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 both sides rested their cases at his murder trial, the most high-profile police misconduct case in decades.
“I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today,” Chauvin, 45, said in a hearing before the jury was brought in on Thursday morning after briefly removing his mask, referring to the constitutional right against self-incrimination. They were his most extensive remarks since his trial began with jury selection on March 8.
The defense told Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill it would call no more witnesses after two days of testimony and rested its case, which has focused on raising doubts about what caused Floyd’s death.
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.
After a short appearance by a rebuttal witness, prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney general’s office also rested their case.
Cahill said jurors would hear closing arguments on Monday before receiving the case for deliberations. They will be sequestered at a hotel in a city whose downtown is filled with National Guard troops and boarded-up windows, preparing for potential unrest.
“If I were you, I would plan for long and hope for short,” Cahill told jurors on the question of how much to pack.
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 defense 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.”