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Crime In Chauvin trial, defense has slender reed to cling to

00:16  11 april  2021
00:16  11 april  2021 Source:   cnn.com

Derek Chauvin used force against arrestees 6 other times. The jury in the George Floyd case won't hear about them.

  Derek Chauvin used force against arrestees 6 other times. The jury in the George Floyd case won't hear about them. Prosecutors tried to introduce six incidents in which they say Derek Chauvin used unreasonable force on people. The judge didn't allow them.The jury considering murder and manslaughter charges against Chauvin won't hear about any of them. And their verdict may be influenced as much by what they don't know as what they do.

The prosecution thus far has cut through the noise and the medical jargon to make a compelling -- though not quite ironclad -- case arguing that Chauvin is, indeed, legally responsible for Floyd's death, writes Elie Honig.

Chauvin ’s attorney has suggested Floyd’s already-compromised heart grew overwhelmed by his struggle with Minneapolis police. “There is absolutely no evidence at autopsy of anything that suggested Mr. Floyd had a heart attack,” Smock said later. Chauvin ’s defense attorney is trying to show that Floyd died of a combination of intoxication, heart disease and high blood pressure, as adrenaline from his struggle with police “acted to further compromise an already compromised heart.”

As dramatic as the evidence has been in the ongoing trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who pleaded not guilty to charges of manslaughter, second-degree murder and third-degree murder in the death of George Floyd, the case could ultimately come down to cold, hard science. While Chauvin's defense team has argued that his actions did not medically cause Floyd's death, the prosecution thus far has cut through the noise and the medical jargon to make a compelling -- though not quite ironclad -- case arguing that Chauvin is, indeed, legally responsible for Floyd's death.

a group of people sitting at a desk © Pool a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Elie Honig © Provided by CNN Elie Honig

I've presented testimony from medical examiners at murder trials, and I know firsthand that it can be fraught. Medical examiners often use dense, technical medical jargon to state their findings, so juries sometimes have difficulty following along; it's the prosecutor's job to ensure that the examiner speaks in plain English, to the extent possible, to explain his or her conclusions. And testimony from medical examiners, naturally, can be gruesome. Juries tend to recoil at the vivid descriptions of death and its aftermath.

Derek Chauvin trial: A week of emotional and potentially devastating testimony surrounding George Floyd's death

  Derek Chauvin trial: A week of emotional and potentially devastating testimony surrounding George Floyd's death Pain, trauma and regret spilled out from a Minneapolis courtroom during a first week of critical testimony in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who knelt on the neck of George Floyd. © Pool Minneapolis Police Lt. Richard Zimmerman said Chauvin's actions after Floyd was handcuffed and in a prone position were "uncalled for" and "totally unnecessary." The week concluded with potentially devastating testimony from the police department's most senior officer, who called Chauvin's actions on the day of Floyd's death "totally unnecessary.

It has not even been shown that race was an issue – and yet the real problem of bad police training is getting zero attention. When Benjamin Crump, who is the head of George Floyd's family's legal team, stated that the Derek Chauvin case would be a referendum on how far America has come with race relations, I cringed a bit. Many legal experts on both sides of the political aisle have stated that it is going to be an uphill battle to convict George Floyd's alleged killer of any of the charges that stand in front of him.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson cross-examined Thomas, a witness for the prosecution, after she had testified that the “primary mechanism of death” in the case was “asphyxia or low oxygen.” Other experts have testified for the prosecution that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen caused by Chauvin kneeling on his neck. But the prosecution has shifted its theory from arguing that Chauvin cut off the flow of blood in Floyd’s arteries, and began referring to a knee placed on Floyd’s “neck area” rather than the neck itself, following earlier cross-examinations.

By and large, however, the prosecutors in the Chauvin trial presented their expert medical witnesses in an accessible and compelling manner. The witnesses were able to translate their own scientific findings into readily understood testimony, and they appeared to engage directly with the jury. Most memorably, Dr. Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist and critical care physician, had the jurors following along with him, at one point feeling their own necks, as he described the human cardiopulmonary system to them.

Indeed, heading into the medical causation portion of the trial, prosecutors appeared to have a strong basis to prove that Chauvin caused Floyd's death. Exhibit A was the indelible, grotesque video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes. While the video itself does not establish a specific scientific conclusion, jurors have every right to draw their own common sense inferences from it. Anyone who has a basic layperson's understanding of the human body can readily understand how nearly nine and a half minutes of concentrated pressure on the neck can kill a person.

