Derek Chauvin is on trial for George Floyd's death

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes, Melissa Mahtani and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 0225 GMT (1025 HKT) April 15, 2021
10 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
2:01 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Defense expert: Cause of Floyd's death should be "undetermined"

Pool
Pool

Dr. David Fowler, a retired forensic pathologist, testified that it is his opinion that the cause of Floyd's death should be "undetermined."

"I would fall back to undetermined, in this particular case," Fowler testified.

Fowler, who is the former Maryland Chief Medical Examiner, said that a death should be classified as undetermined "when you have so many conflicting different potential mechanisms of death that could lead to the manner is not clear."

Fowler, who is being paid to testify, said that there were multiple contributing factors to Floyd's death including drug use and heart disease. He also testified that Floyd suffered a "sudden cardiac event."

After defense attorney Eric Nelson was done questioning Fowler, the court took its lunch break. Before the break, Judge Peter Cahill told the attorneys that he would allow the prosecution to prepare a rebuttal to Fowler's testimony. The judge said that he would give them until tomorrow to prepare.

Remember: Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker ruled that Floyd's death was a homicide. He said that Chauvin's restraint and compression of Floyd's neck were the primary causes of Floyd's death. Baker stood by those findings in his testimony at Chauvin's trial last week.

1:10 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Chauvin's knee did not impact any of Floyd's "vital structures," medical expert says

David Fowler, a retired forensic pathologist who is the defense's first witness of the day, said it's his opinion that Derek Chauvin's knee did not impact any of George Floyd's "vital structures" of his neck.

Here is the exchange with defense lawyer Eric Nelson:

Nelson: In terms of the placement of officer Chauvin's, excuse me, knee to Mr. Floyd, is it your opinion Mr. Chauvin's knee in any way impacted the structures of Mr. Floyd's neck?
Fowler: No it did not. None of the vital structures were in the area where the knee appeared to be from the videos.

Some context: Other witness who testified for the prosecution earlier in the trial said they think the prone position and the weight on Floyd's back interfered with his ability to breathe.

Dr. Martin Tobin, a physician in pulmonary and critical care medicine, testified on April 8 that Floyd died from a "low level of oxygen."

He outlined four factors that contributed to his low oxygen which included Floyd being in the prone position on the street, the handcuffs that were in place, Chauvin's knee on his neck and a knee on his back.

Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist, said on April 9 that the "subdual, restraint and compression" of law enforcement of Floyd was "ultimately" the immediate cause of death.

11:48 a.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Forensic pathologist: Floyd had a "sudden cardiac arrhythmia"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Pool
Pool

David Fowler, a retired forensic pathologist, said he thinks George Floyd died due to a number of factors:

"So in my opinion, Mr. Floyd had a sudden cardiac arrhythmia or cardiac arrhythmia due to his atherosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease ... during his restraint and subdual by the police," said Fowler, former chief medical examiner at the Maryland Department of Health.

"And 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 exhaust, so 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 had. So, all of those combined to cause Mr. Floyd's death," Fowler said.

Some more context: Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker ruled Floyd's death last May a homicide and identified the cause as "cardiopulmonary arrest" that occurred during "law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." He stood by those findings when he testified in court last week.

Floyd had hypertensive heart disease, Baker said, "meaning his heart weighed more than it should." This meant Floyd's heart needed more oxygen than a normal heart and was "limited in its ability" to provide more oxygen when there was a demand for it.

In the middle of an altercation and being held to the ground, adrenaline would pour into the body, Baker said, making the heart beat faster.

"In my opinion, the law enforcement subdual, restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions," he said.

Pulmonary critical care doctor Dr. Martin Tobin testified last week that Floyd died from a "low level of oxygen,” and that his preexisting health conditions and drug use were not relevant to his death.

Hear Dr. Fowler's testimony:  

10:52 a.m. ET, April 14, 2021

A forensic pathologist is now testifying

Dr
Dr Pool

The defense has called its next witness: Dr. David Fowler, a retired forensic pathologist.

Prior to retirement, Fowler worked at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Maryland.

Fowler told the court he was Maryland's Chief Medical Examiner for about 17 years.

He said he's being compensated for his time on the case at a rate of $350 per hour.

10:30 a.m. ET, April 14, 2021

NOW: Testimony resumes in trial of ex-cop charged in Floyd's death

Pool
Pool

Day 13 of testimony in the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, who has been charged in the death of George Floyd, just began.

The defense will call more witnesses today.

Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.

