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Chauvin decides not to testify at George Floyd murder trial

MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin said Thursday (April 15) that he would not testify at his murder trial for the death of George Floyd as a policewoman facing charges for the killing of another Black American made her first court appearance.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (right) addresses the court on April 15, 2021, telling the presiding judge that he has decided not to testify in his own defence.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (right) addresses the court on April 15, 2021, telling the presiding judge that he has decided not to testify in his own defence.

MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin said Thursday (April 15) that he would not testify at his murder trial for the death of George Floyd as a policewoman facing charges for the killing of another Black American made her first court appearance.

Kim Potter, 48, charged with second-degree manslaughter for the death of Daunte Wright, was ordered during a brief Zoom hearing to appear before a county judge on May 17.

Wright's shooting on Sunday — during which Potter appears to have mistakenly fired her gun instead of her Taser — further fueled tensions in Minneapolis, the Minnesota city already on edge amid Chauvin's trial.

Both Chauvin and Potter are white while Floyd and Wright were African Americans.

"Over and over again, they come up with justifications," said Mr Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Wright family. "We're done accepting the justifications, America."

The prosecution and defence in Chauvin's trial rested on Thursday after the state called a final witness and Chauvin said he would exercise his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

"I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today," Chauvin told Judge Peter Cahill.

"Is this your decision — not to testify?" the judge asked the former police officer, who was wearing a grey suit with a dark blue shirt and dark blue tie.

"It is, your honour," Chauvin said.

The 45-year-old Chauvin was recorded kneeling on the neck of the 46-year-old Floyd for more than nine minutes during his May 25, 2020 arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit US$20 (S$27) bill.

A bystander video of the arrest went viral and sparked protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States and around the world.

Judge Cahill gave the nine-woman, five-man jury a day off on Friday and said closing arguments would be held on Monday.

The judge reminded the jurors that they would be sequestered for their deliberations and told them when it came to packing their bags they should "plan for long and hope for short."

'ACCOUNTABILITY'

Potter, who resigned from the police department of Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis, after Wright's shooting during a traffic stop, spoke just a few words during her Zoom court appearance.

Potter, who has been free on US$100,000 bail, was asked by Judge Paul Scoggin if she was present in her attorney's office. "Yes, I am," Potter said.

"Can you see and hear me," Mr Scoggin asked. "Yes," she replied.

Potter, a 26-year police veteran, faces a maximum of 10 years in jail if convicted of second-degree manslaughter.

Minneapolis was rocked by demonstrations following Floyd's and there have been nightly protests in the midwestern city since Wright's shooting, some violent.

Asked what she would tell protesters, Ms Katie Wright, Wright's mother, said Thursday: "Thank you for coming and supporting my family."

"And we ask everyone to obey the law," added Mr Crump, the family lawyer.

Ms Wright said she wants "accountability, 100 per cent, the highest accountability.

"But even then, when that happens — if that even happens — we're still going to bury our son… So when people say 'justice,' I just shake my head," she said.

CARBON MONOXIDE

At the Chauvin trial, prosecutors called a final witness on Thursday to rebut testimony by a medical expert for the defence who said Floyd's death was due to underlying heart disease and the illegal drugs fentanyl and methamphetamine.

Dr David Fowler, former chief medical examiner of the state of Maryland, also introduced a new element in the defence case.

Dr Fowler said the handcuffed Floyd was held facedown on the ground by Chauvin and other police officers next to the exhaust pipe of a running police car.

Dr Fowler said he did not believe Floyd died of carbon monoxide poisoning but it was potential factor in his death. 

Prosecutors called Dr Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist who testified previously for the prosecution, back to the witness stand to rebut Dr Fowler's testimony.

Dr Tobin said he did not see any evidence of carbon monoxide poisoning in Floyd's blood. 

Dr Tobin and other medical experts called by the prosecution said Floyd's death was caused by a "low level of oxygen" from Chauvin's neck restraint and not due to drugs or pre-existing conditions.

Several police officers also testified that excessive force was used on Floyd and Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo said Chauvin had violated the department's training policies and its "values."

Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge — second-degree murder.

A conviction on any of the counts against Chauvin will require the jury to return a unanimous verdict.

A 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, Chauvin was fired from the force after Floyd's death.

Three other former police officers involved in Floyd's arrest are to be tried separately later this year. AFP

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USA shooting police George Floyd Derek Chauvin racism

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