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George Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd took the stand in the trial of Derek Chauvin Monday, crying when he described his brother's "one of a kind" relationship with their late mother. He was one of the prosecution's final witnesses in their case against Chauvin, the fired cop charged in George Floyd's death, which has spanned more than two weeks of testimony. Chauvin's defense is expected to launch its case Tuesday, judge Peter Cahill said.
Philonise Floyd said he and his brother grew up with their family in a public housing complex in Houston. He described Floyd as a family "leader" who couldn't cook but made "the best banana mayonnaise sandwiches."
Philonise Floyd identified several photos of his brother, one showing him with his daughter Gianna, now 7, and one showing him on his college basketball team, a sport he enjoyed his whole life. He said he recognized a photo of his late mother with George Floyd as a child, at first nodding and smiling and then tearing up.
Their mother died in 2018, leaving George Floyd devastated, he testified. Philonise Floyd said George Floyd didn't want to leave as he stood by his mother's casket, saying over and over, "Mama." Floyd said the same words as he was being pinned to the ground by Minneapolis police officers during his fatal May 2020 arrest.
Before the jury was called into the courtroom Monday, a judge denied a defense request for the jury to be further questioned and sequestered in light of the fatal police shooting Sunday of a driver in nearby Brooklyn Center, which led to protests. He told the jury to expect to be sequestered for deliberations beginning April 19, following closing statements.
Monday's testimony began with cardiologist Jonathan Rich, who said he believed the police restraint caused Floyd's death, leading to low oxygen and causing his heart to stop. Rich testified he did not believe underlying heart disease or drug use caused Floyd's death, as the defense has suggested.
How Floyd died has been a key point of contention at the trial. Several medical experts testified for the prosecution last week, offering similar opinions about Floyd's cause of death. On Friday however, Hennepin County medical examiner Dr. Andrew Baker, who conducted Floyd's autopsy, offered a different opinion -- that heart disease and drugs contributed to but didn't directly cause Floyd's death.
Also taking the stand Monday was University of South Carolina law professor Seth Stoughton, who testified for prosecutors that Chauvin's use of force was "unreasonable, excessive, and contrary to generally accepted police practices." The defense has argued Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, followed his training.
Chauvin, who was seen in disturbing videos kneeling on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, is charged with second-degree murder,and second-degree manslaughter.
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty. The other three officers involved are charged with aiding and abetting, and are expected to be tried jointly in August.
Judge: Defense to launch case tomorrow
Court has recessed for the day in the Derek Chauvin trial following the testimony of a use-of-force expert. Judge Peter Cahill told the jury the defense is expected to begin its case tomorrow morning. Testimony could wrap up by the end of the week, "possibly with Friday off," Cahill said.
Cahill said he expects to have closing arguments next Monday because jurors will be sequestered immediately afterward for deliberations, and he doesn't want the sequestration to extend over the weekend. He told jurors to come prepared to be sequestered after closing arguments on April 19: "Pack a bag," he said.
Defense cross-examines use-of-force expert
Nelson asked whether there were circumstances when an officer would need to hold a person in a prone restraint for more than a transitory amount of time. Stoughton replied there shouldn't be, barring rare circumstances. Nelson pointed to a 2020 opinion piece authored by Stoughton that appeared in the Washington Post, in which he wrote officers might need to hold someone down in the prone position, but should never apply pressure to someone's neck.
Stoughton agreed he wrote the article and formed the opinion that officers' use of force in the Floyd case was unreasonable within days of the fatal arrest, but that his opinion remains largely unchanged.
"The knee should never be on the neck, and it was certainly on the neck for the majority of the time, even if it was moved off the neck at certain points," Stoughton said.
He agreed a knee to someone's back would not be deadly force if it was transitory.
Stoughton agreed when Nelson said police use of force can sometimes be "awful but lawful." Stoughton agreed there are circumstances where use of force can be legally justified, but "not pretty." But he qualified his response: "I don't think that's the case here."
Use-of-force expert: Officers' force was unreasonable, excessive
Stoughton said the crowd did not pose a threat to officers, as defense attorney Eric Nelson has suggested. Stoughton pointed to the comment of Officer Tou Thao, the officer directing the group of bystanders to stay back, who said, "This is why you don't do drugs, kids." Stoughton said an officer worried about an unruly crowd would attempt to build rapport, not make a statement to further antagonize them.
Stoughton said Floyd was showing "signs of increasing medical distress" and officers had a duty to render medical aid, but did not.
