The defense rested its case Thursday in the trial of former Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd last May, with Chauvin exercising his Fifth Amendment rights and declining to testify himself.
The trial unfolded over two weeks, with the prosecution arguing that Chauvin’s decision to kneel on the handcuffed Floyd was both a departure from reasonable police procedure, and the cause of Floyd’s death after nine minutes in that position.
However, the prosecution did not seem to have a clear idea of what injury caused Floyd’s death — whether a blocking of Floyd’s carotid artery, or the constriction of his airways, or the failure to heed Floyd’s pleas that he could not breathe. The prosecution also moved from accusing Chauvin as kneeling on Floyd’s neck to describing the him as kneeling on Floyd’s “neck area.” Prosecutors also struggled to rule out the role of fentanyl, methamphetamine, or heart disease in Floyd’s death.
The defense argued that Chauvin’s actions were reasonable, given the circumstances — especially Floyd’s initial resistance, his consumption of drugs, and the intimidating behavior of members of a crowd that had taunted the police officers. The defense also argued that there were many contributing factors to Floyd’s death during his arrest– including exposure to carbon monoxide from a police vehicle — such that Chauvin could not be held criminally liable beyond a reasonable doubt.
On Thursday, Chauvin told Hennepin County Judge Peter A. Cahill that he would exercise his right not to testify. He also publicly told his lawyer, Eric Nelson, that he understood the legal issues involved, including the risks of not testifying:
"I will invoke my 5th Amendment privilege today."
— ABC News (@ABC) April 15, 2021
The discussion — a formality suggested by Minnesota court procedure — was one of the few times Chauvin has spoken.
Cahill noted that the jury would be instructed not to draw negative inferences from Chauvin’s decision not to testify.
The judge also allowed the prosecution to recall one of its experts to testify in an attempt to rebut the defense’s claims regarding carbon monoxide. Judge Cahill warned the prosecution that it risked a mistrial if it introduced new evidence.
Closing arguments in the case are scheduled for Monday, April 19, to be followed by jury instructions and deliberations.
Chauvin faces charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.