judge Cahill warned them to prepare themselves for deliberations.

“If I were you, I would plan for long and hope for short,” Cahill said. “Basically, it’s up to the jury how long you deliberate, how long you need to come to a unanimous decision on any count. And so because that’s entirely up to you — whether it’s an hour or a week — it’s entirely within your province.”

While America holds its breath for the outcome of the Chauvin trial, it should be noted the jury needs to come to a unanimous decision, meaning all jurors must agree to find Chauvin guilty or not guilty. If the jurors cannot agree on a charge, the judge can declare a mistrial. A mistrial would mean this case would have to be tried all over again.

Featured Image: A woman holds an I’m Black I Matter sign at a silent march for justice for George Floyd in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota on the day before the beginning of the trial of Derek Chauvin. Photo credit: Laurie Shaull via Flickr