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4 p.m.: Court recesses with Fowler as Wednesday's sole witness
Dr. David Fowler concluded a day's worth of testimony by taking several follow-up questions from Derek Chauvin's defense attorney and from the prosecutors trying the ex-officer.
Judge Peter Cahill said the defense had Wednesday planned to call another witness but that they will speak tomorrow morning instead. Court is in recess until 9:15 Thursday, April 15.
3:40 p.m.: Expert questioned on assessment of George Floyd's death
State prosecutor Jerry Blackwell this afternoon sought to undermine portions of Dr. David Fowler's testimony during a lengthy cross-examination that concluded moments ago.
Fowler earlier today explained that he and a panel of forensic experts reviewed materials related to George Floyd's death for the trial and concluded Floyd died of cardiac arrhythmia while restrained by Minneapolis police. Floyd's underlying health conditions and consumption of methamphetamine and fentanyl, both of which an autopsy found in his system, factored into the assessment.
The doctor also said carbon monoxide exposure could have played a role in Floyd's death, as he was being held to the ground beside a running squad car. Fowler and associates labeled Floyd's manner of death as "undetermined."
That differs from the manner of death Dr. Andrew Baker, the medical examiner for Hennepin County who performed Floyd's autopsy, assigned to him: homicide.
Under cross-examination, though, Fowler agreed with Blackwell that Baker's autopsy of Floyd found no signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. Nor did it find pills in his stomach, Fowler agreed, although he earlier said Floyd appeared to have pills in his mouth based on footage from early in his May 25, 2020, arrest.
Fowler did say that he stood by his initial assessment, and at Blackwell's questioning budged little in his opinion that Floyd did not die of asphyxiation.
"Would you agree that pressure on the soft side of the neck also narrows the side of the upper airway, the hypopharynx?" Blackwell asked, referring to the pressure Chauvin exerted on Floyd by kneeling atop him.
"I have not seen any literature that indicates that that happens," Fowler replied.
The doctor did agree when Blackwell asked him if being held to the ground, as Floyd was, could compress the chest in such a way that hampers breathing, and that Floyd was "sandwiched" to the pavement by his arresting officers.
Blackwell had Fowler confirm that he did not take the weight of police equipment Chauvin was carrying into consideration. Fowler also told the prosecutor that there may have been time between the start of Floyd's cardiac arrhythmia and his eventual death where potentially life-saving care could have been rendered, and that he would be critical of the decision not to provide it.
Floyd did not appear to be drowsy the way an individual overdosing on fentanyl usually would, Fowler also agreed, and was found through autopsy to have only a low level of methamphetamine in his system.
12:30 p.m.: Defense witness offers differing conclusion on cause of death
David Fowler said today that George Floyd did not die from asphyxiation in a break with several other medical experts who previously testified in the trial of Derek Chauvin.
Fowler characterized Floyd's death as being more sudden and having to do with his heart conditions, and oxygen deprivation as being more gradual in comparison. People experiencing it, he said, tend to appear disoriented and confused, whereas Floyd appeared alert and talkative early in his restraint by Chauvin and other Minneapolis police officers.
The ex-officer did not damage any the "vital" structures in Floyd's neck by kneeling on the back of it, according to Fowler, and was "nowhere near" Floyd's airway.
That Floyd could speak during his restraint, according to Fowler, suggests he could breathe properly, though several other medical experts who previously testified in the trial disagreed with that idea.
Fowler also testified to a lack of visible injuries to Floyd's neck and back, something Chauvin's attorney has several times highlighted.
"All of his injuries were where the knee was not," Fowler said during examination by defense attorney Eric Nelson.
The court is in recess until 1:30 p.m.
11:15 a.m.: Expert witness called to testify
A former chief medical examiner for Maryland said in the trial of Derek Chauvin this morning that George Floyd's underlying heart conditions and drug use were significant factors in his death.
According to Dr. David Fowler, who retired in 2019, Floyd experienced a "sudden cardiac arrhythmia" during his restraint by Minneapolis police last May due that was related to his atherosclerosis, a health condition characterized by the hardening and narrowing of the arteries. Testifying as an expert in the case, he said narrowing of the coronary artery can cause sudden heart death and that Floyd's was obstructed by approximately 90%.
Methamphetamine, which an autopsy found in Floyd's system, has been associated with the condition, according to Fowler. The drug can also cause irregular heart rhythms and or increased heart rates, he said.
Another condition of Floyd's that could have contributed to his sudden death, according to Fowler, was his hypertension, or high blood pressure. Floyd's having the condition was evidenced by his enlarged heart, he said.
9:45 a.m.: Man in car with Floyd will not testify
Judge Peter Cahill this morning said Morries Hall, one of the last individuals to see George Floyd alive, has "complete Fifth Amendment privilege" and does not have to testify in the trial of Derek Chauvin.
Hall, who was with Floyd when Minneapolis police officers initiated his arrest the night of May 25, 2020, made an in-person appearance in court Tuesday morning to reiterate that he would invoke his right against self-incrimination. Hall last appeared in court remotely from jail, where he was being held on unrelated charges.
His attorney said at the time that testifying could open Hall up to additional charges. They stood by that concern Tuesday, even after Cahill asked for attorneys in Chauvin's trial to draft a narrower set of questions Hall could potentially answer. The questions concerned Hall's time in the car that he and Floyd were found in the night May 25, and Floyd's behavior that evening.
Hall's attorney this morning said, "This was a car that was searched twice and drugs were recovered twice. If Mr. Hall puts himself in that car, he exposes himself to constructive possession charges." She noted that Hall could potentially be charged with third-degree murder in Floyd's death due to broad language on liability contained in drug overdose statutes.
Even if Chauvin were acquitted, Hall's attorney said, for her client to testify would give "the state on a silver platter testimony to use against him in a third-degree murder charge if they decide to bring it."'
Hall himself told Cahill this morning he was "fearful of criminal charges going forward."
"I have charges open that are not settled yet," he added.
Cahill said he came to agree with arguments presented by Hall's attorney, and quashed the subpoena that sought Hall's testimony.
Earlier this morning, Cahill denied a motion from Chauvin's attorney to acquit him. Acquittal motions are commonly made after the prosecution rests, which it did in Chauvin's case Tuesday, April 14.
8:15 a.m.: Court to open with motions hearing
The defense attorney for Derek Chauvin is expected to continue presenting the case for the ex-officer's acquittal this morning.
Jurors heard yesterday from one of the first expert witnesses in the case to strongly defend Chauvin's actions toward George Floyd the night he died as justifiable. Proceedings this morning are expected to begin with a motion hearing at 8:45.
Court is in recess until 8:45 a.m. tomorrow when a motion hearing will be held.— Katrina Pross (@katrina_pross) April 13, 2021