Minneapolis officers line up to reject Chauvin's actions

  Minneapolis officers line up to reject Chauvin's actions MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The parade of Minneapolis police officers rejecting a former officer’s actions in restraining George Floyd continued at his murder trial, including a use-of-force instructor who said officers were coached to “stay away from the neck when possible.” Lt. Johnny Mercil on Tuesday became the latest member of the Minneapolis force to take the stand as part of an effort by prosecutors to dismantle the argument that Derek Chauvin was doing what he was trained to do when he put his knee on George Floyd’s neck last May.

Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges. Here are important moments from the ninth day of witness testimony: Dr. daniel isenschmid, toxicologist who tested floyd blood samples. Tobin said Floyd’s breathing became fatally shallow under the police restraint but that the number of breaths he took per minute did not decrease up until the moment he lost consciousness, contradicting a defense theory. Tobin said that a fentanyl overdose, in contrast, is marked by a sharp decrease in the frequency of breaths.

Chauvin ’s defense has maintained that Floyd’s heart problems and drug use caused his death. Here are some key turning points in today’s proceedings: Dr Andrew Baker, chief medical examiner for Hennepin county, who performed the only autopsy of Floyd, stood steadfast in his determination that “He has a heart that already needs more oxygen than a normal heart,” Baker says. “Now, in the context of an altercation with other people, that involves things like physical restraint, that involves things like being held to the ground … those events are going to cause stress hormones to pour out of your body.”

Over the past few days, prosecutors have aimed to bolster that intuitive notion with science. In his testimony, Tobin, for example, estimated that Chauvin placed around 87 to 91.5 pounds of his body weight on Floyd's neck, depending on whether the officer's feet were touching the ground as he knelt.

Prosecutors also encountered, but mostly cleared, obstacles. First, it would likely have appeared to an ordinary layperson that two medical examiners had offered differing accounts of what caused Floyd's death. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, concluded that Floyd died because of "cardiopulmonary arrest" that occurred during "law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." But a private examiner hired by Floyd's family found that Floyd died of "asphyxiation from sustained pressure."

To any ordinary non-doctor (like me -- or, more importantly, the jurors), those sound like two different conclusions. Which is it: Did Floyd die of "cardiopulmonary arrest" or "asphyxiation"? The prosecution quickly clarified the issue, however, as its medical experts made clear: "Cardiopulmonary arrest" is not the same thing as a heart attack, but rather refers more generally to the stoppage of the brain and heart. That stoppage can result from oxygen deprivation -- which is another way of saying "asphyxiation." In other words, while the phrases "cardiopulmonary arrest" and "asphyxiation" look different on the surface, they could well describe the same circumstances that led to Floyd's death.

'Blue wall of silence' takes hit in Chauvin's murder trial

  'Blue wall of silence' takes hit in Chauvin's murder trial Police accused of wrongdoing can usually count on the blue wall of silence — protection from fellow officers that includes everything from shutting off body cameras to refusing to cooperate with investigators. But that's not the case with Derek Chauvin, with many colleagues quick to condemn his actions in George Floyd's death, some even taking the stand against him. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified that Chauvin’s kneeling on the handcuffed Floyd's neck was “in no way, shape or form” in line with department policy or training. Homicide detective Lt. Richard Zimmerman testified, “If your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill him.

Prosecutors in Derek Chauvin 's murder trial of George Floyd to call more expert witnesses to testify. NBC News' Shaquille Brewster reports that the prosecution is "trying to lay out that Derek Chauvin 's use of force was not appropriate, that it was in conflict with the training received by MPD officers."

Mr. Chauvin ’s defense has tried to argue that Mr. Floyd died from a possible overdose, but the prosecution blames the actions of Mr. Chauvin , who pinned Mr. Floyd with his knee for about nine and a half minutes. Here are some key takeaways from recent testimony. Fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in Mr. Floyd’s system, and the possibility that they caused his death is a crucial argument for Mr. Chauvin ’s defense as the trial enters a phase in which medical testimony is front and center.

