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Derek Chauvin Trial

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I plan to follow this trial closely and discuss the proceedings and evidence presented. Right now they are in the pre-trial and jury selection phase. Several YouTube channels are streaming the live feed from the courtroom. Here is one.

One issue they're dealing with now is whether to allow evidence of Floyd's prior arrest in 2019. The prosecution wants to argue that during the 2020 incident he was not resisting arrest, he was rather "noncompliant" due to having a panic attack. But the defense wants to rebut that theory by showing the 2019 video in which Floyd starts off noncompliant and then gets in the police car without incident.

Of course this evidence will also show how Floyd chewed opiods he was carrying and had to be taken to the hospital in 2019. It establishes a pattern of behavior much of which was repeated in 2020.

I think the state is worried they will lose this case and have attempted to influence the jury by settling with Floyd's family for $27 million.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The trial started on Monday. Jerry Blackwell presented opening remarks for the prosecution's case. He argued that Derek Chauvin violated the police oath by using "excessive and unreasonable force" on George Floyd. He described Chauvin as "grinding and crushing" Floyd on the ground, and said that Chauvin "squeezed the life out of" Floyd. As evidence that Floyd died from asphyxiation, he said the video shows Floyd suffering anoxic seizures and agonal breathing from oxygen deprivation. He said pressure was maintained on Floyd's neck even after the police could not find a pulse. 

Blackwell then played the viral video and pointed out how often Floyd repeated that he couldn't breathe and was going to die. The video shows Floyd moving his right shoulder up, and Blackwell said this was to create space for Floyd's rib cage to expand so he could breathe while in the prone position.

As for the question of intent, Blackwell said the whole case would offer an "umbrella of intent." He mentioned the dangers of the prone position and how officers are trained to avoid putting pressure on areas above the shoulders, spinal column or neck, and the importance of the side recovery position. He told the jury, "You can believe your eyes that it's a homicide. It's murder."

Addressing the idea that Floyd overdosed on drugs, Blackwell said that you can see from the video that Floyd doesn't look like someone who would die from an opioid overdose, since Floyd was actively struggling and opioids put you in a stupor.

As for the idea of heart attack being the cause of death, Blackwell said Floyd's heart had no sign of damage.

Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, then gave his opening remarks. He started with a soliloquy on using reason and applying common sense. He said 50,000 documents were generated pertaining to four different locations (the Cup Foods store, the Mercedes Benz car, police squad 320, and the Hennepin County Medical Center), so the case is about more than the nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds, the time Floyd was restrained on the ground.

Nelson pointed out that the Cup Foods cashier thought Floyd was under the influence of something. Prior to the police arriving, Floyd's friends watched him take pills and fall asleep in the car. According to lab results, those pills were likely speedballs (opioid and meth) manufactured to appear as Percocet. Nelson also said that Floyd put drugs in his mouth to conceal them from the police.

As for intent, Nelson said Chauvin used the maximal restraint technique he had been trained to use. And to cause, Nelson mentioned excited delirium. He said the autopsy revealed no evidence of asphyxiation, no petechial hemorrhaging or signs of mechanical asphyxia.

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Did they get into much of a discussion about excited delirium?

From what I can tell from what I've read, it's a questionable term. It only exists within the context of law enforcement, and not verified to be a real thing by much medical study. As I understand, it's only a description of the behavior of someone on drugs, in particular stimulants. Or to be snarky, "the condition of being on drugs when a cop is looking at you and used to arbitrarily justify excessive force". But my point is, was it questioned, or justified as legitimate? 

As far as cause of death, do you think they would talk much about how to assign blame? If exacerbating a medical condition such that the condition kills the person but the exacerbation is not the proximal cause? 

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9 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Did they get into much of a discussion about excited delirium?

No. Chauvin's lawyer said the jury would be hearing about it but he didn't go into detail. He'll probably bring in an expert to discuss it.

