As the state begins to wind down its case against the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd last May, legal experts are considering whether Derek Chauvin’s defense lawyer will call him to the stand.
The decision will ultimately rest with Chauvin.
Joe Friedberg, a veteran defense attorney, told the Star Tribune that much of the case focuses on Chauvin’s state of mind during the deadly incident. He said the “best person to tell us about that would be Chauvin, so you might really be forced to put him on in this case.”
The paper pointed out that Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, has not indicated whether or not his client will testify. Nelson, 46, handles cases ranging from drunken driving arrests to homicides, and is one of a dozen attorneys who take turns working with a police union legal defense fund to represent officers charged with crimes.
He has gone hard and consistently at his chief message: that Floyd’s consumption of illegal drugs is to blame for his death, rather than something Chauvin did. An autopsy found fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s system. Expert witnesses for the prosecution have asserted drugs did not kill Floyd.
Mary Moriarty, a former Hennepin County chief public defender, told USA Today that Chauvin may testify “if he can add something to their case, (like) his perspective on what he did.” She called it a possible last-ditch effort.
She told KARE 11 that the state could wrap up its case by calling upon another medical witness and using ‘Spark of Life’ testimony, which would allow Floyd’s relatives to “talk about who the person was in life.”
The paper also spoke to Joseph Daly, a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, who mentioned the 17 previous complaints against Chauvin.
“The main danger of him testifying is the prosecution will put in its entire case again—through its cross of Mr. Chauvin, not to mention his bad behavior in other situations.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report