Expert says George Floyd died of asphyxia; judge won't sequester jurors in Chauvin trial

Don Jacobson & Daniel Uria
Protesters gather during a memorial service for George Floyd in New York City on June 4, 2020. File Photo by Corey Sipkin/UPI
Protesters gather during a memorial service for George Floyd in New York City on June 4, 2020. File Photo by Corey Sipkin/UPI | License Photo

April 12 (UPI) -- Testimony in the Derek Chauvin murder trial in Minneapolis entered its third week on Monday with a judge rejecting a defense motion to sequester the jury due to a separate police shooting involving a Black man in the city.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill denied a request by Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, asking for the jury to be isolated after the shooting death on Sunday of 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis, only miles from the courthouse.


Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, faces conviction on a charge of second- or third-degree murder or second-degree manslaughter in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd.

In asking for the jury to be sequestrated, Nelson pointed out that one juror lives in Brooklyn Center, where Sunday's shooting occurred, and others had "connections" to it.

RELATED Fatal police-involved shooting near Minneapolis sparks protests

Cahill, however, ruled that although he agreed the new shooting may cause some jurors to feel anxious, sequestering them would only worsen the situation.

"I think the better way is to just continue with the trial as we've been going," he said, according to MPR News, also rejecting Nelson's request that jurors be polled about their possible exposure to the news of Wright's shooting.


Prosecutor Steve Schleicher opposed both defense requests, saying, "This is a totally different case."

RELATED Chauvin trial: Experts offer differing views on George Floyd's cause of death

Cahill said sequestration will only begin once the jury begins deliberations, which are expected to start next Monday.

After the judge's ruling, the third week of testimony began with prosecutors calling an expert medical witness as they neared wrapping up their case.

Dr. Jonathan Rich, a cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, rejected defense arguments that Floyd may have died due to a weak heart rather than from trauma inflicted by Chauvin's knee.

RELATED Derek Chauvin trial: Experts say George Floyd died from lack of oxygen

Rich said that an autopsy showed Floyd had an enlarged heart and narrowed arteries, but that alone was not sufficient to result in his death.

Concurring with previous medical witnesses, he said Floyd's death was caused by low oxygen levels "induced by the prone restraint and positional asphyxia that he was subjected to."

Law professor Seth Stoughton, an expert on police use-of-force, also echoed previous testimony, saying it was not necessary for officers to place Floyd in the prone position after he was taken out of the back of the squad car.

Stoughton told the court it was "clear from the number of officers and Mr. Floyd's position and the fact that he's handcuffed and has been searched" that Floyd did not present a threat.


"His actions don't indicate that he presents any threat of escape. And as he's saying 'thank you' for being taken out of the backseat of the car, it would certainly suggest that the point of conflict that had provoked his resistance in the first place is over and suggests a lack of intention," he said.

"Given the range of other alternatives available to the officers it's just not appropriate to prone someone who is at that point cooperative."

Stoughton added that the prone position is "very useful" for getting control of someone to handcuff them but that it is "supposed to be transitory."

"As soon as someone has been handcuffed, you take them out of that position," he said.

Floyd's brother, Philonise Floyd, remembered him as a "big mama's boy" as well as a loving and caring brother and community as he testified under Minnesota's "Spark of Life" doctrine, which allows prosecutors to "humanize" victims in criminal proceedings.

"He was so much of a leader to us in the household. He would always make sure that we had our clothes for school. He made sure that we all were going to be to school on time. And like I told you, George couldn't cook. But he will make sure you have a snack or something to get in the morning," he said.


He also described his brother as an active and beloved member of his community.

"He was one of those people in the community that when they had church outside, people would attend church just because he was there. Nobody would go out there until they seen him. And he just was like a person that everybody loved around the community. He just knew how to make people feel better," Floyd said.

Chauvin was fired from the police force and charged with George Floyd's death, during which he was captured on video kneeling on his neck for more than 8 minutes. Floyd died after repeatedly calling for help, saying he couldn't breathe.

Wright's shooting death Sunday in Brooklyn Center, located about 9 miles northwest of downtown Minneapolis, prompted hundreds of residents to protest outside police headquarters and spawned sporadic looting and vandalism at a nearby shopping center.

Officials declared an overnight curfew after National Guard troops, already deployed in Minneapolis to handle possible civil unrest from the Chauvin trial, were sent to the area.

Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon told reporters Monday that an officer may have accidentally shot Wright with a firearm while actually intending to use a stun gun.


Protesters march for social justice

The Surrogate's Court building exterior remains vandalized while Occupy City Hall protests continue outside City Hall in New York City on June 30. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Latest Headlines