As the Twin Cities area reels from the latest killing of a Black resident by a police officer, the prosecution appeared near the conclusion of its presentation in the murder trial of ex-Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin on Monday.

Witnesses for the prosecution included a cardiology expert who discounted a sudden heart attack or a drug overdose in George Floyd’s death, an expert on use-of-force who said Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck was unreasonable and excessive, and Floyd’s younger brother, who described how devastated his eldest brother was when his mother died in 2018.

At the end of Monday’s testimony, Judge Peter Cahill told the jurors that the defense will probably start Tuesday and wrap up by the end of the week, with both sides expected to present their closing arguments Monday. “So pack a bag,” he said.

Here’s what you need to know:
  • After police in suburban Brooklyn Center, Minn., fatally shot a 20-year-old man after a traffic stop on Sunday, hundreds of protesters and officers clashed in an area where tensions are already high. On Monday, the police chief said that the officer meant to fire her Taser and accidentally discharged the gun.
  • Courteney Ross, George Floyd’s girlfriend, said she knew Daunte Wright, who was fatally shot by police Sunday.
  • “After reviewing all of the facts and evidence of the case, I can state with a high degree of medical certainty that George Floyd did not die from a primary cardiac event, and he did not die from a drug overdose,” Cardiologist Jonathan Rich told the court.
  • “Both the knee across Mr. Floyd’s neck and the prone restraint were unreasonable, excessive and contrary to generally accepted police practices,” Seth Stoughton, a nationally recognized use-of-force expert, testified.
  • The so-called Blue Wall of Silence might be shattering, as police and experts testify that Chauvin’s actions in detaining Floyd were beyond the pale.
  • Cahill will not allow Chauvin’s defense team to use video of a police interview with Floyd’s passenger, Morries Lester Hall, who has attempted to invoke his right to avoid self-incrimination.
10:03 p.m.
Link copied
link

Defense expected to begin presenting case Tuesday, judge says

After 11 days in the Chauvin trial, the prosecution is expected to conclude its presentation, meaning the defense team will begin calling witnesses.

At the end of Monday’s testimony, Judge Cahill told the jurors that the defense will probably start Tuesday and wrap up by the end of the week. With the hope that he could allow the court to recess on Friday, Cahill said both sides are expected to present their closing arguments Monday.

After that, he said, jurors would be sequestered for their deliberations.

Sequestering the jury has been a point of contention during the trial. After the police shooting of Daunte Wright, the defense argued that the jury should be isolated to avoid the news influencing their thoughts on the murder case against Chauvin. Cahill ruled against that motion.

However, he told the jury that they would be secluded while they decide the verdict.

“So pack a bag,” Cahill said.

9:55 p.m.
Link copied
link

‘Someone who is passing out obviously does not present a threat,’ witness says

Frame by frame, Stoughton reviewed footage from the scene, testifying that when Floyd said “thank you” to police after they stopped forcing him into the police car, use of force was not necessary. He said it was “not appropriate” to restrain someone on the ground if that person is cooperating with the police.

Once Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck, Floyd uttered “I can’t breathe” 27 times until he was no longer able to talk, Stoughton said. At no point, from when the use of force began until Chauvin took his knee off Floyd’s neck, was the use of force reasonable, he testified.

“Someone who is passing out obviously does not present a threat,” he said.

During the cross-examination, Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, asked about how reasonable officers could juggle distractions and other factors that are difficult to assess — alluding, as he had with other experts, to the fact that Stoughton was not in a dangerous situation when analyzing the body camera footage.

Nelson suggested that Chauvin had heightened concern about Floyd because other police officers had responded and they were “struggling.”

Stoughton said that was incorrect, pointing out that Floyd was in handcuffs when Chauvin responded to the scene.

9:50 p.m.
Link copied
link

Floyd’s drug use, crowd gathering at the scene were not threats to Chauvin, use-of-force expert says

George Floyd’s size, his history of drug use and concerned bystanders gathering at the scene did not present threats to police, according to Seth Stoughton, a nationally recognized use-of-force expert.

Expected to be the prosecution’s final witness, Stoughton, a former police officer, reiterated points made by previous witnesses about how Chauvin’s use of force against Floyd was unprovoked, analyzing what risks or threats a “reasonable officer” would react to based on body camera footage from the scene and the standard set by the Supreme Court decision Graham v. Connor. He concluded that “no reasonable officer would have believed that that was an appropriate, acceptable or reasonable use of force,” he testified.

While an officer might identify Floyd’s apparent drug use as a potential risk, Stoughton said, that is not the same as a threat of Floyd doing harm that justifies police use of force.

“There’s no specific and articulable facts that an officer, a reasonable officer in the defendant’s position, could use to conclude that he had the intention of causing physical harm to the officers or others,” Stoughton said.