9 hours ago, Eiuol said:

As far as cause of death, do you think they would talk much about how to assign blame?

Yes, I think they will. But the prosecution seems convinced that Chauvin suffocated Floyd, so I doubt they'll put much if any blame on Floyd. In the opening, for example, Blackwell said it was the police officers' duty to care for Floyd since he was in their custody. And he suggested that Floyd was an addict who had a high tolerance for drugs and wouldn't have overdosed on the amount found in his system.

10 hours ago, Eiuol said:

If exacerbating a medical condition such that the condition kills the person but the exacerbation is not the proximal cause? 

I don't know if this question specifically will come up because it doesn't sound like it'll be an aspect of the prosecution's case. Something relevant, though, might be the fact that the officers asked Floyd what he was on and he didn't answer them. So they didn't know what his medical situation was. Also, if Floyd was suffering from an excited and delirious state, the officers were in a real bind as to what to do. They needed to calm him down but they also needed to keep him in custody and prevent him from further hurting himself. That seems to be the purpose of the restraint. 

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I've been reading about this in the newspapers off and on and I have to say, the amount of focus the prosecution seems to be placing on feelings is truly amazing.

There was a woman who testified about how badly she felt for not interfering with the situation; how it keeps her up at night that she just stood by but that the cop is ultimately the one to blame.  There was some firefighter who felt certain that Floyd was in mortal danger (which - yeah; so did everyone else who saw the video, but this doesn't tell us WHY he was in peril) and then some guy said that the whole situation seemed like an animal fight to him, and the next days' big controversy then became whether or not he was describing the policemen as animalistic.

Is this trial supposed to be about what caused the death of George Floyd or how the rest of us feel about it?


Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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3 minutes ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Is this trial supposed to be about what caused the death of George Floyd or about how the rest of us feel about it?

I feel the same way as you. It should be clear that right now I blame the cop completely. But I can't tell anything about the prosecution discussing any facts. I'm sure you could make a great case related to questioning the validity of excited delirium, and emphasizing that causes of death don't have to be singular (including the fallibility of autopsies in particular). I'm sure there are other angles including bias of the cop himself, poor judgment of threats, things like that.

But when I hear his girlfriend talk about addiction, and about how they are both addicts who are trying to recover, and how he's a good partner to her, I'm just thinking: so what? As if it would all be justified if he wasn't an addict or if he was a bad partner? As if the cop is more (or less) to blame depending on Floyd's moral character? 

I can only hope that these things are relevant to an upcoming argument. But it seems like these would come later if they were relevant to facts...

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The prosecution spent the first week of the trial presenting eyewitness testimony and video taken during the incident between George Floyd and the officers. The first witness, Jena Scurry, was the Minneapolis Police Department dispatcher who dispatched units to the scene and saw live surveillance video of the incident while working in the 911 call center. She said she was concerned about the length of time the incident was taking, so she reported it to the police sergeant. On cross examination, Mr. Nelson pointed out that Scurry called the sergeant after the ambulance had left the scene and the incident was over. Also, he made the point that "takedowns" don't require supervisor review for "use of force."

Nelson brought up the concept "load and go," to convey the idea that the scene was hostile and unsafe for medical assistance, which is why the ambulance loaded Floyd into the vehicle and drove down the street instead of working on him in front of Cup Foods.

Alisha Oyler took the stand. She witnessed the incident from her workplace, the Speedway convenience store across from Cup Foods. Some video she took was introduced as evidence. Other than that she added little to the case. Frankly she wasn't very articulate.

