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Chauvin trial: Cardiologist among witnesses as prosecution draws to close

On Monday, Judge Peter Cahill also rejected the defense's motion to sequester the jury following a fatal police shooting in Brooklyn Center.
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A cardiologist testified Monday that George Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen caused by a police restraint in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin.

Dr. Jonathan Rich took the stand on the first day of what is expected to be the final week of testimony. Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during a May 25 arrest, has been charged with third- and second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Rich was one of multiple medical experts called by the prosecution to testify that Floyd died due to asphyxia, or lack of oxygen.

“Because of the position he was subjected to, the heart didn’t have enough oxygen… which means the entire body is deprived of oxygen,” Rich said.

Rich said he ruled out complications caused by an existing heart condition or a drug overdose as a cause of death, which Chauvin’s defense has argued. 

Two autopsy reports found that Floyd had methamphetamine and fentanyl in his system at the time of his death. Floyd also had an enlarged heart and narrowed arteries.

Rich said Floyd’s past struggle with drug abuse would have caused him to build a tolerance to opioids. He also noted that Floyd’s behavior did not align with his experience treating patients suffering with opioid overdoses.

“After reviewing all the facts and evidence of the case, I can state with a high degree of medical certainty that George Floyd did not die from a primary cardiac event, and he did not die from a drug overdose.”

Under questioning from Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson, Rich acknowledged he believes Floyd would have survived if he had gotten into the squad car during the arrest.

Floyd’s younger brother, Philonise Floyd of Houston, Texas, also gave an emotional testimony Monday. Philonise Floyd detailed his brother’s relationship with his family and community.

“He was so much of a leader to us in the household. He would always make sure that we had our clothes for school. He made sure we were all going to be at school on time,” Philonise Floyd said.

The prosecution also showed photos of Floyd with his daughter, Gianna Floyd, and mother, Larcenia Floyd.

“He was a big mama's boy,” he said. “Every mother loves all of her kids, but it was so unique how they were with each other.”

The prosecution also called law professor and use of force expert Seth Stoughton, who is a former police officer. Stoughton testified that the restraint was excessive after Floyd stopped resisting, noting Chauvin did not lift his knee until shortly before Floyd was brought onto a stretcher.

“Someone who does not have a pulse is not a threat in any way,” Stoughton said.

On Monday, Judge Peter Cahill rejected the defense’s motion to sequester the jury before deliberation. The defense cited news of a fatal police shooting of a 20-year-old Black man in Brooklyn Center Sunday that resulted in civil unrest.

“This is a high-profile case. This is a case that evokes a lot of emotion for a lot of people. Ultimately… the question becomes, will the jury feel confident to make a decision regardless of the potential outcome of the decision?” Nelson said.

“The problem is the emotional response that that case creates sets the stage for a jury to say, ‘I’m not going to vote not guilty because I’m concerned about the outcome.’” 

The prosecution is expected to rest on Tuesday, with Monday representing the last day of prosecution witness testimony.

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