8:21 p.m.
Link copied
link

Floyd’s girlfriend says she knew Wright, unarmed Black man killed during traffic stop

Courteney Ross, George Floyd’s girlfriend, said she knew Daunte Wright, who was fatally shot by police Sunday.

According to Ross, Wright was a student while she was a dean at Edison High School and was “a silly boy, as goofy as can be,” who required extra attention because he “needed a lot of love.”

Ross said she discovered the connection after speaking at a memorial event for young men who had been killed by the police in St. Paul. As she began to head home, she was introduced to Amity Dimock, the mother of Kobe Dimock-Heisler, an autistic man who was killed by police. While they talked, her husband, John Garcia, checked a local crime app on his phone.

“It’s almost too much,” Ross said.

She said she was on the phone with her sister later that night, when her sister mentioned the victim of the shooting was named Daunte.

“No,” Ross said. “Is he light-skinned? Really skinny? I said, no, no, I couldn’t believe it.”

“Students like Daunte needed more resources but they never got more resources,” Ross said. “Our system doesn’t serve kids like Daunte. And now I’m seeing, more than ever, this system I once believed in, we’re done doing what we need to be doing to protect Black life.”

She said Wright was a gregarious young person that was well-known throughout the community. She was not particularly close to him, but said she last saw him being confronted by police on the corner in Brooklyn Center in the summer of 2019. She said she was walking with Floyd when she saw the incident.

“I’m full of sorrow,” Ross said. “We are constantly doing our disservice to our children. It’s so unfair.”

8:01 p.m.
Link copied
link

Floyd’s younger brother shares tearful testimony nearing prosecution’s rest

Philonise Floyd, the younger brother of George Floyd, testified on April 12 how devastated his eldest brother was when his mother died in 2018. (The Washington Post)

In brief but emotional testimony Monday, Philonise Floyd, the younger brother of George Floyd, described how devastated his eldest brother was when his mother died in 2018.

Shown a picture of his brother as a child on his mother’s lap, Philonise Floyd, 39, broke down, describing his brother as “a big mama’s boy” who was so distraught when she died that he refused to leave her coffin at her funeral. As Floyd was dying, he could be heard screaming “mama.”

“He showed us how to treat our mom, how to respect our mom,” Philonise Floyd testified. “He just loved her so dearly.”

After days of the prosecution’s presentation of its case underscored by gruesome body camera footage and technical testimony from forensic and police experts, Philonise Floyd’s testimony marked a different, personal tone. He was the prosecution’s “spark of life” witness, testimony that in Minnesota personifies the victim.

The defense opted not to cross-examine Floyd’s brother.

Although Philonise Floyd’s testimony was brief, the prosecution’s questions were deliberate. Previously, the judge warned against testimony about Floyd’s character that could open the door for the defense to bring up Floyd’s criminal record.

In his short testimony, Philonise Floyd talked about their childhood in a low-income development in the Third Ward in Houston, playing Nintendo video games and basketball, which Floyd called “hooping.” Excelling in football and basketball, Floyd earned a scholarship to attend college in Florida before transferring, his brother said.

“He would say, ‘Hey man, let’s go hooping,’ and we would always say, ‘C’mon, let’s go,’ ” Philonise Floyd said.

On the day of his death, Floyd told officers that he had been “hooping,” which the defense said was slang related to drugs.

Floyd “was so much of a leader in the household,” his brother said, describing a big brother who cared for his younger siblings. He made snacks, like banana mayonnaise and syrup sandwiches, even though he “couldn’t cook, couldn’t boil water.”

Holly Bailey contributed to this report.

6:03 p.m.
Link copied
link

Officer in Brooklyn Center shooting meant to use her Taser, police chief says

The suburban Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot a 20-year-old unarmed Black man during a traffic stop Sunday — a day before the unrelated Chauvin trial was set to resume nearby — apparently meant to fire a Taser but instead made an “accidental discharge” from her gun, the Brooklyn Center police chief said Monday.

Less than 24 hours after an officer with the Brooklyn Center Police Department fatally shot Daunte Wright, Police Chief Tim Gannon played an unedited clip of police body-camera video showing the incident.

The video, which was played at a news conference, shows two officers approach the vehicle — one on each side. The third officer approaches later as the two attempt to handcuff Wright and he struggles. The third officer threatens to use a Taser on Wright before firing.

Immediately thereafter she is heard saying, “Holy s---, I shot him,” apparently realizing that she had fired her service weapon instead of her Taser.

5:06 p.m.
Link copied
link

Cardiologist and defense attorney spar over how George Floyd might have survived

Cardiologist Jonathan Rich and Nelson went back-and-forth during Monday afternoon’s testimony about whether Floyd would still be alive if he hadn’t encountered Chauvin that day.

