Defence begins case in ex-cop’s trial over Floyd’s death

MINNEAPOLIS, United States (AP) — Former o fficer Derek Chauvin’s lawyer suggested yestreday that George Floyd may have suffered from “excited delirium” or what a witness described as a potentially lethal state of agitation and even superhuman strength that can be triggered by drug use, heart disease or mental problems.

Defence attorney Eric Nelson — seeking to plant doubt in jurors’ minds that Floyd died because of Chauvin’s knee on his neck for nine and a half minutes — called to the stand Nicole Mackenzie, a Minneapolis police training officer, to expound on the condition.

While Floyd was pinned to the ground, a relatively new officer at the scene had mentioned that the 46-year-old black man might be suffering from excited delirium.

Mackenzie testified that incoming officers are told how to recognise the signs of excited delirium: Suspects may be incoherent, exhibit extraordinary strength, be sweaty or suffering from abnormally low body temperature, or seem like they suddenly snapped. Officers are told that cardiovascular disease, illegal drug use or mental problems can trigger excited delirium, she said.

She said officers are also trained to put a suspect in a recovery position and to call paramedics, because a person can rapidly go into cardiac arrest.

Chauvin’s lawyer also elicited testimony yesterday from another witness that Floyd panicked and cried over and over, “Please, please, don’t kill me!” when officers first approached his SUV at gunpoint on the day of his death. And the defence attorney brought out a 2019 arrest in which Floyd suffered from dangerously high blood pressure and confessed to heavy use of opioids.

Chauvin, a 45-year-old white man, is on trial on charges of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death last May after his arrest of suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 at a neighbourhood market.

Nelson has argued that Floyd died because of his illegal drug use and underlying health problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease. Fentanyl and methamphetamine were discovered in his system.

Mackenzie testified that she provides training on excited delirium only to new recruits. And Judge Peter Cahill cautioned jurors that there is no evidence that Chauvin had the training.

On cross-examination by prosecutors, Mackenzie said officers are obligated to perform CPR when someone’s pulse stops or the person becomes non-responsive. She also said she would defer to an emergency room doctor in diagnosing excited delirium.

An expert in forensic medicine previously dismissed Nelson’s excited-delirium suggestion during the prosecution’s case. Dr Bill Smock, a police surgeon for the Louisville, Kentucky, department, said Floyd met none of the 10 criteria developed by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

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