Donald Williams was next. He's the man who, on the viral video, repeatedly shouted at officers Chauvin and Thao, calling them names like "tough guy" and "bum." He also shouted about choke holds. He has training and fighting experience in wrestling and MMA. Mr. Frank of the prosecution used him as an expert in choke holds. Williams described Chauvin using a "shimmy" foot movement to apply pressure to Floyd's neck. On cross, Mr. Nelson pointed out that MMA fights have rules and this incident wasn't an MMA fight. Floyd might have bitten the police or continued resisting if he regained consciousness. When asked about air versus blood chokes, Williams said it takes 3-5 seconds to blood choke someone. The defense made a point about the timeline. Williams arrived on the scene three minutes after an ambulance had been called. So not only was Williams unaware of medical assistance being called, he also didn't know why Floyd was bleeding, which started before he arrived. Williams had assumed it was from being pushed to the ground.

Another fact the defense is stressing relates to the emotional state of the observing crowd. Williams tried to downplay his anger, saying, "You can't paint me out to be angry." But he was obviously angry in the video and later was quoted saying, "I really wanted to beat the shit out of the officers." Also, Williams became evasive when asked about his foul language, responding to Mr. Nelson, "Is that what you heard?" I guess they also have him on video later saying Thao should kill himself for what he did. 

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On day two prosecutor Jerry Blackwell called Darnella Frazier, the young woman who recorded the viral video of the incident. The only interesting thing about her testimony, in my view, is that she didn't know there were two other officers behind the squad car at the time. The defense is making the point that these eyewitnesses arrived late to the scene, did not have the full story of what happened, and they jumped to conclusions based on false assumptions.

Alyssa Funari, another young witness, was questioned by Erin Eldridge, attorney for the prosecution. Eldridge played to emotions, asking Funari how she felt about what she saw. Funari was concerned that Floyd was going to die because "time was running out." On cross, Nelson reminded her that she had told law enforcement that she had seen the officers check Floyd's pulse "multiple times" before the ambulance arrived. She also acknowledged that she was angry.

Funari's teenage friend, Kaylynn Gilbert, also testified, but not much stood out for me. Gilbert talked about her feelings of anxiety. Clearly watching a man die affected these young ladies.

The standout witness of the day was Genevieve Hansen, an off-duty firefighter who shouted for the officers to check Floyd's pulse. She described Floyd having an "altered consciousness," and his face being "puffy and swollen." She said the officers were putting "all or the majority of their weight on Floyd." When she identified herself as a firefighter and tried to help, she said that officer Thao told her, "if you really are a firefighter you'd know better than to get involved." Mr. Frank asked what she would have done had she been allowed to help. Hansen said she would have requested additional help, checked Floyd's airway and started chest compressions. She then became emotional and cried on the stand. She continued, saying that she didn't see the officers check Floyd's pulse. Frank asked about seeing agonal breathing, and she replied, "I don't remember anymore, but I, um, I don't know." Agonal breathing was a point raised in the prosecution's opening statement. Let's hope they weren't relying on Hansen to provide that observation.

We also learned that Hansen felt "helpless" and that she thought she "should have called 911 immediately." Instead she chose to record the scene and shout at the police like several other bystanders. After Floyd was taken away, she said she was "worried about the safety of the black witnesses."

On cross examination, Nelson pointed out that Hansen arrived at 8:26 pm and EMS had been called at 8:21 pm. Her response: "I don't believe that." She said that such a response time would be "totally abnormal." Again Nelson brought up the concept "load and go." Hansen was familiar with the practice, used by EMTs at unsafe locations. Hansen also acknowledged that overdose patients sometimes become combative when they regain consciousness. Nelson pointed out Hansen's flawed recollections. She thought four cops were on Floyd, that fluid on the ground was urine, and that Floyd was a "small, slim, frail man." She had trouble answering Nelson's "yes or no" questions and tried to argue with the defense attorney and the judge. The judge then chastised her for being argumentative, and the court session ended for the day. 

Edited by MisterSwig
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3 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Nelson pointed out Hansen's flawed recollections. She thought four cops were on Floyd, that fluid on the ground was urine, and that Floyd was a "small, slim, frail man." She had trouble answering Nelson's "yes or no" questions and tried to argue with the defense attorney and the judge.

