This is a developing story. Please refresh for updates.
After weeks of speculation, Derek Chauvin told the court once and for all that he will not be telling his side of the arrest that led to George Floyd’s death in his ongoing murder trial.
“I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today,” Chauvin said in Hennepin County Court in downtown Minneapolis Thursday. His brief remarks were the first time the jury heard from the former Minneapolis police officer since the start of the trial last month.
In addition to Chauvin’s decision not to take the stand, defense attorney Eric Nelson told Judge Peter Cahill that he plans to rest his case Thursday. Prosecutors will rebut with additional testimony from witnesses later in the day.
Chauvin’s decision to not testify is a matter of playing it safe, criminal defense attorney Andrew Wilson, a partner at Wilson Criminal Defense in Minneapolis, told VICE News.
“The jury only knows Chauvin through third parties. Having him testify permits the defense to attempt to mitigate misgivings the jury may have about him,” said Wilson, a former colleague of defense attorney Nelson during his tenure at the Minnesota firm Halberg Criminal Defense. “But the State is permitted to cross[-examine] Chauvin if he testifies, which the State would use to combat any positive light the defense shone on him through direct examination.”
The defense had just two full days of witness testimony, compared to the more than 10 days prosecutors spent building their case that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death when he kneeled on the 46-year-old Black man’s neck for more than nine minutes last May. Floyd was being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 to buy cigarettes at a convenience store in South Minneapolis.
In total, Nelson called seven witnesses, including the park police officer called to the scene of Floyd’s arrest as well as Shawanda Hill, the woman who was with Floyd just moments before he died. Many of them ended up bolstering points the prosecution had made rather than speaking to Chauvin’s innocence.
On Wednesday, Nelson also called Maryland’s former chief medical examiner Dr. David Fowler, who’s being sued over a Black teenager’s death in an encounter remarkably similar to Floyd’s.
Chauvin is charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He’s facing up to 65 years in prison if convicted.