MINNEAPOLIS (NewsNation Now) — Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin could be acquitted in the murder of George Floyd, a criminal defense attorney told NewsNation Prime on Monday.
“I don’t know if there is enough medical evidence to substantiate that the knee on the neck was the cause of death,” said Brian Watkins. “He did not die of asphyxiation, and that’s the point. Everyone thinks that he did, they say he said he couldn’t breathe, but the truth of the matter is, is if you can talk, you are getting enough oxygen, and he did not die from a lack of oxygen.”
Jury selection is on hold in what will become one of Minnesota’s highest-profile trials in history.
Hundreds of people gathered in Minneapolis on Monday as an appeals court considered whether to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin.
Watkins, founder and principal attorney at Brian E. Watkins & Associates, joined NewsNation on Monday to explain what’s likely happening behind closed doors.
“The funny thing about it is the prosecution is the one that wants to continue to delay the trial. The defense has been ready to go, and says ‘hey, I want my day in court.’ Normally it’s the other way around. The prosecution is like, ‘let’s go, we have our evidence, we want to try the case,’ and the defense is like, ‘oh, wait, slow down,’ said Watkins. “But here we have it in reverse and that’s very peculiar. I don’t know why the prosecution’s not ready to go forward, but for some reason, they keep asking for a delay.”
Floyd, who is Black, was declared dead May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes, holding his position even after Floyd went limp as he was handcuffed and lying on his stomach on the street.
Chauvin and three other officers were fired. The others face an August trial on aiding and abetting charges.
Rob Nelson: Let me pose a question from the outside, looking in. We’ve all seen the video. We see the officer’s knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for nine minutes there in the street. You’re a criminal defense attorney. Where would your mind be if you were Officer Chauvin’s lawyer, in terms of fighting back what seems to be so obvious on video that the country and the world have seen?
Watkins: Well, I hope they’re not watching this program right now, but the way to win this case is – and this is just between me and you – the knee didn’t kill him. You’ve got to make it a case of science. You’ll never be able to justify his actions of putting the knee on the neck, so don’t even go there and try to justify it. Go there and say, ‘yeah, that was wrong, he shouldn’t have done it, but the bottom line here is science has proven that he did not kill him.’
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner classified Floyd’s death as a homicide, with his heart stopping while he was restrained by police and his neck compressed.
A separate autopsy commissioned for Floyd’s family concluded he died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression.
“I would make this about the experts, and I know everyone’s emotional, but the bottom line here is, if you can prove that the knee on the neck was not the primary cause of his death, he walks,” Watkins said.
Derek Chauvin Trial
Watkins said he believes a full acquittal is a possibility.
NewsNation will have continuing coverage of the Derek Chauvin Trial.