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Defense Questions Pathology Expert in Chauvin Trial; Officer Who Shot Daunte Wright Arrested, Charged with Manslaughter; Pathology Expert: Floyd Died of Cardiac Arrhythmia Brought on by Arterial Clogging During Restraint; CDC Holds Emergency Meeting on J&J Vaccine Pause. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 14, 2021 - 13:30   ET




And then he's in a situation where he has been restrained in a very stressful situation. And that increased his fight-and-flight type of reaction. And that, during restraint, would be considered a homicide.

And you put all those together and it's very difficult to say which of those is the most accurate. So I would fall back to undetermined --


FOWLER: -- in this particular case.

NELSON: If we put your slide regarding the undetermined manner again back up.

So, essentially, Doctor, you would agree this had lots of or many potential contributing causes?

FOWLER: Correct.

NELSON: And under the definition, the NAME's definition of an undetermined manner, how does that apply?

FOWLER: So that is what -- this classification under the NAME guidelines is, really one of the uses of this classification is when you have so many conflicting different potential mechanisms of death that could lead to -- yes, so the manner is not clear.

NELSON: Your Honor, I have no further questions.

PETER CAHILL, HENNEPIN COUNTY DISTRICT JUDGE: We will take our lunch recess. We'll reconvene at 1:30.

Counsel, remain for a short time.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: I'm going to take it from here. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. We will have much more on the trial in just a moment. You can tell they are taking a lunch break now.

But we are also following breaking news, just a few miles down the road from the Derek Chauvin trial.

Moments ago, charges were filed against the officer who shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.

Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the force, is now charged with second-degree manslaughter and has been arrested.

The Brooklyn Center police chief previously said Potter accidentally fired her gun instead of her taser.

We're getting new information on those charges and her arrests.

Let's get out to CNN's Adrienne Broaddus, who is following all of this for us in Minnesota.

Adrienne, what more are you learning?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ana, she was taken into custody about 45 minutes ago. BCA agents arrested her and they say she will be booked at the Hennepin County jail.

That jail is about eight miles from the Brooklyn Center Police Department, the department where former officer, Kim Potter, spent the majority of her career, coming on the force back in the '90s.

She now joins a list of officers across the state of Minnesota charged with second-degree manslaughter.

The Washington County attorney says he will file those charges later today.

We are getting reaction in response to this news. Activist, many of them praying and singing behind me right now, said this is a step but it's not enough. They want more serious charges, specifically a murder charge.

A lot of them citing the charge and incident with another officer in Minneapolis -- that was Officer Mohamed Noor -- who was charged with second-degree manslaughter and a murder charge.

Meanwhile, we are also hearing from the attorney representing the Wright family.

I want to read a little bit of what attorney, Ben Crump, said:

"While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back. This was no accident. This was an intentional and deliberate and unlawful use of force."

The second-degree manslaughter charge under Minnesota state statute carries a minimum sentence of up to 10 years.

No one -- if you are charged and convicted with second-degree manslaughter, you won't serve more than 10 years. It also carries a fine of up to $20,000, or both.

Nonetheless, this comes a day after the officer resigned. But even with the charges, as Attorney Crump said, the Wright family will never be able to hold their loved one again after the traffic stop ended with his life taken -- Ana?

CABRERA: Adrienne Broaddus, there in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, thank you.

Let me bring in CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Laura Coates, as well Cedric Alexander, the former president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. He also served as public safety officer in DeKalb County, Georgia.

Laura, second-degree manslaughter. We heard there from Adrienne that a lot of people wish this were a stronger charge.

Explain it for us.


LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, a second-degree manslaughter charge has to be proven through culpable negligence. What does that phrase mean? It means gross negligence, plus recklessness.

That you created an unreasonable risk through your behavior and consciously took that risk that created the risk to human life.

This is a charge you are familiar with, following the Derek Chauvin trial, because he's also charged with this.

Over outside of St. Paul, you had the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, who was charged with the same crime with respect to Philandro Castile. He was ultimately acquitted.

