Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Thursday waived his right to testify to the jury about his part in the deadly arrest last May of George Floyd as his murder trial, the most high-profile police misconduct case in decades, nears its end.
"I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today," Chauvin said after briefly removing his mask, referring to the constitutional right against self-incrimination, in his most extensive remarks since his trial began with jury selection on March 8.
The defense told Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill it would call no more witnesses after two days of testimony and would rest its case, which has focused on raising doubts about the cause of Floyd's death.
It is rare for defendants to take the stand in a criminal case because they face intense cross-examination by prosecutors and risk undermining their case and credibility.
Prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney general's office said they would call at least one rebuttal witness, and Cahill has previously advised jurors he expects both sides to present their closing arguments Monday. After that, Jurors will begin deliberating one of the most closely watched police misconduct cases ever seen in the United States.
Chauvin, who is white, was seen in bystander video kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes after Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. The footage of his death sparked global protests against the use of force by police against Black people.
His lawyers called an expert on the use of force to tell the jury that Chauvin's use of force was appropriate, contradicting the Minneapolis police chief, who testified that it far exceeded an appropriate response.
They also called a forensic pathologist, former Maryland chief medical examiner Dr. David Fowler, who said Floyd, whose death was ruled a homicide at the hands of the police, really died of heart disease, and that the exhaust fumes of the adjacent police car may have also poisoned him.
Dr. Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist who testified as an expert witness for prosecutors, will return to the stand on Thursday as a rebuttal witness in an effort to undermine Fowler's testimony about carbon monoxide poisoning.
Prosecutors also said they had been contacted by Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County chief medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Floyd, to disclose previously unpublished test results that showed normal carbon monoxide levels in Floyd's blood.
The judge denied the request to admit the new evidence, saying it was too last-minute in a way that was prejudicial to Chauvin, and warned prosecutors that if Tobin even mentioned the existence of the results, he would declare a mistrial.
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