Prosecutors at the murder trial of ex-Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin are due to wrap up their case this week — leaving open the question of whether the former officer will take the stand in his own defense.
Chauvin, 45, who is charged in the caught-on-video death of George Floyd, has the right to testify when his lawyers present their case but would then open himself up to a grilling by prosecutors.
It’s a gamble his lawyers are unlikely to take, according to legal experts.
“Chauvin doesn’t come across as a character that you want to root for because of the video,” Joseph Daly, emeritus professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, told the Star Tribune.
“[Prosecutors will] take him through every single second of that video and have him testify. In cross-examination, he’ll just get beat up.”
The third week of the trial opened Monday under a cloud of new unrest in the Minnesota city over the police-shooting death Sunday of 20-year-old Daunte Wright.
Wright, who was black, was shot and killed by police after a traffic stop — sparking a new round of protests, looting and clashes with police since Floyd’s May 25 death sent demonstrators to the streets.
In court Monday, Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, argued that the new unrest threatens to taint the jury against the former cop and asked Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill to order the panel sequestered for the rest of the trial.
“Ultimately, this incident, while it is, I understand, it’s not this case, I understand it does not involve the same parties,” Nelson said.
“But the problem is that the emotional response that that case creates sets the stage for a juror to say, ‘I’m not going to vote not guilty because I’m concerned about the outcome,’” he said.
But Cahill denied the request.
“I understand the argument from the defense that this now puts them even more ill at ease,” the judge said, referring to the jurors. “But I think sequestering them will only aggravate that.”
Prosecutors have focused their case on viral footage of Floyd’s death, which shows Chauvin pressing his knee to his neck for more than nine minutes.
On Monday, Dr. Jonathan Rich, a cardiac expert, testified that Floyd suffered from hypertension, anxiety and substance abuse — but had no sign of heart disease when he died.
Nelson has claimed that Floyd, who had fentanyl and methamphetamine in this system, died as a result of drug use and a heart condition — not Chauvin’s actions.
He has also repeatedly blamed a crowd of bystanders who berated the officers and pleaded with Chauvin to take his knee off Floyd’s neck.
Nelson has described the crowd as hostile and said they hampered efforts to get medical help to Floyd and created an unsafe condition for the officers.