Legal expert says state's cross-examination effective on Day 2 of defense case in Chauvin Trial

In this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson questions Dr. David Fowler as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. Photo: Court TV via AP, pool. In this image from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson questions Dr. David Fowler as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd.

Callan Gray
Updated: April 14, 2021 11:42 PM
Created: April 14, 2021 07:42 PM

Derek Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson called one witness on Wednesday, forensic pathologist Dr. David Fowler. He was on the stand for about seven hours.

Nelson used Fowler to bolster his case that drug use and heart problems may have contributed to Floyd’s death. 

“He goes from pretty much fully functional and coherent to unconscious very rapidly,” Fowler said. “There is a sudden decompensation, which is much more consistent with a sudden cardiac event.”

Fowler testified Floyd suffered a sudden cardiac arrhythmia. When pressed by the state, however, Fowler was unable to identify the point when that happened. 

Defense medical expert pins George Floyd's death on several factors, not Chauvin's actions

“Today was really when the defense needed to shine if they were going to be successful, and I don’t think they achieved that goal,” said Mark Osler, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas. “Their primary witness, David Fowler, on the medical issues certainly said there were other things that caused the death but on cross-examination had to concede some important points, and in the end also noted the officers could've tried to save the life of George Floyd and failed to do so.”

Fowler testified he would’ve ruled the manner of Floyd’s death “undetermined” based on many factors involved, including Floyd’s enlarged heart and heart disease, drug use, the officers’ restraint, presence of adrenaline because of the restraint and the possibility of carbon monoxide exposure.

Nelson questioned Fowler about the possibility of CO poisoning based on Floyd’s proximity to the tailpipe.

Full State vs. Chauvin trial coverage

“I think that was somewhat undermined in the cross-examination, that he couldn't point to any data that carbon monoxide played a major role in causing the death,” Osler said.

The defense seems to be nearing the end of its case, according to Osler. It could wrap up on Thursday. 

It’s unclear whether Chauvin will testify. 

“That’s still the question mark, isn’t it?” Osler said. “I think it's unlikely that he would, but we have to remember it's Derek Chauvin’s choice.”

Once the defense rests, he explained the state could call rebuttal witnesses. 

“They could bring Dr. Tobin back, he (is) certainly a highly effective witness the first time,” Osler said. “They may also call some fact witnesses.”

Closing arguments are expected on Monday. 


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