I wanted to point out that this is pretty standard for any eyewitness testimony: memories of events like these are very faulty about the details. It's a natural expectation that many details will be wrong except maybe the gist of what happened. Even for events simple as shoplifting. So the defense had a really easy job. I'm surprised the prosecution would think of this as important testimony, any prosecutor should know that eyewitness testimony is inherently flawed. If anything it weakens the case for the prosecution because it gives jurors a reason to further question that there is a good case. 

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8 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

I'm surprised the prosecution would think of this as important testimony, any prosecutor should know that eyewitness testimony is inherently flawed.

I wouldn't say inherently flawed, but the prosecution does seem to be relying on unreliable eyewitnesses. I don't want to do too much analysis before the prosecution finishes its case, but I find much of the initial testimony to be irrelevant - or worse, damaging to witness credibility.

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Day three began with Mr. Frank calling Christopher Martin to the stand. Martin was the young Cup Foods employee who sold cigarettes to George Floyd. He noticed Floyd was a big man and asked if he played baseball. During the course of their brief conversation, Martin observed Floyd struggling to form words. He testified that Floyd "appeared high," though he could still understand what Floyd was saying.

The prosecution played a security video from inside the store. It showed Floyd entering the store and interacting with people. At one point Floyd clearly shuffles or dances back and forth in a playful or excited manner. There was no audio on the video.

A little later Floyd and Martin go to the tobacco counter. Martin said he sold Floyd a pack of cigarettes. The video shows Martin holding Floyd's bill up to the light. Martin said the $20 bill had an odd, blue pigment and he "assumed it was fake," but he completed the transaction anyway. He then told the manager. The manager sent Martin and other employees out to the street to ask Floyd to return to the store. Martin had watched Floyd walk to his car across the street.

In the car with Floyd was a woman in the backseat and in the front passenger seat was a man in red sweatpants who had tried to use a similar fake bill earlier in the day, but Martin refused to accept that one. Martin said that Floyd, while not responding except to throw up his hands and say "why is this happening to me," ultimately refused to come back to the store, and that's when the police were called.

A little later Martin noticed the commotion outside the store and went to see what was happening. He witnessed officer Thao push a co-worker off the street and back onto the sidewalk. He then tried to calm down his co-worker. In the end Martin said he felt "guilty" about what happened because it all could have been avoided if he hadn't accepted the fake $20 bill.

Mr. Nelson cross-examined Martin particularly about the fake bill. He asked what Martin was looking for when he held the bill up to the light. Martin replied, "That's a good question. I have no idea." Nelson suggested he might have been looking for a security strip, but Martin maintained his ignorance.

The store policy was that an employee who accepted a fake bill had to pay for it themselves, and Martin had already refused a similar fake $20 earlier in the day, so Nelson asked why Martin decided to take the one from Floyd. Martin said he wanted to "do him a favor" because it didn't seem like Floyd knew it was fake, whereas the man in red sweatpants had appeared to be "scheming" earlier in the day. Despite this, Martin did tell his manager about the bill and where to find Floyd across the street.

Next up was Christopher Belfrey, who parked behind Floyd's car and took some video of the initial encounter with police, where they struggled to get Floyd out of his car and handcuffed.

Then Ms. Eldridge brought Charles McMillian to the stand. McMillian is the older gentleman who witnessed the incident starting with the officers walking Floyd across the street to squad 320 in front of Cup Foods. He is heard on video talking to Floyd, telling him to "comply" because he "can't win." After the prosecution showed bodycam footage of officers struggling to get Floyd into the squad car, and Floyd crying for his momma, McMillian broke down and wept. Eldridge asked, "Explain what you're feeling." He said, "Helpless. I don't have a momma either. I understand him."

