Takeaways from Day 13 of the Derek Chauvin Trial

The first medical expert called by Derek Chauvin’s defense team said George Floyd died after a combination of factors — including pre-existing heart conditions, drug use and exposure to vehicle exhaust from the police cruiser — caused his death. He faced difficult cross-examination.,

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Takeaways from Day 13 of the Derek Chauvin trial.

image

April 14, 2021, 5:22 p.m. ET

April 14, 2021, 5:22 p.m. ET

Dr. David Fowler is the former chief medical examiner of Maryland.
Dr. David Fowler is the former chief medical examiner of Maryland.Credit…Still image, via Court TV

The first medical expert witness called by Derek Chauvin’s defense team faced difficult cross-examination on Wednesday after he testified that George Floyd died from sudden cardiac arrhythmia, rather than a deprivation of oxygen caused by Mr. Chauvin.

Dr. David Fowler, a former chief medical examiner of Maryland who has testified in numerous high-profile police use-of-force cases, told jurors that he believed Mr. Floyd died after a combination of factors — including pre-existing heart conditions, drug use and exposure to vehicle exhaust from the police cruiser that he was next to — caused his heart to stop.

“You put all of those together, it’s very difficult to say which of those is the most accurate,” he said, characterizing Mr. Floyd’s cause of death as “undetermined.” Mr. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Mr. Floyd’s death.

Like the defense’s use-of-force expert who testified on Tuesday, Dr. Fowler was met with sharp criticism from a prosecuting attorney. Throughout the cross-examination, Jerry Blackwell said he did not want Dr. Fowler’s testimony to confuse the jurors, harkening back to his opening statement to the jury when the trial began: “Believe your eyes.” Here are the key takeaways from Day 13.

ImageMorries Lester Hall invoking his Fifth Amendment right during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Wednesday.
Morries Lester Hall invoking his Fifth Amendment right during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Wednesday. Credit…Still image, via Court TV
  • Before Dr. Fowler took the stand, Judge Peter A. Cahill allowed an associate of Mr. Floyd to avoid testifying by invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination. Morries Lester Hall, who was in a car with Mr. Floyd outside the Cup Foods convenience store where Mr. Floyd was arrested, told the court that he was fearful that answering questions from attorneys could result in criminal charges. The defense had hoped that testimony from Mr. Hall could have bolstered the argument that drugs played a role in Mr. Floyd’s death.

  • Dr. Fowler disputed the idea that the prone position where Mr. Floyd was kept for nine and a half minutes is dangerous. Several experts called by the prosecution said it is well-known among police officers that the position can be dangerous for suspects, and that the manner in which Mr. Chauvin held Mr. Floyd to the ground constituted “deadly force.” Dr. Fowler cited the work of Mark Kroll, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota, who has performed several studies discrediting the notion that the prone position can cause asphyxia. Some witnesses called by the prosecution said the studies did not accurately depict real-life scenarios.

Video

bars
0:00/1:52
-0:00

transcript

Forensic Pathologist Says Floyd Should Have Received Medical Aid

Dr. David Fowler, a medical expert called by Derek Chauvin’s defense team, said under cross examination on Wednesday that George Floyd might have survived if he received immediate medical attention.

“You referred to this as a sudden-death event, but in your report, in your findings, you don’t record a time, do you, sir, for when the sudden death supposedly occurred, do you?” “I don’t specifically remember doing that, correct.” “It’s OK if you don’t know the specific time, but where in this continuum did the sudden death occur from the time he is on the ground saying he can’t breathe to the point in time he’s found not to have a pulse? Are you able to generally characterize where the sudden death took place?” “So what you’re referring to as a sudden death, and I may well have misinterpreted, I’m referring to as a sudden cardiac arrest. There’s a difference between death and cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest is not absolutely irreversible and not synonymous with a person always passing away. So there’s going to be a period of time between.” “Are you suggesting that, though Mr. Floyd may have been in cardiac arrest, there was a time when he may have been revived because he wasn’t dead yet?” “Immediate medical attention for a person who has gone into cardiac arrest may — may well reverse that process, yes.” “Do you feel that Mr. Floyd should have been given immediate emergency attention to try to reverse the cardiac arrest?” “As a physician, I would agree.” “Are you critical of the fact that he wasn’t given immediate emergency care when he went into cardiac arrest?” “As a physician, I would agree.”

Video player loading
Dr. David Fowler, a medical expert called by Derek Chauvin’s defense team, said under cross examination on Wednesday that George Floyd might have survived if he received immediate medical attention.CreditCredit…Still image, via Court TV
  • Dr. Fowler’s testimony pointed to multiple possible causes of death other than Mr. Chauvin’s restraint: drug use, pre-existing heart conditions, even the exhaust from the vehicle that Mr. Floyd was pinned next to. Still, the prosecution came away with some victories, including that Dr. Fowler said sudden cardiac arrest is often reversible and that Mr. Floyd should have been given medical attention.

    As a medical witness, Dr. Fowler was less specialized than several of those from the prosecution. He spoke about every angle of Mr. Floyd’s death, whereas the prosecution called to the stand specialists, including a cardiologist and a pulmonologist. It is unclear how that could impact the jury’s decision, and whether the sheer number of prosecuting witnesses will give more credence to their arguments.

Image

Flowers and posters on the ground in front of the Brooklyn Center Police Department honoring the death of Daunte Wright.Credit…Aaron Nesheim for The New York Times
  • The trial is proceeding under a dark cloud in Minnesota, where people are demonstrating in the wake of a fatal shooting of a Black man by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb. The officer, Kimberly A. Potter, will be charged with manslaughter. Businesses are boarding up their windows, public officials have implemented curfews, and police have used chemical agents to disperse some protests that they have deemed illegal.

  • Whether Mr. Chauvin will testify in his own trial is unclear, but if he does, it will likely happen on Thursday.

Leave a Reply