Stoughton said the officers' use of force had a "foreseeable effect" of resulting in death or great bodily harm. Both the knee across Floyd's neck and prone restraint were "unreasonable, excessive, and contrary to generally accepted police practices," Stoughton said.
"No reasonable officer would have believed that was appropriate, acceptable or reasonable use of force," Stoughton said.
Use-of-force expert: Floyd said "I can't breathe" 27 times
Stoughton noted that one officer, Thomas Lane, suggested rolling Floyd onto his side, indicating that at least one officer believed Floyd could be controlled without the prone restraint. He also pointed to a bystander who said Floyd was not responsive.
"If he's not responsive, obviously, he can't present any threat," Stoughton said.
Stoughton said a reasonable officer should have known about the dangers of positional asphyxia or breathing complications resulting from the prone restraint. Those dangers have been taught to officers for more than three decades, Stoughton said, and Floyd told officers that he couldn't breathe at least 27 times.
"If someone is describing they are experiencing medical distress, officers have to take that into account" as they are evaluating whether or not to continue the restraint, Stoughton said.
Use-of-force expert: Floyd was "not a threat of harm to the officers"
University of South Carolina law professor Seth Stoughton is testifying as a use-of-force expert for prosecutors. Stoughton said he used the "reasonable officer" standard when assessing Chauvin's actions, meaning what a reasonable officer should have done under the same circumstances.
A "reasonable officer" would have realized Floyd was in handcuffs and four officers in total were on scene, Stoughton said. When Floyd first resisted officers, Stoughton said Floyd didn't appear to be objecting to being taken into police custody, but rather to being put in the police cruiser. He said Floyd didn't appear to have the intention to assault officers, but rather to avoid being put in the police car, and had voiced that he was claustrophobic. Stoughton said Floyd thanked officers after being taken out of the police car and before being restrained.
At that point, Stoughton said, officers should not have placed Floyd in the prone restraint because "he was not a threat of harm to the officers." He said the prone position in policing is meant to be "transitory," used to handcuff someone who is resisting, but only until they are under control.
George Floyd's brother gives emotional testimony
Philonise Floyd said he and Floyd grew up with their family in a public housing complex in Houston. He described Floyd as a family "leader" who couldn't cook but made "the best banana mayonnaise sandwiches."
"We stayed with each other all the time — me and George, we grew up together playing video games a lot," he said.
Philonise Floyd identified several photos of his brother as a child and teenager, including one showing him on his college basketball team, a sport he enjoyed his whole life. He said he recognized a photo of his late mother with George Floyd as a child, at first nodding and smiling and then tearing up. "I miss them both," he said.
He said George Floyd loved their mother "so dearly" and described their relationship as "one of a kind." He said Floyd taught his siblings how to love and respect their mother.
"Every mother loves all of her kids, but it was so unique how they were with each other, he would lay on her in the fetal position like he was still in the womb," Philonise Floyd said.
Their mother died in 2018, leaving George Floyd devastated, he testified. Philonise Floyd said George Floyd didn't want to leave as he stood by his mother's casket, saying over and over, "Mama."
Floyd's brother takes the stand
Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd has taken the stand.
Judge bars police statement of Floyd's friend
Lawyers earlier sparred over the potential testimony of Floyd's friend Morries Hall, who was in the car with Floyd prior to the fatal arrest. Hall's defense attorney has said Hall would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights if called to testify. The attorney said because the defense has suggested Floyd died of a drug overdose and Hall allegedly sold Floyd drugs, Hall would be opening himself up to possible prosecution under Minnesota's broad third-degree murder statute.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson has sought to question Hall over whether Floyd took drugs in the car and appeared to be falling asleep before his fatal arrest. Earlier Monday, Nelson petitioned judge Peter Cahill to allow Hall's statement to police to be admitted as evidence. Cahill denied the request Monday afternoon, saying it didn't fall under exceptions to the introduction of hearsay evidence.
Cardiologist completes testimony after cross examination
On cross-examination, defense attorney Eric Nelson asked whether narrowed arteries can contribute to heart arrhythmia. Rich said anyone can suffer from a heart arrhythmia, whether or not they have narrowed arteries. Nelson also honed in on Floyd's drug use, asking whether methamphetamine use narrows blood vessels. Rich agreed it does. When asked what a safe does of methamphetamine would be, Rich replied, "I would never consider any illicit drug off the street not prescribed by a physician to be safe."