After a break court resumed. McMillian testified that he heard Floyd say "I can't breathe," "they're killing me," and "momma." McMillian said he tried to help Floyd by telling him to "get up and get in the car." Floyd said he couldn't. McMillian also told Floyd that "if he keep talking he can breathe," and repeated "get up and get in the car, you can't win." McMillian said he also told Chauvin, "Your knee on his neck, that's wrong, man."

McMillian came across as an observant, clear-headed witness. The defense decided not to cross-examine him.

The final witness of the day was Lt. James Rugel, who manages the police's technology unit. He was used simply to introduce several videos into evidence. The prosecution published "milestone" video from a street cameras as well as videos from the officers' body worn cameras. Chauvin's camera was knocked down to the ground during the struggle with Floyd. But the other officers' cameras captured the entire incident.

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16 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

I wouldn't say inherently flawed, but the prosecution does seem to be relying on unreliable eyewitnesses. 

There is no way to verify that someone is a reliable witness. Eyewitness testimony is always unreliable. All you can really do is find multiple eyewitnesses to get a general picture of what happened - but specifics are impossible. It's more that I am surprised that the prosecution hasn't gone after the unreliability of the evidence that the defense wants to use.

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It should prove interesting to contrast Dr. Andrew Baker's eyewitness testimony of the cause of death with Dr. Michael Baden's and Dr. Alecia Wilson's later eyewitness testimony of the same.

Dr. Michael Baden's eyewitness autopsy testimony regarding Michael Brown was key in establishing the fact Brown was facing, not fleeing Officer Darrin Wilson when Brown had been shot in Ferguson, Missouri back in August 2014.

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To begin the fourth day Mr. Frank brought Floyd's girlfriend, Courteney Ross, to the witness stand. She told the story of how they met in 2017 at the Salvation Army where Floyd worked at the time. Frank used Ross to portray Floyd as a father and a "mama's boy." After Floyd's mother died in 2018, Ross said he became "a shell of himself," a "broken" man.

Floyd and Ross were both opioid addicts, using their own prescriptions and other people's prescriptions to acquire Oxycodone for pain. They also purchased pills off the "streets and the black market." Despite the drug use, she said Floyd was athletic, lifting weights and playing sports a lot. She didn't hear him complain about difficulty breathing.

On cross-examination Mr. Nelson asked Ross about Morries Hall, the man in red sweatpants who was sitting next to Floyd in the car. Nelson referred to a prior FBI interview in which Ross admitted that they bought pills from Hall. Ross, however, attempted to backtrack from these earlier statements, claiming she didn't recall saying them. Apparently she also had said that Floyd got heroin from Shawanda Hill, the woman in the backseat of Floyd's car that day, but in court Ross said she was only "speculating" for the FBI.

Nelson asked Ross about the time Floyd overdosed on opioids in March 2020, a couple months before he died. Floyd had complained to her that his stomach hurt and then she drove him to the hospital.

Also in March 2020 they bought some different pills which were a "really strong stimulant." They made her "jittery" and she "couldn't sleep all night." She told the FBI that sometimes Floyd was "up and bouncing around," other times he was "unintelligible." Nelson asked if she recalled telling the FBI that, a week before Floyd's death, she had taken some of the new pills and it "felt like she was going to die." Ross replied that now she "doesn't remember feeling that way."

Nelson then mentioned that sometimes couples have pet names for each other. This made Ross smile brightly, perhaps recalling fond memories. Then he asked what was Floyd's pet name for her. Under what nickname did Floyd list her in his phone contacts? Ross' smile quickly vanished from her face. She now glared at the defense attorney and answered, "Mama."

On redirect Mr. Frank felt the need to establish that Floyd also referred to his mother as "mama," but anyone with a brain scored that round for the defense.

Next the prosecution called the two paramedics, Seth Bravinder and Derek Smith, who responded to the incident. They arrived on scene about six or seven minutes after being dispatched. Smith was the lead who checked Floyd's pulse and pupils. He could not detect a pulse and Floyd's pupils were large. Smith testified that he thought Floyd was dead, and that Floyd's condition never improved while they worked on him in the ambulance. They did a "load and go," driving around the block to work on Floyd, because the spot in front of Cup Foods "didn't feel like a welcoming environment," according to Smith.