Rich was answering a line of questions surrounding whether Chauvin’s acts were the main cause of Floyd’s death or whether Floyd could have had preexisting health factors that contributed.

“And if Mr. Floyd had simply gotten in the back seat of the squad car, do you think that he would have survived?” asked Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, attempting to establish that Floyd’s noncompliance was to blame, rather than the ex-officer’s use of force.

“So had he not been restrained in the way in which he was, I think he would have survived that day,” Rich answered. “I think he would have gone home or wherever he was going to go had he not been subjected to the prone and positional restraint that he was.”

“So, in other words, if he had gotten in the squad car, he’d be alive,” Nelson asked.

I think my answer remains the same,” Rich replied. “Anything other than that scenario that he was subjected to, I have no reason to think, from a medical perspective, that he would not have survived.”

4:52 p.m.
Link copied
link

Floyd ‘did not die from a drug overdose,’ cardiologist testifies

Cardiologist Jonathan Rich testified on April 12 that he was confident George Floyd did not die from a sudden heart attack or from a drug overdose. (The Washington Post)

Cardiologist Jonathan Rich told the court Monday that he was confident that Floyd did not die from a sudden heart attack or from a drug overdose.

“After reviewing all of the facts and evidence of the case, I can state with a high degree of medical certainty that George Floyd did not die from a primary cardiac event, and he did not die from a drug overdose,” Rich told the court.

Elaborating on his conclusion about drugs, Rich said even though a toxicology report showed the presence of the opiate fentanyl in Floyd’s blood, there was simply no evidence to suggest an overdose caused his death.

Number one, it appeared to me that Mr. Floyd, who was an acknowledged frequent chronic user of substances, particularly opiates, likely developed a high degree of tolerance,” he said.

“But the second and just as important, maybe more important, was I didn’t see any of the signs of an opiate overdose when I reviewed the videos,” Rich added.

When hospitals receive patients who have overdosed on opiates, “they are usually extremely lethargic, oftentimes nearly unarousable,” Rich said. When medical workers wake them up, he said, they often fall right back to sleep. When they are conscious, their speech is often slurred or they’re not talking; they feel dizzy; and they would have difficulty standing, Rich said.

“I kind of saw the opposite with Mr. Floyd,” Rich said. “I saw that he was alert, he was awake, he was conversant. He was walking.”

4:27 p.m.
Link copied
link

Cardiologist: Chauvin and other officers had the ‘opportunity’ to save Floyd’s life

Rich told the court that even after Floyd lost consciousness beneath Chauvin’s knee, officers had the opportunity to take actions Rich believes “very likely” would have saved his life.

“There was one moment in the video where I heard one of the officers saying, ‘I think he’s passing out,’ ” Rich said on the witness stand Monday, describing the video of Floyd’s arrest and restraint on the pavement. “That would have been an opportunity to quickly relieve him from that position of not getting enough oxygen, perhaps turn him into a recovery position and allow him to start to expand his lungs again.”

“When there were signs he was worsening, repositioning him, I think, very likely would have also saved his life,” Rich added.

Asked whether Floyd would have lived had it not been for Chauvin’s restraint, which Rich and other experts have testified deprived Floyd of the oxygen he needed to survive, Rich said: “I believe he would have lived.”

4:12 p.m.
Link copied
link

Judge Cahill suggests closing arguments will come next Monday

During motions on Monday that took place before the jury was called into the courtroom, Judge Peter A. Cahill confirmed that he expects closing arguments next Monday. That supports earlier speculation that Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, won’t call nearly as many witnesses as the prosecution has.

In denying a motion to sequester the jury in light of the police-involved shooting in Brooklyn Center on Sunday, Cahill said, “I don’t think that should heighten the jurors’ concern. I think it’s probably the same as it was before. They all have a concern that they expressed and were very honest about.

“And so I’m not going to sequester them. We’ll sequester them on Monday, when we anticipate doing closings.”

The prosecution began presenting its case following opening arguments on March 29. It has been calling witnesses for about two weeks.

3:10 p.m.
Link copied
link

Why Chauvin’s defense wants a passenger from Floyd’s car to testify

Judge Peter Cahill will announce this afternoon whether he will allow Chauvin’s defense attorney to call a certain witness to the stand to testify.

Morries Lester Hall was one of two passengers sitting in Floyd’s car when he encountered police. Hall allegedly had outstanding warrants in his name at the time of the encounter, and he provided conflicting information to the officers, including a false identity. He later left the state and was apprehended and interviewed by investigators in Texas.

Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson wants to call Hall as a witness because, he says, Hall can provide a crucial eyewitness account of Floyd’s physical and mental state immediately before he was pulled from the car by police — an account Nelson says will show the debilitating impact of drugs in Floyd’s body.

