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Judge denies defense request to acquit Derek Chauvin in George Floyd's death

The Hennepin County judge overseeing the murder trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin denied the defense’s request Wednesday to have the former cop acquitted of charges in connection with George Floyd’s death. 

On the 13th day of the trial, Judge Peter Cahill rejected the defense's claims that prosecutors failed to prove that Chauvin’s actions last year killed Floyd. 

“The court’s duty at this point is to look at the evidence in a light most favorable to the state and even when there are inconsistencies, major or minor, between witnesses, the jury is free to believe some and not the others,” Cahill explained in his decision. 

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“When viewing a set of facts in a light most favorable to the state, they could give their greatest weight to those witnesses who establish that the use of force was unreasonable and that the cause of death was positional asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, however, the state wishes to characterize it, but, most importantly, that it was caused by the defendant,” the judge added. 

“That is viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the state,” he continued. “It is clear that that has been established, and so, based on that standard, the motion for judgment of acquittal is denied.” 

Requests for acquittal are commonly brought by defense attorneys halfway through a trial and are almost always denied. 

Floyd's cause of death has been a focal point of Chauvin's trial. 

A series of medical experts brought forth by the prosecution have stated that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen.

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“Mr. Floyd died from a low level of oxygen, and this caused damage to his brain that we see and it also caused a PEA [pulseless electrical activity] arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop,” Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist, told prosecutor Jerry Blackwell last week.

During his encounter with Floyd, Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for roughly nine minutes until he became unresponsive. 

“The knee remained on the neck for another three minutes and two seconds after we reach the point where there is not one ounce of oxygen left in the body,” Tobin told the court.

The Hennepin County medical examiner in June said that Floyd experienced cardiopulmonary arrest while restrained by law enforcement.

However, Chauvin’s defense team argued that factors other than the officer’s actions contributed to Floyd’s death, including drug use and underlying health issues. 

The defense argued Wednesday that Floyd’s underlying heart disease played a role, with a retired forensic pathologist called by Chauvin’s lawyers testifying that Floyd died from cardiac arrhythmia caused by multiple factors like his heart health and drug use. 

David Fowler, a former Maryland medical examiner, also suggested that Floyd may have had carbon monoxide poisoning because of his exposure to the nearby police vehicle’s exhaust.

“So, all of those combined to cause Mr. Floyd's death,” he said Wednesday. 

Another witness for the defense, Barry Brodd, argued that Chauvin was justified in his actions used against Floyd. Brodd, the owner of a police practices and use-of-force consulting company, testified that Chauvin acted with objective reasonableness in his interactions with Floyd last May. 

Brodd's testimony stands in contrast to Minneapolis police officers, including the head of the department’s use of force training, who testified last week that Chauvin’s actions were not in line with department standards.