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
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5:18 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

The jury heard from one witness today. Here's what he said in the trial of Derek Chauvin.

Pool
Pool

Defense expert witness Dr. David Fowler, a retired forensic pathologist, was the only person to testify on Wednesday in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin.

Here is what he said:

  • Fowler said that it was his opinion that Chauvin's knee did not impact any of George Floyd's "vital structures" of his neck. 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.
  • During questioning by the defense, Fowler said that carbon monoxide poisoning from the exhaust of the squad car may have contributed to Floyd's death. Prosecutors asked if it was true that he has not "seen any data, or test results, that showed Mr. Floyd had a single injury from carbon monoxide." Fowler answered, "Yes, true."
  • Fowler testified that it was his opinion that the cause of death should be "undetermined" because there were "so many conflicting different potential mechanisms of death." Previously, Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker ruled that Floyd's death was a homicide and that Chauvin's restraint and compression of Floyd's neck were the primary causes of Floyd's death.
  • Fowler said that Floyd should have received "immediate emergency attention" to reverse the cardiac arrest he was experiencing during the arrest.

What else you need to know:

  • Judge Peter Cahill ruled that Morries Hall, who was in the car with Floyd when police first confronted him, will not testify. Hall appeared this morning and invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.
  • Cahill rejected a motion by the defense to acquit Chauvin. Defense lawyer Eric Nelson argued that prosecutors had not proven their case.
4:51 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin has adjourned for the day

The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin has adjourned and will resume Thursday at about 9:15 a.m. local time.

4:46 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Forensic pathologist: Floyd had a seizure after he lost consciousness

Expert defense witness Dr. David Fowler testified that he observed George Floyd have a seizure after he lost consciousness on May 25, 2020.

Asked by defense attorney Eric Nelson to describe the seizure, Fowler said he observed "a small amount of twitching and/or extension of a body part" by Floyd.

He said this is common where people experience "certain cardiac events" as well as in a situation where "the brain not getting enough oxygen."

3:36 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Floyd should have been given "immediate emergency attention," forensic pathologist says

Defense expert witness Dr. David Fowler said during cross-examination that George Floyd should have received "immediate emergency attention" to reverse the cardiac arrest he was experiencing in May 2020.

"Do you feel that Mr. Floyd should have been given immediate emergency attention to try to reverse the cardiac arrest?" prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell asked Fowler today during the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin.
"As a physician, I would agree," Fowler said.
3:27 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Forensic pathologist: "A substantial number" of asphyxia deaths show no physical evidence of trauma

Defense expert witness Dr. David Fowler said during cross-examination he agreed with the prosecution that in the majority of asphyxia deaths, autopsies will show little or no evidence of traumatic injuries, like bruising.

Prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell asked if Dr. Fowler agreed that in the majority of cases where somebody dies from asphyxia — or low oxygen levels — there is not necessarily any physical evidence of trauma in the autopsy.

He said that he agreed that is true "in a substantial number of the cases," adding, "I'm not sure it's absolutely a majority."

Why this is important: In earlier testimony, Fowler, a retired forensic pathologist, said it's his opinion that Derek Chauvin's knee did not impact any of George Floyd's "vital structures" of his neck.

Other witnesses 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."

2:55 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Forensic pathologist: I haven't seen any data that shows Floyd had an injury from carbon monoxide

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Pool

At the beginning of his cross-examination, prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell focused in on defense expert witness Dr. David Fowler's testimony that carbon monoxide poisoning may have contributed to George Floyd's death.

Blackwell asked Fowler if it is true that he has not "seen any data, or test results, that showed Mr. Floyd had a single injury from carbon monoxide."

"Yes, true," Fowler answered. 

Blackwell then asked Fowler if he agreed that there was no finding of carbon monoxide poisoning from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's autopsy review. He agreed.

Fowler also agreed that he did not see any data that Floyd was exposed to carbon monoxide above the levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Some more context: In testimony earlier today, Dr. Fowler said that carbon monoxide from the car that Floyd was pinned down next to could have contributed to his death. "There is exposure to a vehicle exhaust, so potentially carbon monoxide poisoning or at least an effect from increased carbon monoxide in his bloodstream," Fowler said.

2:35 p.m. ET, April 14, 2021

Trial has resumed

The Derek Chauvin trial has resumed.

Prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell is now cross-examining defense expert witness Dr. David Fowler, a retired forensic pathologist.

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.