The Minnesota judge presiding over the George Floyd murder trial said on Tuesday that he will consider whether information about Floyd’s drug use and a prior arrest can be presented to a jury.
Derek Chauvin’s lead attorney, Eric Nelson, claimed Floyd’s May 2019 arrest had “remarkable similarities” to the May 2020 arrest that resulted in his death. Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill initially denied the request in January, but the defense revisited the matter after documents surfaced during the federal government’s ongoing civil rights probe into Floyd’s deadly arrest, according to USA Today.
A year before his death, Floyd allegedly swallowed several opioid pills as police officers approached him. Nelson noted that in both instances — as police drew their weapons — Floyd called out for his mother, claimed to have been shot, and put what resembled pills into his mouth, according to the Associated Press.
During the first arrest, officers reportedly discovered several opioid pills and cocaine in Floyd’s possession. Paramedics at the time warned Floyd that his blood pressure was alarmingly high and took him to the hospital as he was at risk for a heart attack or stroke, the news outlet reported.
According to Reuters, Nelson wants to present evidence that he believes supports the theory that the white residue seen around Floyd’s arrest during his May 2020 arrest was the result of Floyd swallowing at least one opioid pill.
The defense concluded that Floyd had a “pattern” of ingesting drugs as he knew it would result in him going to the hospital instead of jail. They also claimed he had a penchant for acting out during arrests.
The prosecution claimed the defense ignored that Floyd was receiving help for his substance abuse issues.
“The desperation of the defense to sort of smear Mr. Floyd’s character by showing that … he struggled with an opiate and opioid addiction like so many Americans do,” prosecutor Matthew Frank said, according to USA Today.
Meanwhile, Judge Cahill said he would not allow the defense to claim Floyd had any habits based on two arrests. He also said medical information from Floyd’s May 2019 arrest may be introduced but no “emotional” arguments would be permitted.
The judge, who said he would weigh the arguments overnight if not longer, all but signaled he would not let the defense use the argument that Floyd showed a legal pattern of “habit” based on just two incidents that are not identical. The judge said medical evidence from the May 2019 arrest might be introduced, but not the “emotional.”
Chauvin, 44, a former Minneapolis police officer, is charged with third-degree murder, second-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death. Three other ex-officers, Thomas Lane, 37, J. Alexander Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34 are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
All four officers were fired for their role in Floyd’s arrest.
On May 25, Minneapolis police officers were filmed arresting Floyd, 46, on suspicion that he used a counterfeit bill at the Cup Foods supermarket. After police pulled Floyd out of his car and handcuffed him, Chauvin was filmed forcing his knee into Floyd’s neck for eight minutes.
Floyd was heard gasping for air and saying he could not breathe before he lost consciousness and died.
While Hennepin County’s autopsy report stated that there was no evidence “to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation,” an independent autopsy asserted that sustained forceful pressure on Floyd’s neck and back led to his death. Both reports mentioned drugs in Floyd’s system but concluded his death was a homicide.
Chauvin is being tried separately from the other three former officers. Their trial is scheduled to begin this summer.
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[Featured image: Derek Chauvin/Hennepin County jail; George Floyd; Facebook]