Ex-officer wants jury to hear about 2019 George Floyd arrest

STEVE KARNOWSKI and AMY FORLITI, Associated Press
Updated: March 16, 2021 05:50 PM
Created: March 16, 2021 01:26 PM

A lawyer for the former Minneapolis police officer who pressed his knee against George Floyd's neck wants to bring up Floyd's history of drug use and a previous arrest in an effort to show jurors that Floyd was partly to blame for his own death.

A prosecutor says it's irrelevant and that Derek Chauvin's lawyer is trying to smear Floyd to excuse his client's actions.

Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter.

Now it's up to Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill to decide the critical question of how much the high-profile trial will revolve around Floyd's own actions on May 25, when the Black man died after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against his neck for about nine minutes.

Floyd's death, captured on a widely seen bystander video, set off weeks of sometimes-violent protests across the country and led to a national reckoning on racial justice.

The judge previously rejected Chauvin's attempt to tell the jury about Floyd's May 2019 arrest — a year before his fatal encounter with Chauvin — but heard fresh arguments Tuesday from both sides.

He said he would rule on the request Wednesday morning at the earliest.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that new evidence makes the earlier arrest admissible: Drugs were found last December during a second search of the car Floyd was in, and were found in a January search of the squad car into which the four officers attempted to put Floyd.

He also argued the similarities in both encounters are relevant: Both times, as officers drew their guns and struggled to get Floyd out of the car, he called out for his mother, claimed he had been shot before and cried, and put what appeared to be pills in his mouth.

Both searches turned up drugs in the cars. Officers noticed a white residue outside his mouth both times, although that has not been explained.

In the first arrest, several opioid pills were found, along with cocaine.

An autopsy showed Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system when he died.

Paramedics who examined Floyd in 2019 warned him that his blood pressure was dangerously high, putting him at risk for a heart attack or stroke, and took him to a hospital for examination.

Nelson argued that shows Floyd knew that swallowing drugs might result in going to the hospital rather than jail.

Cahill is considering a defense motion to postpone the trial after Nelson argued that a $27 million settlement to the Floyd family — announced by the city of Minneapolis last week in the midst of jury selection — unfairly tainted the jury pool.

Cahill planned on Wednesday to re-interview the seven jurors who had been seated by that point to determine whether they could continue to serve.

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STEVE KARNOWSKI and AMY FORLITI, Associated Press

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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