Testimony in the Derek Chauvin murder trial in Minneapolis entered its third week on Monday with a judge rejecting a defense motion to sequester the jury due to a separate police shooting involving a Black man in the city.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill denied a request by Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, asking for the jury to be isolated after the shooting death on Sunday of 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis, only miles from the courthouse.
Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, faces conviction on a charge of second- or third-degree murder or second-degree manslaughter in the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd.
In asking for the jury to be sequestrated, Nelson pointed out that one juror lives in Brooklyn Center, where Sunday’s shooting occurred, and others had “connections” to it.
Cahill, however, ruled that although he agreed the new shooting may cause some jurors to feel anxious, sequestering them would only worsen the situation.
“I think the better way is to just continue with the trial as we’ve been going,” he said, according to MPRNews, also rejecting Nelson’s request that jurors be polled about their possible exposure to the news of Wright’s shooting.
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher opposed both defense requests, saying, “This is a totally different case.”
Cahill said sequestration will only begin once the jury begins deliberations, which are expected to start next Monday.
After the judge’s ruling, the third week of testimony began with prosecutors calling an expert medical witness as they neared wrapping up their case.
Dr. Jonathan Rich, a cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, rejected defense arguments that Floyd may have died due to a weak heart rather than from trauma inflicted by Chauvin’s knee.
Rich said that an autopsy showed Floyd had an enlarged heart and narrowed arteries, but that alone was not sufficient to result in his death.
Concurring with previous medical witnesses, he said Floyd’s death was caused by low oxygen levels “induced by the prone restraint and positional asphyxia that he was subjected to.”
Before completing their case, prosecutors are expected to call a member of Floyd’s family to testify under Minnesota’s “Spark of Life” doctrine, which allows them to “humanize” victims in criminal proceedings.
Chauvin was fired from the police force and charged with Floyd’s death, during which he was captured on video kneeling on his neck for more than 8 minutes. Floyd died after repeatedly calling for help, saying he couldn’t breathe.
Wright’s shooting death Sunday in Brooklyn Center, located about 9 miles northwest of downtown Minneapolis, prompted hundreds of residents to protest outside police headquarters and spawned sporadic looting and vandalism at a nearby shopping center.
Officials declared an overnight curfew after National Guard troops, already deployed in Minneapolis to handle possible civil unrest from the Chauvin trial, were sent to the area.
Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon told reporters Monday that an officer may have accidentally shot Wright with a firearm while actually intending to use a stun gun.
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