The Potluck

Chauvin trial: Defense begins presenting case Tuesday

By: - April 12, 2021 6:26 pm

George Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd grew emotional during testimony Monday in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin.

After 11 days of testimony, the prosecution is wrapping up its case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. 

The defense begins making its case Tuesday.

Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter in the May 25 death of George Floyd on a south Minneapolis street. As Chauvin restrained Floyd with his knee pressed into Floyd’s neck, pedestrians, cars and buses passed by. Some stopped to record the scene. A video went viral and sparked a national racial reckoning.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill said he expects the defense may finish presenting its evidence by week’s end. Rather than begin closing arguments Friday and sequester the jury over the weekend, jurors may get Friday off and hear closing arguments Monday. 

The jurors have not been sequestered yet, although Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, asked Cahill to do so Monday after a police shooting in Brooklyn Center that sparked protests around the Twin Cities.

Nelson said the high-profile, emotional case is putting pressure on jurors to find Chauvin guilty. During jury selection, many prospective jurors expressed concern about the ramifications of the verdict, he noted, and the police shooting highlights the high stakes of their verdict. 

Cahill denied Nelson’s motion. 

Cardiology expert: Floyd had ‘exceptionally strong heart’

A cardiology expert testified Monday that Floyd died of cardiopulmonary arrest caused by low oxygen levels — induced by the police officers putting Floyd face down and subjecting him to positional asphyxia.

Dr. Jonathan Rich, a cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said Floyd was unable to get enough oxygen.

Rich said Floyd didn’t die from a primary cardiac event or overdose. Floyd suffered from anxiety, substance abuse, a mildly large heart, coronary artery disease and high blood pressure, he said, but did not have a heart attack that day. 

Many people have coronary artery disease, he noted, and Floyd’s heart had no evidence of injury.

“Every indicator is that George Floyd had an exceptionally strong heart,” Rich said. “None of the arteries were totally (blocked off), which is what happens in a heart attack.”

Had officers moved Floyd to his side or upright when he said he couldn’t breathe, they could’ve saved his life, Rich said. They should have started CPR immediately when Officer J. Alexander Kueng said he couldn’t find a pulse, he said.

“I feel that Mr. Floyd’s death absolutely was preventable,” Rich said.

Chauvin’s attorney asked Rich whether he thought Floyd would have survived if he had not resisted arrest and just got into the squad car.

“Had he not been restrained in the way in which he was, I think he would have survived that day,” Rich said.

Rich was one of several prosecution witnesses with medical expertise to testify during the trial that Chauvin’s restraint maneuver prevented Floyd from getting enough air, causing him to die.  

Floyd’s brother testifies about “Momma’s boy” 

Philonise Floyd, 39, tearfully testified about his oldest brother that everybody called “Perry.” 

Philonise Floyd talked about growing up in low-income housing in Houston with his brother, who made sure all the kids had clothes. George Floyd was beloved by everybody in the neighborhood, he said.

“He just knew how to make people feel better,” Floyd testified.

George Floyd “couldn’t boil water” but made a mean banana mayonnaise sandwich. He excelled at football and basketball, and got a scholarship to play football in Florida and Texas.

Philonise Floyd broke down crying when the prosecutor displayed a photo of Floyd with his mother, who died in 2018.

“He was a big momma’s boy,” Philonise Floyd said. “He loved her so dearly.” 

When she died, he sat by her casket kissing her and saying “Momma” over and over, he said. 

Floyd also cried out for his mother while struggling for breath on the day he died, Memorial Day 2020.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.