Hall can tell the jury that Floyd “fell asleep” in the car and that Hall and the other passenger “had to try to shake Mr. Floyd awake several times,” Nelson toldCahill on Monday morning during discussion of a motion to have Hall placed on the witness list.

Hall “largely attributes [Floyd’s] falling asleep to taking these pills” that Hall and Floyd had earlier talked about, Nelson said.

“He paints a picture of what was happening before the incident, immediately preceding the incident and as the incident was occurring,” Nelson said. Chauvin has the right to present a complete defense, and Hall’s testimony as an eyewitness is critical to doing so, Nelson said.

Prosecutors, however, say they oppose calling Hall to the witness stand because he is an unreliable witness whose testimony is self-serving, rather than illuminating of the facts. They point to his contradictory statements and his escape from Minnesota.

“There’s a lot about Mr. Hall’s statement that is self-serving and unreliable,” lead prosecutor Matthew Frank told the judge. “For example, he denies giving any pills to Mr. Floyd, denies that he had pills … There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that’s not true.”

Hall also gave false information at the scene of Floyd’s arrest “at least twice,” Frank said, and “had to be apprehended in Texas.”

“He gave very sketchy details about his own involvement, denied having any fake money, passing any fake money. So there are a lot of reasons to doubt Mr. Hall’s credibility,” Frank said.

Judge Cahill said he will issue a decision on the matter later Monday.

3:10 p.m.
Link copied
link

A motion to sequester jury after Brooklyn Center shooting is denied

Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, argued Monday morning for sequestering the jury and requiring that the members “avoid all media,” implying that their decisions on Chauvin could be unfairly influenced by fear of civil unrest.

Judge Peter A. Cahill denied the motion, saying that his concern was more about the jurors’ safety and that there had been no indication that any jurors had been identified or tampered with. The prosecution opposed the motion, arguing that sequestration was unnecessary and that it would be nearly impossible to enforce an all-media ban.

“The problem is,” Nelson argued, “is that the emotional response that that case creates sets the stage for a jury to say, ‘I’m not going to vote not guilty because I’m concerned about the outcome.’ During voir dire, we had many, many jurors on both sides of the political or social debate who expressed concern about if they don’t agree, if the public doesn’t agree with the verdict. This incident last night highlights, and I think brings it to the forefront of the jury’s mind-set, that a verdict in this case is going to have consequences.”

Steve Schleicher, one of the prosecution’s lead lawyers, opposed.

As counsel pointed out, it’s a different case,” Schleicher argued. “It’s a different department. It is an officer-involved shooting. It is something that happened nearby. We really don’t know what the facts of the case are at this particular point, as those things are unfolding. But world events happen. Things continue to happen in the state despite the fact that we’re all here in trial. That’s just what happens.”

The state did not oppose regularly reminding the jury not to consume outside information about the events presented in court but argued that it would be nearly impossible in this day and age to enforce an all-media ban because “media” is more than just newspapers and TV news.

2:15 p.m.
Link copied
link

A guide to Graham v. Connor, the Supreme Court ruling invoked in court

The prosecution on Monday morning sought to argue that they needed to hear a policing expert testify to discuss what is known as the “objectively reasonable” defense often invoked in police prosecutions.

This defense stems from the Supreme Court’s Graham v. Connor decision in 1989, which established that a police officer’s actions must be judged against what another reasonable officer would do when facing the same scene. “The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight,” the court ruled.

Minneapolis police officials who have testified so far during the trial have discussed ways in which they say Chauvin broke with the department’s policies and training. That undercuts another common defense offered by police facing charges over use of force, which is their ability to say they were following training when they used force.

The “objectively reasonable” standard, meanwhile, has played a key role in many use-of-force cases involving police. Prosecutors have struggled to convict police in such cases, particularly those involving murder or manslaughter charges. Police are allowed to use force, including deadly force, under the law. But experts and attorneys say this ability is not unlimited, and an officer should use as much force is needed and no more.

1:45 p.m.
Link copied
link

AP: For Chauvin’s trial attorney, it’s all about raising doubt

Derek Chauvin’s defense attorney was questioning George Floyd’s girlfriend about the couple buying drugs when he abruptly shifted gears for what seemed an innocuous question: He presumed the couple had pet names for each other. Under what name, he asked, did she appear in Floyd’s phone?

Courteney Ross first smiled at the question, then paused before replying: “Mama.”

The fleeting exchange called into question the widely reported account that Floyd was crying out for his deceased mother as he lay pinned to the pavement. And it appeared to be one in a series of moves aimed at undermining a dominant narrative of Floyd’s death — established through bystander video and saturation news coverage and commentary — of a reckless, arrogant cop ignoring a man’s “I can’t breathe” cries as his life is ended.