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Derek Chauvin pleads the fifth and will not testify in his own defence in George Floyd murder trial

“I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today,” Chauvin told the trial.

Former Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin.
Former Minneapolis police office Derek Chauvin.
Image: Pool Video/PA Images

Updated Apr 15th 2021, 4:08 PM

FORMER MINNEAPOLOS POLICE officer Derek Chauvin has said he will not testify at his murder trial for the death of George Floyd.

Chauvin told Judge Peter Cahill that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and would not take the witness stand.

“I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today,” Chauvin said.

Chauvin, a 45-year-old white man, is on trial on charges of murder and manslaughter over Floyd’s death. Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 note at a neighbourhood market.

Chauvin was seen in a video that kneeling on the neck of the 46-year-old black man for more than nine minutes.

The move not to testify in his own defence means that he will not face cross-examination, with prosecutors likely replaying the video of Floyd’s arrest and forcing Chauvin to explain why he kept pressing down on Floyd.

Testifying could also give the jury the opportunity to see and hear any remorse or sympathy Chauvin might feel.

The only time Chauvin has been heard publicly defending himself was when the jury listened to body-camera footage from the scene.

After an ambulance had taken Floyd away, Chauvin was heard telling a bystander: “We gotta control this guy ’cause he’s a sizable guy … and it looks like he’s probably on something.”

Yesterday, Judge Peter Cahill turned down a defence request to acquit Chauvin, rejecting claims that prosecutors failed to prove Chauvin’s actions killed Floyd.

Requests for an acquittal are routinely made midway through a trial and are usually denied.

Earlier yesterday, a retired forensic pathologist told the trial that Floyd died of a sudden heart rhythm problem due to his heart disease while being restrained by police. 

The evidence from Dr David Fowler, a former chief medical examiner for the state of Maryland and now a member of a consulting firm, contradicted several experts who said Floyd succumbed to a lack of oxygen.

Dr Fowler said that the fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s system, and possible carbon monoxide poisoning from a car exhaust, were contributing factors.

He said Floyd’s heart disease included high blood pressure and narrowing of the arteries.

“All of those combined to cause Mr Floyd’s death,” he said on the second day of the defence case.

george-floyd-officer-trial Dr David Fowler testifying at trial yesterday. Source: AP/PA Images

Chauvin lawyer Eric Nelson is trying to prove that the 19-year Minneapolis police veteran did what he was trained to do and that Floyd died because of his illegal drug use and underlying health problems.

Prosecutors say Floyd died because Chauvin’s knee was pressed into Floyd’s neck or neck area for nine-and-a-half minutes as the 46-year-old black man lay pinned to the pavement on his stomach last May with his hands cuffed behind his back.

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Several top Minneapolis police officials, including the police chief, have given evidence saying that Chauvin used excessive force and violated his training.

And a number of medical experts called by prosecutors have said that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen because the way he was restrained restricted his breathing.

However, the chief county medical examiner who ruled Floyd’s death a homicide, Dr Andrew Baker, did not identify lack of oxygen, or asphyxia, as the cause of death.

When he took to the witness box for the prosecution, he said that Floyd had severe underlying heart disease and an enlarged heart, and that the way he was held down and his neck compressed was more than Floyd’s heart could take.

Dr Fowler handled a case similar to Floyd’s in Maryland in 2018, when a 19-year-old black man, Anton Black, died after three officers and a civilian pinned him for more than five minutes as they handcuffed him and shackled his legs.

The family brought a federal lawsuit that included Dr Fowler, whose post-mortem examination found that the stress of the struggle probably contributed to Black’s death but found no evidence that restraint directly caused it.

It also found no evidence of asphyxia. 

- With reporting by © – AFP 2021

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