Derek Chauvin, the white police officer caught on video pressing a knee on George Floyd, a black man – until he died – wants the criminal charges slammed on him dismissed. Representing Chauvin, attorney Eric Nelson argued in court that Floyd died from an overdose of fentanyl as well as existing health conditions and not because Chauvin restrained him with a knee to his neck.
In a video that went viral and generated a worldwide protest for many weeks, Chauvin on May 25 was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes, with the latter who was already handcuffed to his back pleading for his life and crying that he could not breathe. Three other Minneapolis police officers – Alexander J. Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao – stood by while bystanders urged Derek Chauvin to release Floyd who died shortly after.
Given the massive demonstrations that occurred globally as a result of the death, the four police officers were fired. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. The three other officers were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. With the charges, Chauvin faces up to 15 years in prison for a second- and third-degree murder, and up to 5 years for manslaughter.
Chauvin’s lawyer argued from toxicology and autopsy reports that Floyd was a habitual consumer of fentanyl, opiates, “was a daily smoker of cigarettes. His heart was at the ‘upper limit of size’ due to untreated hypertension. Mr. Floyd suffered from arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease.” He was relying on the report of the Hennepin County medical examiner.
“Put simply, Mr. Floyd could not breathe because he had ingested a lethal dose of fentanyl and, possibly, a speedball,” Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, said in the court documents, adding that Floyd was recovering from COVID-19 during his encounter with the police. “Combined with sickle cell trait, his pre-existing heart conditions, Mr. Floyd’s use of fentanyl and methamphetamine most likely killed him.”
Meanwhile, prosecutors are seeking stiffer penalties for the four dismissed police officers if they are convicted. The family of George Floyd has also sued the city of Minneapolis and the police department for the wrongful death of the deceased. The family is represented by attorney Benjamin Crump.
“Despite Mr. Floyd’s pleas that he could not breathe and was going to die, as well as the pleas of eyewitnesses to get off Mr. Floyd and help him, Defendant and his co-defendants continued to restrain Mr. Floyd,” the prosecutors wrote.