And it was the same charge that Mohamed Noor, a former police officer in Minneapolis, was charged with. And ultimately, there was a conviction leading to the third-degree murder charge discussion we had earlier in this trial.

But essentially, you have to prove that the person was unreasonable in the actions they took, it was negligent for her to mistake the taser -- the gun for a taser or vice versa, and she did so in a way that created an unreasonable risk.

It does not stop there, though, Ana. You have to go beyond just the deployment of the taser or the deployment of the gun. You have to go to her decision to use any level of force.

That use of force continuum continues to inform all of these decisions. Remember, even if he was fleeing the scene, you had a warrant,

reportedly. You knew who he was. There was the license.

And the Supreme Court said, back in 1985, even if it's a fleeing suspect, you have to evaluate the level of force you use. And you cannot use deadly force unless that person poses a deadly risk to the officers or people in the area.

And so this has to constantly be assessed. And we are looking at what might be the initial or eventual charge of second-degree murder.

CABRERA: When you say that, that it could be the initial charge, where could it go from here?

COATES: It could go higher, to third degree. It could go to murder charges. And we're talking about manslaughter right now. Murder, obviously, is a more elevated level of thinking.

And, of course, in Minnesota, you need not have intentional murder as a factual predicate. You need only to have proven to intend that the person took the actions they did and that caused even an unintentional death.

The same thing that is happening right now with Derek Chauvin.

So, prosecutors, oftentimes, collect the evidence. They have their initial charges. They continue to build their case. They don't stop with just one charge.

They, oftentimes, can increase it. There are times they might decrease it, as is happening here. But they will continue the investigation.

And it might be the initial charge. It will also be an opportunity for early plea discussions as well.

CABRERA: Again, the current charge is second-degree manslaughter.

Cedric, does this charge make sense to you?

CEDRIC ALEXANDER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes, it makes sense to me. Here, again, I am not an attorney, but it makes sense and probably to many lay people as well.

But it will be interesting to see, as Laura has so well indicated, that the charges could go up, they could go down.

But manslaughter seems somewhat appropriate. This is clearly a case of negligence, without question.

So it will be interesting to see where it goes over the next few days, few weeks.

CABRERA: I want to pivot now to day two in the defense's case in the murder trial for former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin.

We mentioned that a couple times because of the parallels in these two cases, and it's all happening within the same area.

Today, we have been hearing from Maryland's former chief medical examiner, taking the stand as part of the strategy of the defense to instill doubt over the cause of George Floyd's death.

And so I want to bring back Laura Coates and Cedric Alexander. But also joining us for this conversation is cardiologist and CNN medical analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner.

Thank you all, again, for being with us to guide us through the testimony this morning, which really focused on the cause of death.

Here's what we heard from the defense's pathology expert.


FOWLER: So in my opinion, Mr. Floyd had a sudden cardiac arrhythmia or cardiac arrhythmia due to his atherosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease -- you can write that down multiple different ways -- during his restraint and subdural restraint by the police.

And then his significant contributing conditions would be -- since I've already put the heart disease in part one -- he would have the toxicology, the Fentanyl and Methamphetamine.

There is exposure to a vehicle exhaust. So potentially carbon monoxide poisoning or at least an affect from increased carbon monoxide in his bloodstream. And Paraganglioma or the other natural disease process that he had.

So all of those combined to cause Mr. Floyd's death.



CABRERA: So, Dr. Reiner, as we just heard, this expert mentioned all kinds of issues that he says may have contributed to Mr. Floyd's death.

From a strictly medical perspective, was his testimony accurate or did it seem like throwing a bunch of things at the wall and hoping something sticks?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: The latter, Ana. Look, we know that Mr. Floyd did have some underlying cardiac disease. The autopsy showed that.

But the autopsy also showed that Mr. Floyd did not have a heart attack. So we can take that off the table. He did not have a heart attack, just sort of co-incident with the events of that day.

