Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin said Thursday that he would not testify at his murder trial for the death of George Floyd, as a policewoman facing charges for the killing of another Black American made her first court appearance.
Kim Potter, 48, charged with second-degree manslaughter for the death of Daunte Wright, was ordered during a brief Zoom hearing to appear before a county judge on May 17.
Wright’s shooting in a Minneapolis suburb on Sunday — during which Potter appears to have mistakenly fired her gun instead of her Taser — further fueled tensions in the Minnesota city already on edge amid Chauvin’s trial.
Both Chauvin and Potter are white while Floyd and Wright were African Americans.
“Over and over again, they come up with justifications,” said Ben Crump, a lawyer for the Wright family. “We’re done accepting the justifications, America.”
The prosecution and defense in Chauvin’s trial rested on Thursday after the state called a final witness and Chauvin said he would exercise his constitutional right against self-incrimination.
“I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today,” Chauvin told Judge Peter Cahill.
“Is this your decision — not to testify?” the judge asked the former police officer, who was wearing a gray suit with a dark blue shirt and dark blue tie.
“It is, your honor,” Chauvin said.
The 45-year-old Chauvin was recorded kneeling on the neck of the 46-year-old Floyd for more than nine minutes during his May 25, 2020 arrest in Minneapolis for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill.
A bystander video of the arrest went viral and sparked protests against racial injustice and police brutality in the United States and around the world.
Cahill gave the nine-woman, five-man jury a day off on Friday before closing arguments Monday.
The judge reminded the jurors that they would be sequestered for their deliberations and told them they should “plan for long and hope for short” when packing their bags.
– ‘Accountability’ –
Potter, who resigned from the police department of Brooklyn Center, a suburb of the Midwestern city of Minneapolis, after Wright’s shooting during a traffic stop, spoke just a few words during her Zoom court appearance.
She was asked by Judge Paul Scoggin if she was present in her attorney’s office. “Yes, I am,” said Potter, who has been free on $100,000 bail.
A 26-year police veteran, Potter faces a maximum of 10 years in jail if convicted of second-degree manslaughter.
Wright’s mother Katie Wright said she wants “accountability, 100 percent, the highest accountability.
“But even then, when that happens — if that even happens — we’re still going to bury our son… So when people say ‘Justice,’ I just shake my head,” she said.
Minneapolis was rocked by demonstrations following Floyd’s death and there have been nightly protests in the city since Wright’s shooting, some violent.
And police were facing outrage in another Midwestern city as Chicago officials released video Thursday of an officer shooting a 13-year-old Latino boy dead last month.
The body camera footage, which Mayor Lori Lightfoot called “excruciating,” shows teenager Adam Toledo running from police before he is shot in the chest as he stops and raises his hands.
“It’s horrifying, traumatic, and another reminder of the police brutality epidemic we continue to face in America — and the urgent need for police reform!!” Floyd and Wright family lawyer Crump tweeted about the case.
– Carbon monoxide –
At the Chauvin trial, prosecutors called a final witness on Thursday to rebut testimony by a medical expert for the defense who said Floyd’s death was due to underlying heart disease and the illegal drugs fentanyl and methamphetamine.
David Fowler, former chief medical examiner of the state of Maryland, said Thursday the handcuffed Floyd was held face down on the ground next to the exhaust pipe of a running police car, and that carbon monoxide poisoning was a potential additional factor in Floyd’s death.
Prosecutors called Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist who testified previously, back to the witness stand, where he said he did not see any evidence of carbon monoxide poisoning in Floyd’s blood.
Tobin and other medical experts called by the prosecution said Floyd’s death was caused by a “low level of oxygen” from Chauvin’s neck restraint and not due to drugs or pre-existing conditions.
Several police officers also testified that excessive force was used on Floyd and Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo said Chauvin had violated the department’s training policies and its “values.”
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 Floyd’s death.
Three other former police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest are to be tried separately later this year. AFP