Tanzina Vega: Today we checked back in on the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd last May. As of today, the defense has rested after days of testimony. Chauvin himself did not testify invoking his fifth amendment privilege. This comes after a week of the defense presenting its case and right before that, we heard from George Floyd's brother who gave some emotional testimony.
George Floyd's Brother: That's my oldest brother, George. In May 24th, I got married and my brother was killed May 25th and my mom died on May 30th. It's like a bittersweet month because I'm supposed to be happy when that month comes.
Tanzina: Here to walk us through the latest in the trial is John Collins, class and criminal justice reporter for Minnesota Public Radio. John, thanks for being with us.
John Collins: Thanks for having me.
Tanzina: All of this is happening in the shadow of the Daunte Wright protests over in Brooklyn Center. The defense case here for Chauvin began putting forward its case this week, but they asked the judge on Monday to sequester the jury because of the protests. Tell us about that.
John: The jurors in this case are already partly sequestered, which means they drive to a secure location and then are escorted into the government center by Sheriff's deputies, but defense attorney, Eric Nelson, asked the judge on Monday to sequester jurors completely, which means to put them up in a hotel, to help them avoid publicity but the judge said that maybe some of the jurors did hear about what happened to Daunte Wright, but it's a different case with different facts. He said, it's not necessary to sequester them completely at this point, but, in any case, once the jury deliberations actually start, which could be as early as this coming Monday, they will be fully sequestered in a hotel.
Tanzina: Let's talk a little bit about what we heard from George Floyd's brother earlier at the top of the segment here, what did his testimony put forward?
John: Philonise Floyd, he testified to what's called the spark of life testimony, which is a unique thing to Minnesota. It allows emotional testimony from loved ones about who the victim actually was. He talked about growing up with George Floyd. He talked about how George Floyd mentored him in sports and how George Floyd loved basketball and football. At one point, he mentioned how George Floyd made the best banana and mayonnaise sandwiches, even though he couldn't really cook. He gave jurors a different perspective of Floyd than they've likely gotten from watching most of the body camera footage of his final moments of life and his killing.
David Fowler: His significant contributory conditions would be, since I've already put the heart disease in part one, he would have the toxicology, the fentanyl, and methamphetamine. There is exposure to a vehicle exhausts. Potentially, carbon monoxide poisoning or at least an effect from increased carbon monoxide in his bloodstream and paraganglioma, or the other natural disease process that he has, so all of those combined to cause Mr. Floyd's death.
Tanzina: John, the defense rested its case today, but we started hearing from them earlier this week and one of the first things they presented was a 2019 arrest of George Floyd. What are they trying to prove with that?
John: One of the things that they wanted to get across to jurors that the judge has restricted them in being able to explicitly say is the idea that George Floyd has a history of trying to eat drugs in order to avoid arrest. That's what they were trying to get at in that 2019 case, and by bringing it up and going through the facts of it.
Tanzina: I'm just curious though about that defense because, at the end of the day, the case is not about whether Mr. Floyd was consuming drugs. The case is whether or not former police officer Derek Chauvin killed Mr. Floyd.
John: That's right. One of their defense arguments though is that Floyd died due to drugs in his system. They've implied maybe an overdose in that that played a role along with heart disease and things like that. What they're trying to do is just introduce reasonable doubt to the jurors that the prosecution, the arguments there that Floyd actually died because Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds and he was restrained by two other officers in a prone position. They're trying to poke holes in that and make jurors doubt.
Tanzina: The defense also brought up different experts who would argue that officer Chauvin or then officer Chauvin used a proper use of force. What do we know about that argument?
John: The prosecution introduced a number of use of force experts so much that you could see some jurors by the end of the testimony start to get exhausted. One person started even dozing off a tiny bit, which you certainly don't want, but they introduced lots of use of force experts and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who said this isn't the way that Minneapolis cops are trained. Then also that, on a national scale, this is not at all how police officers are trained in modern training. The defense tried to counter that with their own use of force expert who did argue that it was an appropriate use of force. He actually even said, keeping someone in the prone position on the ground, he didn't even consider use of force, but under cross-examination by the prosecution, they were able to undermine some of his points and arguments. It really depends on how the jurors are going to take this. We may hear more from those use of force experts for the defense.
Tanzina: News out of Minnesota as defense in the Derek Chauvin trial rests. Thanks to John Collins from Minnesota Public Radio for that update. Appreciate it, John.
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