DAY 14: Chauvin Balks at Testifying, Prosecution Recalls Pulmonary Expert before Defense Can Rest Its Case

Image of Derek Chauvin with his knee to George Floyd’s neck

By Natasha Feuerstein

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – On Thursday, Day 14, former police officer Derek Chauvin announced he would not testify—he took the 5th—and the prosecution sought to rebut the defense’s witness testimony from Wednesday moments before the defense declared it would rest its case.

Judge Peter Cahill reminded Chauvin that deciding to testify or not is a personal decision, and it cannot be defense attorney Nelson’s decision. Judge Cahill asked Chauvin to confirm that this is his own, voluntary decision, to which Chauvin replied, “It is.”

The defense was then instructed to rest its case in front of the jury.

Before this could be done, Judge Cahill announced that he was informed in his chambers of newly-discovered evidence that the State wished to present regarding carbon monoxide testing.

Special Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell told the courtroom that the prosecution had “blood-gas readings” that would show the carbon monoxide readings in George Floyd’s blood at the time of his death on May 25, 2020.

When Judge Cahill asked why this evidence was not disclosed earlier, the prosecution explained that it was discovered only yesterday.

The prosecution further explained that what precipitated this discovery was their desire to rebut Wednesday’s testimony from defense expert Dr. David Fowler, who testified that George Floyd could have been exposed to a large amount of carbon monoxide from the tailpipe of the squad car he was next to when pinned down on the ground by Chauvin.

The prosecution wished to introduce the new evidence, explaining it learned after Wednesday’s testimony that there were existing tests showing Floyd’s carbon monoxide blood levels.

Blackwell sought to recall Dr. Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist, for further testimony on this matter.

Defense attorney Nelson explained he had only received the evidence early this morning, and Dr. Fowler was now on an airplane unable to be reached.

Nelson further explained that the State had had more than enough time and ample opportunity to rebut any testimony from the defense, and argued that this was not proper rebuttal from the prosecution, and their witnesses had already testified in length in regard to this matter and should not be allowed to testify further.

Blackwell insisted that there would be no discussion of the matter this morning “had there not been new opinions from Dr. Fowler raised from the stand.”

One of those new opinions, he explained, was Fowler’s discussion of the Mayo Clinic and Northwestern studies about an enlarged heart. Blackwell explained the prosecution was unaware beforehand of such testimony taking place.

Dr. Fowler offered his opinion from the stand, but not from reports, that George Floyd had an enlarged heart, according to the prosecution. Otherwise, the prosecution would have been prepared to address his opinion yesterday.

Blackwell explained that Dr. Tobin would testify to how George Floyd’s heart size did not differ from the average size. Additionally, Dr. Tobin would testify to the carbon monoxide levels in Floyd’s blood.

Judge Cahill explained that it seemed “odd” Hennepin County Medical Center did not disclose deeper samples, such as this carbon monoxide test when initially subpoenaed.

Nonetheless, Judge Cahill ruled that, although he did not believe the State was acting in bad faith, the late disclosure prejudiced the defense and was thus not allowed.

However, the State was allowed to recall Dr. Tobin, only if Tobin did not reference any new test results to the jury. Judge Cahill warned that if Dr. Tobin was to reference test results, there would be a mistrial.

Judge Cahill clarified that Dr. Tobin must stick to environmental factors when testifying to the influence of carbon monoxide in Floyd’s blood. Additionally, Dr. Tobin was allowed to reference the studies on enlarged hearts and offer his own opinion.

After explaining the ground rules for Dr. Tobin’s testimony, Judge Cahill reminded the prosecution that a rebuttal should only bring new evidence to light, not simply restate previous testimony.

Dr. Tobin’s testimony was brief.

He stated that he did not believe Dr. Fowler’s previous statement, that Floyd’s carbon monoxide levels could have been increased by 10-18 percent in seven minutes, was a reliable one.

Dr. Tobin further explained that the maximum amount of carbon monoxide that could have been present in George Floyd’s blood was two percent. This number was based on tests that showed Floyd’s oxygen saturation levels to be 98 percent oxygen.

Carbon monoxide levels of zero to three percent are normal in all people, so the maximum amount of two percent that could have been present in Floyd’s blood would not lead to poisoning.

After his testimony concluded, the prosecution again rested its case. Judge Cahill informed the jury that no more evidence would be introduced in the trial.

Both the prosecution and defense will deliver their closing arguments Monday.

Judge Cahill informed the jury that they will be sequestered to deliberate once the arguments conclude.

“The one thing you need to know for today as you leave is, ‘How much do I pack?’” Cahill said to the jury. “If I were you, I would plan for long and hope for short.”

Natasha Feuerstein is a senior at UC Davis majoring in Political Science and minoring in Global Disease Biology. She is originally from Camden, Delaware.


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