Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd, invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify Thursday, ending weeks of speculation and bringing the defense's case to a close.
Chauvin told the judge he would not take the stand before the jury was brought into the courtroom.
Had he testified, it would have been the first time he publicly told his side of the story.
Chauvin is charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd, 46, who had been suspected of using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a convenience store.
Closing arguments will begin Monday before the case is handed to the jury for deliberations.
The defense called several witnesses to the stand over the course of two days, including Dr. David Fowler, a pathologist who has testified in numerous high-profile police use-of-force cases. Fowler testified Wednesday that Floyd died of a sudden heart rhythm disturbance as a result of his heart disease. Fowler said that the fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd's system were contributing factors in his death.
"You put all of those together, it's very difficult to say which of those is the most accurate," Fowler said.
Fowler, who was Maryland's chief medical examiner for 17 years, testified that he would classify the manner of death as "undetermined," rather than a homicide — an act caused by another person, as the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office ruled.
Fowler is among several people being sued in federal court by the family of Anton Black, a 19-year-old Black man who died in police custody in September 2018 in Maryland after three officers and a bystander held him down in the prone position for about six minutes. No one was charged. The lawsuit accuses two police officers of using excessive force and Fowler of "improperly concealing police wrongdoing," for ruling the death "accidental."
Under cross-examination from prosecutor Jerry Blackwell on Wednesday, Fowler conceded that he did not take into account the weight of Chauvin's gear when he analyzed the pressure on Floyd's body.
On Thursday, the prosecution briefly recalled an expert witness, a world-renowned pulmonologist, to refute another portion of Fowler's testimony. Fowler had introduced a theory that carbon monoxide poisoning from a squad car’s exhaust might have contributed to Floyd’s death in May, though he acknowledged that he did not know if the car was running and said he had not seen any test results to indicate that Floyd had suffered any injuries from carbon monoxide.
The recalled witness, Dr. Martin Tobin, a lung and critical care specialist at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital and Loyola University's medical school in Illinois, said Fowler's contention that Floyd's blood could have contained anywhere from 10 to 18 percent of carbon monoxide was "simply wrong."
Tobin said tests performed by Hennepin County showed Floyd had a 98 percent oxygen saturation, meaning the amount of carboxyhemoglobin — the combination of carbon monoxide and hemoglobin — in his blood was at most 2 percent, which is "within the normal range."
The prosecution, again, rested its case after Tobin's testimony.
The prosecution has said Floyd died because Chauvin knelt on his neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds, as he lay on the pavement while he was handcuffed facedown. Several prosecution witnesses have said Floyd died from low oxygen, or asphyxia, from the way he was pinned down by police.
Chauvin's lawyer, Eric Nelson, has tried to prove Floyd died of illegal drug use and underlying health conditions. He has said Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, did what he was trained to do.
The only time Chauvin has been publicly heard defending himself was when the jury listened to body-camera video from the scene. After an ambulance had taken Floyd away, Chauvin told a bystander who had objected to his actions: "We've got to control this guy, because he's a sizable guy. Looks like he's probably on something."
Judge Peter Cahill reminded the jurors Thursday that they will be sequestered starting Monday.
"If I were you, I would plan for long and hope for short," he said.