On cross, Nelson reiterated the point that sometimes overdose patients wake up violent, which is why police are called to assist EMS with such patients. Bravinder testified that he had personally seen overdose patients turn violent after being revived. Also when he arrived on scene he recalled seeing Floyd "primarily on his left side."

Nelson also pointed out that Smith was able to check for a carotid pulse even with Chauvin still in position over Floyd, suggesting that the knee was not blood choking Floyd.

During redirect of Bravinder the prosecution tried to establish that an opioid overdose would result in small pupils, but on recross Nelson asked if someone under the influence of meth could have large pupils, and Bravinder agreed.

The fire captain, Jeremy Norton, also testified, but I didn't find much relevance to it, except to establish that the firefighters were dispatched a few minutes after EMS and they arrived on scene after the ambulance had already moved around the block.

The final witness of the day, David Pleoger, was the police sergeant supervising the officers. He received the phone call from concerned dispatcher Jena Scurry and then called Chauvin about the use of force incident.

Mr. Schleicher of the prosecution team asked Pleoger about a couple police policies. Relating to "medical assistance" the policy is "as soon as reasonably practical, determine if anyone was injured and render medical aid consistent with training." Regarding "maximal restraint technique," the policy is "if a hobble restraint device is used the person shall be placed in the side recovery position." Pleoger stated that the side recovery position helps the person breathe easier. He said that the dangers of "positional asphyxia" have been known for a long time. Pleoger concluded that after Floyd stopped moving the restraint could have ended.

On cross Nelson emphasized the first part of the policy, "as soon as reasonably practical," and brought up the police's "critical decision making model," of which factors include size and state of the crowd, tactical or disadvantaged position, traffic conditions, etc. He suggested that rendering aid in a busy street might not be the best decision, and Pleoger said "right." It depends on the circumstances. Nelson also asked about the term "hold for EMS," but Pleoger said he wasn't familiar with it.

Edited by MisterSwig
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Friday was day five of the trial. The prosecution called two police officers to testify. The first was Sgt. Jon Edwards, who took over the scene from Sgt. Pleoger. Edwards testified about securing the scene and making sure officers conducted initial inquiries and various duties related to processing a potential "critical incident" involving a death in police custody.

The second officer to take the stand, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, was the senior homicide detective. He arrived on scene after Edwards and turned over the investigation to the Bureau of Criminal Affairs.

Mr. Frank used Zimmerman to re-raise the issue of police policy on the use of force. Based on seeing the available video, Zimmerman stated that the use of force in this case was "totally unnecessary" and "uncalled for." He had never been trained to kneel on the neck of a handcuffed person. He said that once the person is handcuffed their threat level is gone. Not even Mr. Frank was happy with that answer, and he corrected the policeman by pointing out that even a handcuffed person can kick the officers.

On cross Mr. Nelson noted that Zimmerman hasn't been on street patrol since 1993 and doesn't train officers in use of force, current tools or tactics. Zimmerman agreed that generally officers are responsible for scene safety and are permitted to use whatever force is reasonable to protect themselves. Nelson asked about the concept "holding for EMS." Zimmerman indeed had heard it before. He didn't agree completely with Nelson's definition of the term, but when asked to provide his own he simply repeated that it meant "hold for EMS," as if his emphasis conveyed something special. 

That concluded testimony for the first week.

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I've been catching up on all of this over the past day (I needed something less relevant to my self to occupy my thoughts) and these are the established facts which actually seem in some way relevant.


1.  George Floyd and his girlfriend had been doing "speedballs" (a combination of methamphetamines and fentanyl) for several months.  This particular combination of drugs would not be easy for the most careful and forward-thinking individual on Earth to use responsibly.

