Prosecutors in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd have ended their case.
Derek Chauvin is charged with second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. Prosecutors said he knelt at Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds, during an arrest last May.
Prosecutors sought to prove to the jury that Floyd died of asphyxiation, or lack of oxygen, from Chauvin kneeling on his neck. The lawsuit will now be in the hands of the defense, who argued that Floyd’s use of illegal drugs and his underlying health problems caused his death.
Nearly 40 witnesses were called to the stand, including the Minneapolis Police Chief and other senior officers, who openly condemned Chauvin’s treatment of Floyd, as well as passers-by and medical experts.
The prosecution also called two “spark of life” witnesses to the stand to humanize Floyd – his girlfriend, Courteney Ross, and his brother Philonise Floyd.
Police were called to Cup Foods, a convenience store, on May 25 after a cashier suspected Floyd had used a fake $ 20 bill to buy cigarettes. Chauvin, who is white, was recorded in a widely watched spectator video kneeling over Floyd, who was black. Chauvin and three other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest – J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao – were fired a day after Floyd’s death. Kueng, Lane and Thao are charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder and manslaughter and are due to stand trial in August.
Floyd’s death sparked international protests against racism and police brutality.
Dr Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Floyd and said his death was a homicide, testified last week that fentanyl and heart disease contributed, but police actions in were the main cause.
To convict Chauvin of murder, the jury must find that Floyd’s restraint was a “substantial causal factor” in his death.
Testimony from other medical experts, including a world-renowned pulmonologist, reinforced the prosecution’s allegations that Floyd died as a result of his detention by Chauvin.
“A healthy person subjected to what Mr. Floyd was subjected to would have died,” said Dr. Martin J. Tobin, pulmonologist and intensive care physician, who testified Thursday.
Tobin said Floyd died from low oxygen levels. He said it was not sudden death.
The Minneapolis Police Chief testified that Chauvin violated a number of departmental policies he was trained in, such as the use of force, clamps and de-escalation. Rarely does a chief of police testify against a police officer.
“Continue to apply this level of force to a person handcuffed behind the back, who in any way, shape or form is anything that is political,” said Chief Medaria Arradondo. “It is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.”