BREAKING: Chauvin takes the 5th; defense rests

If Derek Chauvin has a personal explanation for what happened to George Floyd, he’s keeping it to himself. The former Minneapolis police officer declined to testify at his murder trial, setting the stage for closing arguments as the defense rested:

Derek Chauvin invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination Thursday and will not testify in his trial for the death of George Floyd.  …

The defense rested their case.

Chauvin told the court he’s invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege:

Derek Chauvin said in court Thursday that he will not testify in his murder trial.

“I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege” to not risk making any self-incriminating statements in Hennepin County District Court, where he is charged with killing George Floyd.

District Judge Peter Cahill has said it’s his intention, once the defense rests, for the attorneys to make their closing arguments as soon as Monday before jurors are sequestered and deliberate whether the fired Minneapolis police officer should be convicted of using excessive force in the killing of George Floyd at 38th and Chicago on May 25.

So far, the local Fox affiliate notes that the defense only called one witness on its case, although the defense had been allowed to present parts of its case during the prosecution’s phase. The one witness they called yesterday tried to dispute the cause of death for Floyd:

The defense only made it through one witness on Wednesday, retired forensic pathologist Dr. David Fowler. Fowler’s testimony indicated he did not agree with the findings in the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s autopsy of Floyd.

Fowler concluded Floyd’s manner of death should be listed as undetermined, rather than a homicide because of all the factors at play, including possibly carbon monoxide from squad car Floyd was being held on the ground next to. Fowler made clear he does not believe carbon monoxide did not kill Floyd, but it was a contributing factor in his death along with heart disease, underlying health conditions and drug use.

That testimony didn’t turn out so well on cross-examination, however. Fowler testified that the death might have been from “sudden cardiac arrest,” a point which prosecutors drilled on cross:

“Are you suggesting that though Mr. Floyd may have been in cardiac arrest there was a time when he may have been revived because he wasn’t dead yet?” asked Blackwell.

“Immediate medical attention … may well reverse that process, yes,” Fowler answered.

“Do you feel that Mr. Floyd should have been given immediate emergency attention to try to reverse cardiac arrest?” Blackwell asked.

“As a physician, I would agree,” Fowler said.

“Are you critical of the fact that he wasn’t given immediate emergency care when he went into cardiac arrest?” Blackwell asked.

“As a physician, I would agree,” Fowler said.

Prosecutors previously told jurors that Chauvin knelt on Floyd and did not relent or provide medical attention even though Floyd was breathless and without a pulse for nearly five minutes.

The defense has rested, Star Tribune reporters confirm, but testimony is not yet over. Prosecutors want to bring in a rebuttal witness to Fowler:

This may well be the last impression that the jury gets of the defense. It’s not a good note on which to exit, although that explanation might preclude the most serious second-degree murder charge. Assuming that the defense has now rested, Judge Peter Cahill has already announced that the court will take the day off tomorrow and that closing arguments will begin on Monday.

Get ready for more fireworks at that point, especially with ongoing demonstrations and violence in nearby Brooklyn Center in the Daunte Wright shooting. It’s shaping up to be a very difficult week in the Twin Cities.

Update: This is almost certainly the smartest choice for Chauvin, but it leaves him with a problem. Thus far, his defense has perhaps shielded him from the most serious charge, but the impression left by analyses from National Review’s Andy McCarthy is that they haven’t introduced much basis for reasonable doubt on third-degree murder (Minnesota’s equivalent of “depraved indifference”) and especially manslaughter. His attorney might stick the landing in closing arguments, though.