So the pathology expert suggests that he had a -- he has some sort of arrhythmia, which is abnormal heart rhythm. You know, somehow magically occurring in the setting of his arrest. We know from the paramedic's testimony last week, when they were

finally able to get a heart rhythm assessment on Mr. Floyd, that he had some something called pulse electrical activity.

Which is more consistent with the end stage after something like prolonged hypoxia, meaning prolonged low oxygen levels.

We know from the doctor who tried to resuscitate Mr. Floyd, at Hennepin County Medical Center, that Mr. Floyd's blood had very high levels carbon dioxide.

Which is what you see in people that have not been breathing for an extended period of time.

So I think what the defense expert is really trying to do is to suggest just a sort of a waste bucket of potential diagnoses. But really none of them have come together to explain why Mr. Floyd died.

CABRERA: The defense is hoping this testimony, of course, will cause jurors to start to question what actually killed George Floyd.

Laura, do you think it was persuasive?

COATES: Not at all. And what Dr. Reiner is talking about, a waste basket, I'm going to call it trash.

I mean, the idea they are going to try to suggest that George Floyd died because of carbon monoxide poisoning because he was on the street, not from the weight of somebody's body on the neck.

He even went as far as to suggest that the neck -- when he was asked a question, did the knee on the neck of George Floyd cause any damage to the vital structures, and the answer was no.

Then he went on to say that there was no visible injury from what happened. And everybody is thinking to themselves, really?

Also the notion here of calling it a sudden death. I mean, we can be hyperbolic in a lot of ways. But what about nine minutes and 29 seconds is sudden?

This, in my opinion, is one of those moments where an expert loses their credibility.

Regardless of whatever credentials they may have, they lose credibility when they begin to insert illogical conclusions that have nothing to do with the facts that we've seen.

Remember, the jury is not just comparing the testimony of this expert against a pulmonologist, a cardiologist, a forensic pathologist, a medical examiner, all of whom were consistent in corroborating each other.

They're also testing it against the star witness, the video that they've actually seen, the nine minutes and 20-second video that belies any of the statements that this particular expert is saying. CABRERA: Not to mention that former Officer Chauvin was still in that

position with a knee on Floyd's neck for three-plus minutes after Floyd had stopped breathing.

Cedric, that carbon monoxide poisoning theory that emerged today, that caught a lot of people by surprise.

Because if it did contribute to Floyd's death, as he's suggesting, aren't the police also culpable for that? They put them there next to the exhaust and left him there for nine minutes?

ALEXANDER: Well, absolutely. Certainly, if he was sucking in those fumes -- I can only imagine, even though this expert says the officers were a few feet away, but Chauvin, of course, was right over top of Floyd.

But they are going to introduce whatever they can. Maybe they found carbon monoxide in his blood during their autopsies. I don't remember capturing that part.

Here's what is important to your question. Yes, at the end of the day, I'm still responsible for that person, someone I had taken into custody.

Here again, I will come back to the fact that we had a person here, Mr. George Floyd, who was begging to breathe.

Whether he could not breathe because of the carbon monoxide or because whether he could not breathe because he had compressed weight up on him, or whatever the case may be, those officers did not -- let me repeat -- they did not act as if they were responsible for his life, which they are.


And they should have allowed him an opportunity to breathe as he was asking and gasping for air that was going into his brain.

But as you remember, Dr. Tobin made very clear, yes, we are receiving air when we speak --


ALEXANDER: -- but within seconds, it's going to be cut off. And that's what we saw.

CABRERA: Right. And Dr. Tobin, of course, was the prosecution witness, the pulmonologist.

Really quick to you, Dr. Reiner -- I only have about 30 seconds.

We heard the argument come up that if he is speaking and making noise -- and I am quoting here -- "It's very good evidence that the airway was not closed."

Does that suggest that it was not the officer that prevented Floyd from breathing?

REINER: No. That's not persuasive to me at all.

That comes from kind of the notion that if you see somebody choking on a chicken bone in a restaurant, if they can talk to you, their airway is still patent.

But what we know is Mr. Floyd said 20 times that he was having trouble breathing until he stopped breathing.

And I'm sort of a common-sense doc. And if a patient tells you they're having trouble breathing and then they stop breathing, they're probably related. I think that is just the simple truth here.

CABRERA: Thank you so much, Dr. Reiner, Laura Coates and Cedric Alexander. Really appreciate all of you.

Right now, the CDC is holding an emergency meeting on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause. So we will follow all those headlines and bring you an update as soon as we come back.

Stay with us.



CABRERA: Right now, CDC advisers are holding an emergency meeting on the pause of Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine.

They're trying to figure out whether six reported cases of this very rare and severe blood clot are in any way related to the vaccine itself.

I want to discuss this with CNN medical analyst and former city of Baltimore health commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen.

Dr. Wen, you recently received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. You participated in its trial. What will you be looking for at today's meeting?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Right, so I received vaccine myself, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine myself about two weeks ago.

What I'm looking for today is, first of all, I think it's important for us to say the pause was the right thing to do. We need time for exactly this kind of public and transparent investigation.

What I'm looking for is, what do they six individuals who got this rare blood clot, what do they have in common? Is there something they have in common except the fact they are women under 50?

If they have any underlying medical conditions, for example, that we can say those who have that condition should probably avoid this vaccine. That would be the more straight forward. Then I also want to hear the discussion of exactly what is the real incidence. Might be there be cases of blood clots that were missing because clinicians were not looking for it? What additional data are there?

Finally, I'm looking for the vote. At some point, this committee will be voting. They may say, for example, they want to release the pause, expect for a specific subgroup, let's say women under 50.

That's something that I expect could come out of their recommendations today.

CABRERA: Are you surprised this blood clot issue never came up during the J&J trial?

WEN: The trial had tens of thousands of participants. In this case, we're looking at a reaction that is one in a million, perhaps.

So this is why this kind of post-market surveillance is really important.

Meaning that, even after a vaccine or therapeutic is released and it's now going to be given to millions of people, instead of tens of thousands, it's important to have that process followed at that point.

I think this pause by the FDA and CDC illustrates that kind of surveillance and monitoring is working.

It should actually give us more confidence that all of the vaccines we have are safe and effective.

And in fact, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have now been given to over 100 million people with no significant red-flag safety signal.

I think that should make us really assured that our federal regulatory authorities are working.

CABRERA: Let's put this all in more perspective. Because based on what we have learned, as you pointed out, your chance of getting this rare blood clot, if it is, indeed, connected, is less than one in one million.

You have a greater chance of being struck by lightning. A greater chance you'll be hit by a satellite falling from space. You have a greater chance of dying in a car crash.

There were 913 COVID-19 deaths reported just yesterday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

So why don't the benefits here outweigh the risks when you look at this comparison?

WEN: I think when you look at a population level, it clearly does.

The question here, there are two things. One is that there are other vaccines, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. And so if Johnson & Johnson were the only vaccine that's available, I

don't think that the authorities would have put a pause on the vaccine.

Because the risks of having COVID spread would outweigh the benefit of stopping it for a time being. But right now, we do have alternatives.

The other reason is that there may be a particular subgroup that should not be getting the vaccine.

It may be -- and again, I don't know -- it may be that the CDC committee comes out and says, out of the benefits of caution, let's say that people under the age of 50 should get the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, but Johnson & Johnson may be fine for other individuals.

That's the kind of deliberation that we will expect from them. And again, why I think that should give us reassurance that all of this investigation is being done in such a transparent, thorough and careful way.

CABRERA: All right, Dr. Leana Wen, as always, it's good to you. Thank you for being with us.

And I want to thank all of you for joining me for this shortened hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'll see you back here tomorrow. You can follow me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.


In the meantime, Brooke Baldwin picks up our coverage right after this.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.