The defense's case is expected to last only a few days, and closing arguments are expected on Monday, Judge Peter Cahill said earlier this week.

11:39 a.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Judge: Friend who was in Floyd's car the day he died will not testify 

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, left, and Morries Hall
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, left, and Morries Hall Court TV/Pool/AP

The judge in the Derek Chauvin trial ruled that Morries Hall, who was in the car with George Floyd when police first confronted him May 25, 2020, will not testify in the case.

At a hearing this morning, Hall appeared and invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself by testifying. Asked by the judge if he would be willing to answer questions that were pre-submitted to the court if he were put under oath, Hall said, "No, I am not" because "I'm fearful of criminal charges."

Before Hall spoke in court, his attorney addressed the court arguing how her client could expose himself to criminal charges if he took the stand in the Chauvin trial.

The judge said that he had found that Hall has "a complete fifth amendment privilege here" and ruled to quash a subpoena by the defense for Hall's testimony.

Court is set to resume at 10:30 a.m. ET when the defense is expected to call its next witness.

Morries Hall speaks at the hearing: 

10:16 a.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Judge denies defense motion to acquit Derek Chauvin

From CNN’s Aaron Cooper

Pool
Pool

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill rejected a routine defense motion on Wednesday to acquit former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.  

Attorney Eric Nelson argued prosecutors had not proven their case, even under the legal standard of “the light most favorable to the state” and asked the judge to end the trial and find Chauvin not guilty. 

“The state has essentially introduced, doubt, in the context of providing multiple opinions from multiple experts, all of which seem to contradict each other. And for that reason we would ask the state to, or excuse me, ask the court to grant the Motion for Judgment of acquittal,” Nelson told Judge Cahill.  

The state opposed the motion:

“There's no question that the witnesses who have testified all opined that the defendant use of force was subjectively unreasonable. He was not trained to do this by the Minneapolis Police Department. He did not follow policy. He did not follow a procedure, and the force that he exercised was unnecessary under the circumstances.”
9:27 a.m. ET, April 14, 2021

These are the 3 main arguments by the defense

From CNN's Eric Levenson and Aaron Cooper

Defense attorney Eric Nelson speaks during court proceedings on Tuesday, April 13.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson speaks during court proceedings on Tuesday, April 13. Court TV/Pool/AP

The defense will continue presenting its witnesses today during the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson has not explicitly laid out who will testify, but the witnesses are likely to further the broad themes of his case to acquit Chauvin.

Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.

In opening statements and cross-examinations, Nelson has focused on three main arguments:

  • George Floyd died of drug and health problems
  • Chauvin's use of force was ugly but appropriate
  • The crowd of bystanders became hostile and distracted Chauvin from taking care of Floyd

Witnesses called by the prosecution have contested each of those theories — but it will be up to the jury to ultimately decide.

While the trial has focused on Chauvin and Floyd, the societal stakes of the high-profile case were made vividly clear when police shot and killed a Black man Sunday in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center.

In light of the unrest, Nelson asked the court to question jurors further and sequester them for the rest of the trial. Judge Cahill rejected the request and said he plans to fully sequester the jury for deliberations next week. Jurors in the trial are currently partially sequestered, meaning they are released to go home each day.

8:41 a.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Here's what we know about the jury in the Derek Chauvin trial

From CNN's Eric Levenson and Aaron Cooper

The jury in Derek Chauvin's trial has heard from multiple witnesses so far, and they've been shown bystander and police footage of George Floyd's final moments. 

If convicted, Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder, and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter. The charges are to be considered separate, so Chauvin could be convicted of all, some or none of them.

While the jurors are unnamed and not seen on camera, we do know basic details about them.

Here's what we know about the jury:

  • Five men and nine women were chosen to serve on the jury during the trial in Minneapolis. 
  • Of the 14 jurors, eight are White, four are Black and two are mixed race, according to how the court says the jurors identified themselves.
  • The jury selection process began March 9 at the Hennepin County Government Center and wrapped up exactly two weeks later. 
  • The panel is made up of 12 jurors and two alternates, Judge Peter Cahill said.
  • The jurors all come from Hennepin County, which is demographically about 74% White and 14% Black, according to census data.
  • The prospective jurors previously completed a 16-page questionnaire that asked for their personal thoughts on Black Lives Matter, policing and other topics.
  • In court, each person was sworn in and then questioned one-by-one in a process known as voir dire. The juror's name, address and other information are kept anonymous.
  • Eric Nelson questioned the prospective jurors for the defense, while Steve Schleicher questioned them for the prosecution.

Read more about about the jury here.