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Prosecution Team Enters Another Week Of Testimony In Chauvin Trial

NOEL KING, HOST:

All right, I'm going to bring in NPR's Adrian Florido, who's been covering Derek Chauvin's trial in Minneapolis. Hi, Adrian.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Good morning, Noel.

KING: Let's go back a couple days. You were one of two reporters in the courtroom last Friday when the prosecution presented some evidence that wasn't shown publicly on television. What did you see?

FLORIDO: Yeah, these were photos of George Floyd's autopsy. They were handed to us in white envelopes during testimony from the county medical examiner who conducted the autopsy. So we saw close-ups of the scrapes and bruises that Floyd suffered on his face and his shoulders and his knuckles during his struggle and restraint by the police. We also saw slices of the four main arteries of George Floyd's heart, which were notably narrowed by the buildup of plaque.

KING: And why was that evidence significant?

FLORIDO: Well, the medical examiner, Andrew Baker, was called to address the central question in this case, which was what killed George Floyd? Did Derek Chauvin suffocate him with his knee, or was it, as the defense has been suggesting, a drug overdose and possibly a heart attack that killed Floyd? On Friday, the medical examiner testified that while drugs found in Floyd's system and the heart conditions that were evident in his autopsy may have been factors in his death, it was primarily Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck that killed him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANDREW BAKER: In my opinion, the law enforcement subdural restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of that - those heart conditions.

FLORIDO: This is a point that the prosecution has called several expert witnesses to make, some even more explicitly than the medical examiner, experts who have said without question that it was suffocation, asphyxiation under Chauvin's knee that killed George Floyd.

KING: We are going into week three of the trial. What else do we expect from prosecutors at this point?

FLORIDO: Well, we think they're close to wrapping up their case. They'll call at least one more medical expert today. We also know they plan to call George Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd to the stand at some point soon. He's going to talk about Floyd's childhood, his love for his mother. You might ask, you know, how is that relevant in this criminal case? But Minnesota is unique among states because it allows prosecutors to call witnesses for the sole purpose of humanizing a victim, something known as spark-of-life testimony. It's controversial because it has nothing to do with the evidence in the case. In this case, it's all about helping the jury build an emotional connection to George Floyd.

This is a little bit risky for the prosecution because if they go too far, they could create grounds for the defense to appeal a conviction. But the prosecution has said it's important because they expect the defense to try to smear George Floyd's character.

KING: And when will the defense call witnesses?

FLORIDO: Well, we don't know for sure when the prosecution will rest its case. It could turn things over to the defense as soon as today. It'll certainly happen this week. And, of course, you know, one of the big questions we're going to be looking out for is whether Derek Chauvin himself will take the stand in his own defense.

KING: NPR's Adrian Florido covering the trial of Derek Chauvin in Minnesota. Thank you, Adrian.

FLORIDO: Thank you, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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