Prosecutors rest case in George Floyd murder trial
Prosecutors rested their case on Tuesday against Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer on trial for murder and manslaughter for the death of George Floyd, whose last breaths were captured on video and laid bare racial wounds in the United States.
"Your honour, the state of Minnesota rests," prosecutor Steve Schleicher told Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill.
Prosecutors called nearly 40 witnesses during the first two weeks of the high-profile trial including medical experts, current and former police officers and bystanders to Mr Floyd's May 25, 2020 arrest.
The 45-year-old Chauvin, who is white, was seen in a video taken by a bystander kneeling on Mr Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes as the handcuffed 46-year-old Black man complained repeatedly that he "can't breathe."
The video touched off protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States and around the world.
Chauvin's defence lawyer, Eric Nelson, asked Cahill on Monday to sequester the jury after protests erupted in Minneapolis following the police killing of a 20-year-old Black man.
The judge denied the request and said the jury would be sequestered after closing arguments, which are expected on Monday.
After the prosecution rested its case, Mr Nelson began his presentation by calling a retired police officer to the witness stand.
The former officer was involved in an arrest of Floyd a year earlier during which it was established that Floyd had taken illegal drugs.
Chauvin's defence claims Mr Floyd's death was due to his consumption of fentanyl and methamphetamine and underlying health conditions.
Medical experts called by the prosecution said Mr Floyd's death was caused by a "low level of oxygen" from the neck restraint and not due to drugs or pre-existing conditions.
Police officers are rarely convicted in the United States when facing criminal charges and a conviction on any of the counts against Chauvin will require the nine-woman, five-man jury to return a unanimous verdict.
Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge - second-degree murder.
A 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, Chauvin was fired from the force after Mr Floyd's death.
Three other former police officers involved in the arrest are to be tried separately later this year.
FLOYD'S DEATH 'ABSOLUTELY PREVENTABLE'
It comes as the brother of Mr Floyd testified that his sibling's death "was absolutely preventable" and a prominent cardiologist said there is no evidence a drug overdose caused the black man's death.
Dr Jonathan Rich, the cardiologist who has reviewed medical records in Mr Floyd's murder case, told the Hennepin County District Court that different actions could have been taken could have saved the 46-year-old black man's life.
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is facing murder and manslaughter charges for his role in Mr Floyd's May 25, 2020 death, which occurred during his arrest for allegedly passing a fake $20 bill.
Dr Rich told the court on Monday (local time) he believed Mr Floyd "would have survived that day" if he had not been restrained in such a way.
During his testimony, he also dismissed claims by Mr Chauvin's defence team that Mr Floyd's death was due to his consumption of the illegal drugs fentanyl and methamphetamine and underlying health conditions.
"I can state with a high degree of medical certainty that George Floyd did not die from a primary cardiac event and he did not die from a drug overdose," Dr Rich said.
Mr Floyd's brother, Philonise, broke down as he took the stand, remembering his brother as a "big mama's boy".
In his emotional testimony, he described the moment Mr Floyd learned his mother had died.
Mr Floyd was talking to her on the phone, but she passed before he reached her.
"And when we went to the funeral, it's just - George just sat there at the casket over and over again, he would just say 'mama, mama,' over and over again," he said.
"And I didn't know what to tell him, because I was in pain, too. We all were hurting. And he was just kissing her, and just kissing her. He didn't want to leave the casket."
He described Mr Floyd as a "leader" who was loved by his family and community.
"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 said.
"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. "But he - 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 - he just knew how to make people feel better."
It came as the judge presiding over the George Floyd murder trial in Minneapolis denied a defence request to sequester the jury, dismissing suggestions they could be swayed by a night of unrest over the shooting of a young Black man by the city's police.
Judge Peter Cahill said he expected closing arguments to begin next week in the high-profile trial of Mr Chauvin.
Eric Nelson, Mr Chauvin's lawyer, said he was concerned that the protests in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center over the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright could influence the nine-woman, five-man jury.
"A verdict in this case is going to have consequences," Mr Nelson said. "Will the jury be confident to make a decision regardless of the potential outcome of their decision?" Prosecutors opposed the request to sequester the jury and so did the judge. "This is a totally different case," Justice Cahill said. "I'm not going to sequester them. We'll sequester them on Monday when I anticipate doing closings."
The latest protests occurred in Brooklyn Centre, a suburb of Minneapolis not far from the heavily guarded Hennepin County Government Center where Chauvin is on trial.
Police fired tear gas and flash bangs to disperse a crowd of hundreds of people who gathered outside a police station in Brooklyn Centre.
National Guard troops were deployed and mayor Mike Elliott imposed an overnight curfew.
"We want to make sure everyone is safe," the mayor tweeted. "Please be safe and please go home."
Mr Wright's mother told a crowd on Sunday evening, local time, that her son had called her to say he had been pulled over by police.
Katie Wright said she heard officers tell her son to put his phone down, and then one of the officers ended the call. Soon after, her son's girlfriend told her he had been shot.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the administration was "incredibly saddened to hear about the loss of life at the hands of law enforcement." "It is a reminder of the pain, the anger, the trauma, the exhaustion that many communities across the country have felt," she said.
According to the Brooklyn Centre Police Department, officers pulled over a driver for a traffic violation.
When they discovered he had an outstanding warrant, they tried to take him into custody, the department said in a statement.
He got back into his car, and one of the officers fired their weapon, striking the driver, who died at the scene.
A female passenger in the car suffered "non-life threatening injuries," the statement said.
John Harrington, Minnesota's commissioner of public safety, said about 20 businesses were looted at a local mall overnight and additional National Guard troops would be deployed on Monday.
Mayor Elliott called the shooting "tragic", while Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said the state "mourns another life of a Black man taken by law enforcement."
Originally published as Prosecutors rest case in George Floyd murder trial