A woman protests outside the Brooklyn police department in Brooklyn, Minnesota, the US, April 14 2021. Picture: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS
A woman protests outside the Brooklyn police department in Brooklyn, Minnesota, the US, April 14 2021. Picture: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS

Minneapolis —  Former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin on Thursday waived his right to testify to the jury about his part in the deadly arrest last May of George Floyd as his murder trial, the most high-profile police misconduct case in decades, nears its end.

“I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today,” Chauvin said after briefly removing his mask, referring to the constitutional right against self-incrimination, in his most extensive remarks since his trial began with jury selection on March 8.

Chauvin faces second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges in the death of  Floyd. 

The defence told Hennepin county district judge Peter Cahill it would call no more witnesses after two days of testimony and would rest its case, which has focused on raising doubts about the cause of Floyd's death.

A courtroom sketch of Minneapolis former police officer Derek Chauvin in court in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the US, April 13 2021. Picture: REUTERS/JANE ROSENBERG
A courtroom sketch of Minneapolis former police officer Derek Chauvin in court in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the US, April 13 2021. Picture: REUTERS/JANE ROSENBERG

It is rare for defendants to take the stand in a criminal case because they face intense cross-examination by prosecutors and risk undermining their case and credibility.

Prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney-general's office said they would call at least one rebuttal witness, and Cahill has previously advised jurors he expects both sides to present their closing arguments on Monday. Jurors will then begin deliberating one of the most closely watched police misconduct cases ever seen in the US.

Chauvin, who is white, was seen in bystander video kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes after Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. The footage of his death sparked global protests against the disproportionate use of force by police against Black people.

His lawyers called an expert on the use of force to tell the jury that Chauvin's use of force was appropriate, contradicting the Minneapolis police chief, who testified that it far exceeded an appropriate response.

They also called a forensic pathologist, former Maryland chief medical examiner Dr David Fowler, who said Floyd, whose death was ruled a homicide at the hands of the police, really died of heart disease, and that the exhaust fumes of the adjacent police car may have also poisoned him.

Dr  Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist who testified as an expert witness for prosecutors, will return to the stand on Thursday as a rebuttal witness in an effort to undermine Fowler's testimony about carbon monoxide poisoning.

Prosecutors also said they had been contacted by Dr  Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County chief medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Floyd, to disclose previously unpublished test results that showed normal carbon monoxide levels in Floyd's blood.

The judge said prosecutors had been notified by the defence earlier this year that Chauvin would advance a theory of carbon monoxide poisoning. And so he denied the request to admit the new evidence, saying it was too last-minute in a way that was prejudicial to Chauvin. Cahill warned prosecutors that if Tobin even mentioned the existence of the results, he would declare a mistrial.

Tobin was questioned by prosecutors for only a few minutes, telling jurors that previously shared data showed that the level of carbon monoxide was “within the normal range.”

Reuters 

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