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Chauvin Declined To Take The Stand On Final Day Of Testimony In His Murder Trial

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

We begin today in Minneapolis, where, after nearly three weeks, testimony has ended in Derek Chauvin's trial for the murder of George Floyd. Lawyers will present closing arguments next week before handing the case over to the jury. NPR's Adrian Florido is in Minneapolis. He joins us now with the latest. Hey, Adrian.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: Hi. So the prosecution in this case called witnesses for something like more than two weeks. But then the defense rested its case today after just two days of testimony. Why do you think the defense rested so quickly?

FLORIDO: Well, you know, prosecutors called 38 witnesses to the stand because they have to prove their case against Derek Chauvin beyond a reasonable doubt. And so they spent a lot of time laying out a very meticulous case. Defense attorney Eric Nelson only has to raise a reasonable doubt to prevent a conviction, and he apparently thought he could do that with the seven witnesses that he called over two days.

CHANG: Well, the big question on everyone's mind was whether former officer Derek Chauvin would take the stand, and today we got the answer. What was the answer?

FLORIDO: He did not testify. He did speak in court today for the first time, though, when his attorney, Eric Nelson, turned to ask him if he planned to take the stand.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ERIC NELSON: And have you made a decision today whether you intend to testify or whether you intend to invoke your Fifth Amendment privilege?

DEREK CHAUVIN: I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege today.

FLORIDO: Because this is one decision, Ailsa, that only a defendant can make, the judge, Peter Cahill, wanted to be sure.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PETER CAHILL: Is this your decision not to testify?

CHAUVIN: It is, Your Honor.

CAHILL: All right. Do you have any questions about your right to remain silent or to testify on your own behalf?

CHAUVIN: Not at this time, I don't.

CAHILL: All right. Has anyone promised anything or threatened you in any way to keep you from testifying?

CHAUVIN: No promises or threats, Your Honor.

FLORIDO: I thought it was interesting, Ailsa, that during this entire trial, we haven't seen an ounce of emotion from Derek Chauvin. But when the judge was questioning him today, he had his mask off, and he smiled at the judge.

CHANG: Well, there was one witness who did testify today, I understand. Who was it?

FLORIDO: Right. So you might remember that yesterday a medical expert for the defense said that George Floyd could have suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning because Chauvin had pinned him down near the exhaust pipe of the police car. Well, today the prosecution called back its lung expert, Martin Tobin, as a rebuttal witness. And he said that measured gases in George Floyd's blood ruled out the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.

You know, testimony over the last three weeks has focused on several key issues, Ailsa - police use of force, George Floyd's drug use. But it was clear, based on the fact that it was litigated to the very end, that the most important question to both sides in this trial is whether it was Derek Chauvin's knee that killed George Floyd or something else.

CHANG: Right. OK, well, why don't you just give us a preview now of what happens now that the testimony is all over?

FLORIDO: So now attorneys and the judge are working on instructions for the jury. This is very important information the jury is going to get about the three counts that Chauvin is charged with - second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder - and the guidance on what it takes to convict on each charge. The lawyers will deliver their closing arguments to the jury on Monday, and then the jury will start deliberating. In court today, the judge told the jurors to pack a bag because they're going to be sequestered.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CAHILL: So with that, I wish you a good long weekend, and we'll see you Monday morning. Let's - we will convene at 9 a.m. for closing arguments and final instructions. Thank you so much. All rise for the jury.

FLORIDO: So we'll see you on Monday, Ailsa.

CHANG: That is NPR's Adrian Florido in Minneapolis. Thank you, Adrian.

FLORIDO: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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