Later, Nelson asked: "And if Mr. Floyd had gotten in the police car, would he have survived?"
Rich replied: "Had he not been restrained in the way in which he was, I think he would have survived that day. I think he would have gone home or wherever he was going to go, had he not been subjected to the prone and positional restraint he was."
Nelson reiterated, "So in other words, if he'd gotten in the squad car, he'd be alive."
Rich said his answer remained the same.
On re-cross, Nelson asked whether a combination of drugs, high blood pressure and an increase of adrenaline in Floyd's body from the struggle with officers could have resulted in Floyd's death. Rich said his review found no evidence of that.
Rich finished his testimony and the court recessed for a lunch break.
Cardiologist: Floyd's death was "absolutely preventable"
Rich testified he found no evidence that the primary cause of Floyd's death originated in his heart.
Rich said he reviewed Floyd's autopsy results. He said he noted that Floyd's arteries were narrowed due to coronary artery disease, but said none were blocked completely. He said he found no evidence of blood clotting or platelets that would cause a heart attack. Rich said the inner lining of Floyd's heart showed no damage at all, which would be present if he had a heart attack.
He said he believed Floyd's heart was mildly thickened, an expected finding in someone with high blood pressure.
Rich also said he does not believe Floyd's death was caused by drugs.
"As far as I can tell from reviewing all the facts of the case, I see no evidence at all to suggest a fentanyl overdose caused Mr. Floyd's death," Rich said.
He said Floyd had developed a tolerance to the drug as a chronic user. Rich also said he didn't see any signs of an opiate overdose in the video, because Floyd was alert, awake and talking. Likewise, Rich said he felt "very confident" that the low level of methamphetamine in Floyd's system did not trigger his death.
Rich testified he believed Floyd's death was "absolutely preventable." He said had the officers re-positioned Floyd or rolled him on his side, that "very likely could have saved his life." Rich said he heard an officer ask Chauvin if Floyd should be turned onto his side, and the response was "No, just leave him." Once officers couldn't find a pulse, Rich said, officers should have both relieved the restraint and started CPR. Floyd's chances of survival would be reduced with each minute that passed without the application of chest compressions, Rich said.
By the time paramedics arrived, "I think any chance of meaningful survival was unfortunately very low."
Rich said he believed Floyd would have lived had it not been for Chauvin's restraint.
Cardiologist: Floyd didn't die of heart attack
Rich testified he believes Floyd did not die of a heart condition or a drug overdose. He said he found no evidence to suggest Floyd had any negative heart condition after a review of his medical records. (He said he does not consider high blood pressure to be a heart condition, though it necessitates treatment.)
Rich also said he used the video evidence to help him make his assessment. He said during the pandemic, he has used video assessments to treat patients and said it can provide useful information. Rich said he didn't hear Floyd complaining of dizziness or heart palpitations, and his condition didn't deteriorate rapidly, which would indicate a heart arrhythmia. Rather, he said, Floyd's movement and speech gradually became slower and weaker, which he said was indicative of low oxygen.
He also said he found no evidence Floyd died of a heart attack. Floyd, he said, was restrained in a "life-threatening manner."
Cardiologist: Restraint, low oxygen caused Floyd's heart to stop
Cardiologist Dr. Jonathan Rich has taken the stand. He testified that Floyd died from cardiopulmonary arrest caused by low oxygen levels induced by prone restraint and positional asphyxia. The opinion lines up with several other medical experts who have testified for the prosecution that the weight of officers pinning Floyd down caused oxygen deprivation.
Judge denies jury sequestration over Brooklyn Center police shooting
Defense attorney Eric Nelson asked for the jury to be further questioned and sequestered in light of theof a driver in nearby Brooklyn Center, which led to protests.
"This incident last night highlights, I think, brings to the forefront of the jury's mindset that a verdict in this case is going to have consequences," Nelson said.
Prosecutors argued the jurors were already asked whether they were so concerned about the outcome of their verdict that they would not be able to bring an impartial verdict. All agreed they would be able to set aside their concerns and render an impartial verdict.
Cahill said the Brooklyn Center shooting is a "totally different case." He said a sequestration order might cause further unease over safety concerns from the jurors: 'Oh, I heard about the civil unrest and now the judge is ordering our sequestration." He said the jury will be sequestered once they begin their deliberations.
