Derek Chauvin Trail: Week Six (Ending of Prosecution Case)

The testimony of the prosecution’s final three witnesses and Judge Cahill’s rulings on several issues occupied the first day (April 12) of the trial’s Week Six.[1] This was after Week Four’s opening statements and testimony from 19 prosecution witnesses and Week Five’s 16 prosecution witnesses. [2] Thereafter the defense started presentation of its case, which will be discussed in a subsequent post.

Prosecution Witnesses [3]

36. Dr. Jonathan Rich (Associate Professor, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago and Cardiology Expert). He testified that in his opinion, “Floyd’s cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest caused by low oxygen levels that “were induced by the prone restraint and positional asphyxia” from the officers’ restraint. The low oxygen sent him into cardiopulmonary arrest “much more slowly and gradually . . . . His speech [was] starting to become less forceful . . . until his speech became absent and his  muscle movements were absent.”

Moreover, Dr.  Rich testified, “I believe that Mr. George Floyd’s death was absolutely preventable.”  He also pointed out the following moments when Floyd’s death could have been prevented: (1) when one of the officers said, “I think he is passing out;” (2) when one of the officers twice suggested that Floyd be turned over; and (3) when one of the officers said Floyd no longer had a pulse. Chauvin rejected all of those suggestions, but if they had been accepted, Floyd could have been released from the restraint and CPR started.

Dr. Rich also testified, “I can state with a high degree of medical certainty that George Floyd did not die from a primary cardiac event and he did not die from a drug overdose.”

37. Philonise Floyd (George Floyd’s brother). He talked about how the two of them played video games and basketball together as children. When he looked at a photo of George as a toddler sleeping in the arms of their mother, the brother began to cry while saying he was “a big mama’s boy.”  Their mother died in 2018, and at her funeral, George sat at the coffin saying “Mom, Mom” over and over.

George was a talented athlete, marking his height on the wall, wanting to be taller to have an edge in sports. “He always wanted to be the best.He was excellent in football and basketball and won a scholarship to attend college in Florida. George made snacks for his younger siblings although he couldn’t cook. He was a person everyone loved. He just knew how to make people feel better.”

This testimony was permissible under a 1985 Minnesota Supreme Court decision allowing prosecutors to present evidence that a murder victim was “not just bones and sinews covered with flesh, but was imbued with the spark of life.”

The defense did not cross-examine Philonise.

38. Seth W. Stoughton (University of South Carolina Schol of Law; use-of-force expert). He said that the officers severely mishandled the arrest of Mr. Floyd at nearly every level. The prone position is meant to be a temporary position, typically used to apply handcuffs to a suspect, not the nine and a half minutes used on Floyd. The dangers of the prone position—making it more difficult for a suspect to breathe, particularly with extra weight on their back or neck—“have been well known in policing for decades.”

Stoughton concluded that “no reasonable officer would have believed that [kneeling on the prone body of Mr. Floyd] was an appropriate, acceptable or reasonable use of force;” that “there’s no specific and articulable facts that . . . a reasonable officer in the defendant’s position, could use to conclude that [Floyd] had the intention of causing physical harm to the officers or others;”and that “a reasonable officer would not have viewed the bystanders as a threat.”

Judge Cahill’s Rulings

At the start of the hearing, defense counsel Erik Nelson asked the court immediately to sequester the jurors and ask them whether they had learned about the civil unrest in Brooklyn Center in response to the police killing of a black man in that city and to order the jurors to avoid all news media. Prosecution counsel opposed both requests and Judge Cahill immediately denied same.

Also at the start of the hearing Mr. Nelson asked the court to deny the prosecution’s calling another witness (Dr.Stoughton)  about Chauvin’s use of force, especially  with another showing of the full video of Floyd’s restraint. After the prosecution said it would not be showing this witness the entire video, Judge Cahill ruled that Dr. Stoughton may testify, but only about national use of force standards and about the impact of bystanders on Chauvin’s actions.

Another issue raised before testimony was whether the defense may call Morries L. Hall, but that issue has not yet been resolved.


[1]  This summary of Week Six is based upon watching some of the livestreaming of the trial and the following reports: Walsh, 3rd Week of testimony in Derek Chauvin trial has begun with medical expert, StarTribune (April 11, 2021); Walsh, Medical expert opened 3rd week of Chauvin trial testimony: George Floyd’s death ‘absolutely preventable,’ StarTribune (April 11, 2021); Barrett, George Floyd Could Have Survived if Restraint Eased, Cardiologist Jonathan Rich Testifies, W.S.J. (April 11, 2021); Kornfield, Hauslohner & McMilian, Live Updates: Cardiologist testifies that Derek Chauvin’s acts—not drugs or a heart condition—caused George Floyd’s death, Wash. Post (April 12, 2021); Wright, Takeaways from Day 11 of the Derek Chauvin Trial, N.Y.Times (April 12, 2021); Walsh, Brother breaks down telling jurors in Derek Chauvin murder trial of George Floyd’s love for their mother, StarTribune (April 12, 2021); Karnowski (AP), EXPLAINER: Prosecution explores Floyd’s ‘spark of life,’ StarTribune (April 12, 2021); Walsh, Simons & Sayle, What Happened Monday in the Derek Chauvin trial, StarTribune (April 12, 2021); Forliti, Karnowski & Webber (AP), Expert: Chauvin did not take action of ‘reasonable officer,’ Wash. Post (April 12, 2021); Kornfield, Hauslohner & McMilian, Live Updates: Cardiologist testifes that Derek Chauvin’s acts—not drugs or a heart condition—caused George Floyd’s death, Wash. Post (April 12, 2021).

[2] See these posts to Derek Chauvin Trial: Week Four (April 2, 2021); Derek Chauvin Trial: Week Four (Commentaries) (April 5, 2021); Derek Chauvin Trial: Week Four (Sources) (April 6, 2021); Derek Chauvin Trial: Week Five (April 10, 2021); Derek Chauvin Trial: Week Five (Commentaries) (April 11, 2021); Derek Chauvin Trial: Week Five (Sources) (April 12, 2021).

Published by


As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

Leave a Reply