The lawyer representing the fired Minneapolis police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd is asking court to drop all charges, arguing that George Floyd died from a drug overdose and not by the police officer placing his knee on his neck.
A viral cellphone video of Floyd’s fatal arrest on May 25 showed Derek Chauvin with his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck while he was handcuffed and prone on the ground next to a police patrol vehicle.
An independent autopsy ordered by Floyd’s family found his death was a “homicide caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain.”
But Derek Chauvin’s lawyer Eric J. Nelson filed a motion in Hennepin County, Minnesota, District Court on Friday, claiming prosecutors have failed to show probable cause for charging his client with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The defense attorney contends that his client acted on his training from the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) in the use of a “Maximal Restraint Technique” and did so out of concern that Floyd might harm himself or the officers struggling to arrest him.
The Minneapolis Police Department policy on “Maximal Restraint Technique” says it “shall only be used in situations where handcuffed subjects are combative and still pose a threat to themselves, officers or others, or could cause significant damage to property if not properly restrained.”
Nelson also included Minneapolis Police Department training materials on the proper use of the “Maximal Restraint Technique,” in which photos show demonstrations of officers simulating putting their knee on a handcuffed subject’s neck. Nelson argued the training material appeared to contradict a statement made shortly after the incident by Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo that he had not seen “anything that says you place your knee on someone’s neck when they’re facedown, handcuffed.”
“Thus, any risk created by Mr. Chauvin’s conduct lies largely with those who train MPD officers and those who approve such training,” Nelson wrote in the motion filed on Friday.
Nelson also cited the autopsy conducted on Floyd that found fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, a combination of drugs Nelson says is known as a speedball. He noted that the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s post-mortem report showed Floyd had arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, hypertension and sickle cell trait. Floyd also purportedly told the officers that he had contracted COVID-19 and was still positive for the virus at the time of his death, a claim confirmed by his autopsy.
“Put simply, Mr. Floyd could not breathe because he had ingested a lethal dose of fentanyl and, possibly, a speedball. Combined with sickle cell trait, his pre-existing heart conditions, Mr. Floyd’s use of fentanyl and methamphetamine most likely killed him,” Nelson argued. “Adding fentanyl and methamphetamine to Mr. Floyd’s existing health issues was tantamount to lighting a fuse on a bomb.”
George Floyd’s death sparked worldwide outcry and massive protests across the U.S. and around the world against racial injustice.
The video of Floyd’s arrest showed him repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe” and calling out for his dead mother. Floyd, 46, was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.