Judge allows another use-of-force expert witness
Judge Peter Cahill has allowed prosecutors to call another use-of-force expert, University of South Carolina professor Seth Stoughton. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher said Stoughton will testify about national best policing practices from an academic perspective and will give the opinion that Chauvin's use of force was unreasonable.
Schleicher said Stoughton would also address the role of the crowd of bystanders, which Nelson has portrayed as presenting a risk to officers. Stoughton's testimony would be key to counter expected testimony from a defense expert witness, Barry Brodd, who will say "the crowd so distracted the defendant he was unable to render aid and perform his normal duties," Schleicher said.
Cahill said he is concerned by the number of witnesses the prosecution is calling to offer their opinions about Chauvin's use of force. Another prosecution expert and multiple Minneapolis police officials have already testified Chauvin used excessive force. Cahill said he will allow Stoughton's testimony, but directed prosecutors to limit their questioning about the effects of the crowd on officers.
Court back in session
Court has resumed session with a motions hearing before the jury is called in. Defense attorney Eric Nelson is objecting to the testimony of another prosecution use-of-force expert, arguing the expert would be "discussing what has already been discussed numerous times throughout the course of this trial."
Medical examiner on cause of death
Hennepin County medical examiner Andrew Baker's autopsy report found that Floyd died of "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression." Baker's autopsy listed "other significant conditions" including "arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease; fentanyl intoxication; [and] recent methamphetamine use."
When asked in court Friday what he believed caused Floyd's death, Baker pointed to what he called "severe underlying heart disease" and said Floyd's heart already would require more oxygen than normal.
He said in the context of an altercation or restraint, adrenaline would ask the heart to beat faster and the heart would require more oxygen. He said the law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression "was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions."
On cross-examination, Baker said he believed both Floyd's heart disease and the drugs in his system "played some role" in Floyd's death.
He told defense attorney Eric Nelson he did not watch the widely viewed bystander video of Floyd's death before he conducted his autopsy.
"I don't want to go into autopsy with a preconceived notion that I already know what happened," Baker said. "That might tempt you to skip certain steps or not do certain things that might turn out to be relevant."
Baker said he did know that Floyd had died while being restrained by police and that pressure had been applied to his neck. He said, "I did see the video the entire world saw" after completing the autopsy but before releasing Floyd's body, meaning he still would have been able to access the body had he seen something on the video that prompted further examination.
Forensic pathologist: Law enforcement actions led to Floyd's death
The first witness to take the stand Friday was forensic pathologist Dr. Lindsey Thomas, who testified that Floyd would not have died that day if he hadn't been restrained by the police, and explained that she was able to rule out a heart arrhythmia or fentanyl overdose as case of death.
"The actions of the law enforcement officers resulted in Mr. Floyd's death — specifically, those actions were subdual, restraint and neck compression," Thomas said.
Thomas testified she was able to use the video of the fatal arrest to help her rule out other causes of death, including a heart arrhythmia and a fentanyl overdose, two causes the defense has suggested.
Thomas said someone who died of a heart arrhythmia would typically experience a sudden death. She described an example of someone shoveling snow, clutching their chest and falling over fairly quickly. But in Floyd's case, she said, "There was nothing sudden about this death."
She said she was also able to use the video to rule out a fentanyl overdose, during which someone would typically become sleepy and their breathing would gradually slow. Thomas said she "felt comfortable" ruling out both of those causes of death.
Thomas also testified that Floyd would not have died on May 25, 2020, if it weren't for the police restraint.
"There's no evidence to suggest he would have died that night, except for the interactions with law enforcement," Thomas said.
She said she believes a contributing factor to his cause of death was physiological stress, giving an example of the rush of adrenaline and increased heart rate someone experiences when they narrowly avoid a car crash. But rather than momentary stress, in Floyd's case, "this goes on for minute after minute after minute, for nine minutes, where you are terrified, and you can't... there's no recovery." But she added that physiological stress was not a direct cause of Floyd's death.
Police officials testified Chauvin violated policy, training
A series of Minneapolis police officials took the stand last week to testify that Chauvin violated department policy and didn't follow training. The most high-profile voice was Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who condemned Chauvin's actions in his testimony April 5.
Arradondo said there was an "initial reasonableness in trying to just get [Floyd] under control" in the first few seconds of the May 25 encounter. But when Floyd had stopped resisting, and "clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person prone out, hands cuffed behind their back — that in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy," Arradondo said. "It's not part of our training and it's certainly not part of our ethics or values."