The defense for the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is expected to call medical witnesses to the stand as soon as Wednesday, in the hopes of combating the claims of earlier witnesses who testified that George Floyd died from a deprivation of oxygen.
For the first time in the trial, a witness testified on Tuesday that Mr. Chauvin was justified when he knelt on Mr. Floyd for more than nine minutes. But the defense will want to broaden its case by calling medical witnesses who can provide expert testimony on Mr. Floyd’s cause of death.
Several witnesses called by the prosecution have testified that Mr. Floyd died from a lack of oxygen, and that they saw no evidence of a drug overdose or a heart attack. Those other potential causes of death have been the primary focus of the defense from the outset of the trial.
The trial moves forward amid continued fallout from the recent shooting of a Black man by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb. On Tuesday, the police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright, 20, resigned, along with the department’s police chief.
The fate of Mr. Chauvin, who is charged with murdering Mr. Floyd, rests largely on how jurors answer two questions: whether his actions caused Mr. Floyd to die, and whether he violated use-of-force policies when he kept his knee on Mr. Floyd for nine and a half minutes.
The defense’s key witness on Tuesday, Barry Brodd, a use-of-force expert, began his testimony with unequivocal support of Mr. Chauvin, cross-examination by a prosecutor exposed some inconsistencies with his position.
Mr. Brodd initially testified that Mr. Chauvin’s restraint was not a “use of force” at all, but rather a restraint that was considered safe and generally painless. When a prosecutor pushed him on the issue, though, Mr. Brodd conceded that the restraint was a use of force according to the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department.
He also later admitted that the restraint could cause pain and went back and forth with a prosecutor who played a video of the arrest that captured Mr. Floyd saying, “Everything hurts,” along with other exclamations of pain.
Mr. Brodd said he had heard those comments during his review of the arrest but had not “noted it.” He also said that, in his opinion, Mr. Floyd continued to resist the officers even when he was handcuffed and facedown on the street, pinned under the knee of Mr. Chauvin. The prosecutor, Steve Schleicher, asked whether Mr. Floyd was actually “writhing on the ground because he can’t breathe.”
The cross-examination of Mr. Brodd could be costly for the defense if jurors decide that he lost some credibility by backtracking on the use-of-force issue.
Jurors also heard on Tuesday from Shawanda Hill, who was in the car with Mr. Floyd when he was first approached by officers. Ms. Hill said he was “happy, normal, talking, alert” in the Cup Foods convenience store in the minutes before he was arrested. Once Mr. Floyd was in the vehicle, Ms. Hill said he fell asleep. Other than being tired, though, she said Mr. Floyd seemed normal and in good health.