Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Guardian’s ongoing coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial. The witness testimony against Chauvin is scheduled to resume after 9 am CT this morning in Minneapolis. Chauvin’s trial is entering its 11th day of witness testimony.
These proceedings are taking place against the backdrop of another Minneapolis-area police killing – which has heightened tensions in a community that’s already on edge about the Chauvin trial outcome.
Police in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, fatally shot a 20-year-old man during a traffic stop Sunday afternoon. The death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright prompted confrontations between hundreds of protesters and police. Officers donned riot gear and deployed teargas and flash bangs, as well as other devices, at the protesters.
Chauvin, a white onetime officer with the Minneapolis police department, faces charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, in the death of George Floyd during his May 2020 arrest. Floyd, who is Black, died after Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Chauvin has entered a not guilty plea to the charges.
Friday marked the second day that prosecutors elicited extensive testimony about Floyd’s cause of death, a new phase in their case. The prosecution’s witnesses have now repeatedly said that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen – not drugs or underlying heart illness, as the defense argued.
Here are some of the main takeaways from Friday’s proceedings:
- Dr Andrew Baker, chief medical examiner for Hennepin county, who conducted the only autopsy of Floyd, was firm in his finding that the cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression”, insisting: “That was my top line then [ it’s] “my top line now”.
- It makes sense that a medical examiner would stand by his cause of death determination, but Baker’s insistence was key for prosecutors. One possibly problematic issue for the prosecution was that Baker’s cause of death determination stood at odds with their position that Floyd died from “asphyxia” – which was repeatedly backed up by expert witness testimony. Following Baker’s testimony, however, it seemed like this inconsistency might be a semantic issue. Baker made clear that he thought Floyd died due to his encounter with officers, saying “In my opinion, the law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression was just more than Mr Floyd could take, by virtue of those heart conditions.”
- Dr Lindsey Thomas, a forensic pathologist, was also called to testify as an expert witness for the prosecution. Thomas was adamant in stating that Floyd did not die because of heart problems or drug use. “There’s no evidence to suggest that he would have died that night, except for the interactions with law enforcement.” She also stated: “The activities of the law enforcement officers resulted in Mr Floyd’s death, and that specifically those activities were the subdual, the restraint, and the neck compression.”
- Thomas’ testimony also marked a savvy strategic move for prosecutors involving the asphyxia issue, helping to further dispel potential “asphyxia” problems. Thomas actually trained Baker and testified that she agreed with his assessment that he died because of “cardiopulmonary arrest.” She seemed to show that these two causes of death aren’t mutually exclusive. She explained that “the primary mechanism is asphyxia, low oxygen,” which cause the heart and lungs to stop working.
That’s all for now. We will have more breaking news and analysis soon.