MINNEAPOLIS — The judge in the George Floyd murder case refused a defense request to immediately sequester the jury Monday, the morning after the killing of a Black man during a traffic stop triggered unrest in a suburb just outside Minneapolis.
The request came from the attorney for former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin. Defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that the jurors could be influenced by the prospect of what might happen as a result of their verdict.
“Ultimately, your honor, the question becomes will the jury be competent to make a decision regardless of the potential outcome of their decision,” Nelson said.
Judge Peter Cahill said he will not sequester the jurors until next Monday, when he anticipates closing arguments will begin. He also denied a defense request to question jurors about what, if anything, they may have seen about unrest following Sunday’s police shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center.
In the wake of the shooting, hundreds of protesters broke into businesses, jumped on police cars and hurled rocks and other objects at police in Brooklyn Center. Officers in riot gear fired gas and flash-bang grenades.
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher argued against sequestering the Floyd jury, saying: “I don’t think that would be an effective remedy.”
Schleicher also opposed questioning the jurors, saying: “World events happen. … That’s just what happens. And we can’t have every single world event that might affect somebody’s attitude or emotional state or anything be the grounds to come back and re-voir dire all the jurors.
The judge had previously asked jurors to avoid news during the trial.
The ruling came as the trial entered its third week, with the prosecution close to wrapping up its case and giving way to the start of the defense. Prosecutors built their case on searing witness accounts, experts rejecting Chauvin’s use of a neck restraint, and medical authorities attributing Floyd’s death to a lack of oxygen.
When testimony resumed Monday morning, Dr. Jonathan Rich, a cardiology expert from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, echoed earlier experts in saying that Floyd died of low oxygen levels from the way he was held down by police.
“It was the truly the prone restraint and positional restraints that led to his asphyxiation,” the expert said.
Rich rejected the possibility that Floyd died of a drug overdose. And he said he found no cardiac problems in Floyd’s medical records. In fact, he said, “Every indicator is that Mr. Floyd had actually an exceptionally strong heart.”
Corroborating other experts’ testimony, Rich said that Floyd was “restrained in a life-threatening manner,” noting among other things that he was facedown on the ground, his hands were cuffed behind his back, a knee was on his neck, his hands were pushed upward, and a knee was on the lower half of his body.
Derek Chauvin, 45, who is white, is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s May 25 death. Police had been called to a neighborhood market where Floyd was accused of trying to pass a counterfeit bill.
Prosecutors Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck as the 46-year-old Black man lay pinned to the pavement for 9 1/2 minutes.
Bystander video of Floyd, pinned by Chauvin and two other officers as he cried, “I can’t breathe!” and eventually grew still sparked protests and scattered violence around the U.S.
Chauvin’s attorney has argued that Floyd’s death was caused by drug use and underlying health conditions, including heart disease. He is expected to call his own medical experts. Nelson has not said whether Chauvin will testify.
Story by Amy Forliti, Steve Karnowski and Tammy Webber, The Associated Press. Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan.