Derek Chauvin chooses not to testify at George Floyd murder trial

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Former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin waived his right to testify to the jury on Thursday at his murder trial for the deadly arrest last May of George Floyd.

Chauvin told Judge Peter Cahill that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and would not take the witness stand.

“I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today,” said the 45-year-old, who is facing murder and manslaughter charges for Floyd‘s death on May 25, 2020.

The defence also told Hennepin County District Judge Cahill it would call no more witnesses after two days of testimony. Prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney general’s office said they would call at least one rebuttal witness.

Chauvin, who is white, was seen in a bystander’s video kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes after Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes.

The footage of Floyd’s death sparked global protests against the disproportionate use of force by police against Black people.

The question of whether Chauvin would testify had been the subject of weeks of speculation, with analysts suggesting the risks were high for the defendant.

Testifying could have opened him up to devastating cross-examination, with prosecutors replaying the video of the arrest and forcing Chauvin to explain, one frame at a time, why he kept pressing down on Floyd.

But taking the stand could also have given the jury the opportunity to see or hear any remorse or sympathy Chauvin might feel. 

The defence has called an expert on the use of force to tell the jury that Chauvin’s use of force was appropriate, contradicting the Minneapolis police chief, who testified that it far exceeded an appropriate response.

Chauvin’s lawyers also called a forensic pathologist who said Floyd, whose death was ruled a homicide at the hands of the police, really died of heart disease, and that the exhaust fumes of the adjacent police car may have also poisoned him.

A number of medical experts called by prosecutors have said Floyd died from a lack of oxygen because his breathing was constricted by the way he was held down. A cardiology expert rejected the notion that Floyd died of heart problems, saying all indications were that he had “an exceptionally strong heart”.

Closing arguments are set for Monday, after which the racially diverse jury will begin deliberating at the barbed-wire-ringed courthouse, with Minneapolis on edge against a repeat of the protests and violence that broke out last spring over Floyd’s death.