Another problem surfaced with the testimony of Baker, who conducted the autopsy on Floyd's body. Baker -- like Tobin, the expert pulmonologist, and medical examiner Dr. Lindsey Thomas before him -- was firm and consistent in testifying that Chauvin's compression of Floyd's neck was the primary cause of death. However, while Tobin and Thomas affirmatively ruled out Floyd's pre-existing medical conditions (including heart disease) and drug use as a cause of death, Baker concluded that they were contributing factors. That opening will give the defense just a reed to cling to in arguing to the jury that Chauvin is not responsible for Floyd's death.

But that reed is a thin one. Keep in mind this crucial legal concept: The prosecution need not prove that Chauvin was the only cause of Floyd's death, or even the predominant cause. Under Minnesota law, the prosecution must prove only that Chauvin's conduct was one substantial causal factor to Floyd's death. In other words, Chauvin can still be found guilty if his conduct was only one of several factors that contributed to Floyd's death. So, even if the jury accepts Baker's conclusion that Floyd's medical conditions and drug use contributed to the death (which was, according to Baker, primarily caused by Chauvin's actions), the evidence is still sufficient to support a guilty verdict.

EXPLAINER: Judge lets jury decide Floyd's remark about drugs

  EXPLAINER: Judge lets jury decide Floyd's remark about drugs MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The judge overseeing the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer in the death of George Floyd said Monday that he'll leave it up to the jury to sort out whether Floyd yelled “I ate too many drugs” or “I ain’t do no drugs” as three officers pinned him to the ground. Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill made the ruling as attorneys argued over whether to allow the testimony of a use-of-force expert for the prosecution, Seth Stoughton, a professor at the University of South Carolina Law School. Prosecutors wanted him to testify from an academic perspective on whether Chauvin used reasonable force and about national policing standards.

Now, your questions:

Anna (Missouri): Can the other police officers who were on the scene and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter choose to have a bench trial rather than a jury trial? Is there a possibility they'll be denied that right?

The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution gives every criminal defendant in a felony case the right to be tried by a jury. But under the Minnesota Rules of Criminal Procedure, a defendant can waive that right and instead request to be tried before a judge, who will issue the verdict on the defendant's guilt or non-guilt (usually, juries determine guilt and then judges impose sentence). This is not unusual; many jurisdictions, including federal courts, give a defendant the option to request trial by judge rather than jury.

The judge must first inform the defendant of his right to a jury trial, and must ensure that the defendant understands that he is voluntarily giving up that right. If the defendant still wishes to proceed, then the judge has the power either to grant or deny the defendant's request to waive a jury trial. Such requests are uncommon, but defendants do occasionally seek to be tried by a judge if they fear that a jury might be inclined or to convict based on the facts of the case.

Defense set to take turn in ex-cop's trial in Floyd death

  Defense set to take turn in ex-cop's trial in Floyd death MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The defense for a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd's death was set to start presenting its case Tuesday, following 11 days of a prosecution narrative that combined wrenching video with clinical analysis by medical and use-of-force experts to condemn Derek Chauvin's actions. Prosecutors called their final witnesses Monday, leaving only some administrative matters before they were expected to rest Tuesday. Once the defense takes over, Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson is expected to have his own experts testify that it was Floyd's drug use and bad heart, not Chauvin's actions, that killed him.

Nebiyu (Massachusetts): How long will Derek Chauvin's sentence be, if he is convicted?

Chauvin faces three charges, each carrying a different maximum penalty. If he is convicted on the second-degree murder charge against him, he could serve up to 40 years in prison. If he is convicted on the third-degree murder charge, he faces a maximum of 25 years imprisonment. And if he is convicted of second-degree manslaughter, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison. Keep in mind that the jury will consider each charge separately. So the jury could convict Chauvin on all, some, or none of the three charges.

EXPLAINER: Chauvin jurors must disregard defendant's silence .
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jurors at the murder trial of the former Minneapolis police officer accused in George Floyd’s death were told Monday that his choice to remain silent cannot affect their decision. Derek Chauvin on Thursday said he would not to testify in his own defense, invoking his right to remain silent and leave the burden of proof on the state. It was a high-stakes decision. Taking the stand could have helped humanize Chauvin to jurors who didn't heard from him directly at trial, but it could also have opened him up to a devastating cross-examination.

usr: 3
This is interesting!