2.  Safety didn't seem to bear any relation to the manner in which they were using these drugs.  They didn't seem to know exactly what they were ingesting and it doesn't sound like they tried this brand-new substance in tiny doses, in order to establish what the effects on themselves personally would be, nor anything else like that.  They were doing speedballs so irresponsibly that George Floyd almost died from them only two months before this incident.

3.  George Floyd had already overdosed and, judging from his behavior, was already in mortal danger long before the police even showed up.

4.  When the police showed up George Floyd (who already had WAY too much SpeedBall in his system) ingested the rest of his stash in order to dispose of the evidence.


If this was a simple manslaughter case then the prosecution might have something to go with.  After all, none of those facts prove that DC's actions didn't contribute to his suspect's accidental suicide.  But since they are trying to argue something more than that I really can't imagine this ending in anything other than acquittal.

And it's sad that our culture can only discuss this in terms of race.  There's something to be said here about the drug war and the fact that, if methamphetamines and fentanyl were legal, perhaps George Floyd would've met the police officers with a simple request to go to the hospital (instead of ingesting the rest of the drugs on his person).  If it weren't for the drug war perhaps he might still be alive.

But it's difficult to see how the above facts could be integrated in any other way than that George Floyd killed himself.

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There's also something to be said about the way in which George Floyd and his girlfriend were using SpeedBalls and its relation to the choice to live.

If you are seriously committed to remaining alive then you do not engage in activities like that.  I'm not saying that I, personally, am not in a similar position (with the way I've been drinking); just that it has something to do with the choice to live.

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Week two began with prosecutor Mr. Blackwell calling Dr. Bradford Langenfeld. Langenfeld treated Floyd at the hospital and pronounced him dead after resuscitation efforts failed. Blackwell asked if Langenfeld was told whether Floyd suffered a heart attack or overdose. The doctor answered no. They covered several medical concepts such as asystole (flatlining) and PEA (pulseless electrical activity). The prosecution once again noted that "cardiac arrest" doesn't necessarily mean that Floyd had a heart attack. It just means that the heart has stopped functioning. Langenfeld discussed various treatments he performed such as using ultrasound and a blood-gas sample in an attempt to diagnose Floyd's particular problem. His leading theory for why Floyd's heart stopped was hypoxia (lack of oxygen). He also considered an acidosis such as excited delirium, though he hadn't received a report of excessive sweatiness or agitation which is common in excited delirium cases.

On cross Mr. Nelson asked if fentanyl and meth (or a combination of the two) can cause hypoxia, and the doctor said yes. Langenfeld also confirmed that the blood-gas sample showed an "exceptionally high" amount of CO2. Normal range is 35-45. Floyd's was 100. So his blood was very acidic when the doctor took the sample.

Nelson made some general points through the doctor. High CO2 could mean that someone is not properly eliminating CO2 through breathing. It can cause people to have a sensation of shortness of breath. It can happen even without other stress factors involved. The doctor also agreed that fentanyl is dangerous because it suppresses the respiratory system. And Nelson asked about drugs having a more powerful onset if taken inter-rectally, but it wasn't clear why he raised this issue. Perhaps it will produce dividends later.

On redirect the prosecution asked Langenfeld if there was any indication that Floyd administered drugs inter-rectally. There wasn't. The doctor added more context to the blood-gas sample, explaining that because Floyd's blood had not been circulating for 30 minutes or so, his CO2 level would be expected to be higher than normal. Also, the issue of using Narcan to treat drug overdose had come up. Langenfeld said that Narcan only works if the heart is still pumping, so that's why he didn't give it to Floyd.

It had been pointed out that police carry Narcan in their emergency kits, but, as a bit of analysis on my part, the officers might also argue that they didn't use Narcan due to Floyd lacking a pulse. Furthermore they did not know Floyd's exact problem because he took measures to conceal his drug use from the officers.

Mr. Schleicher called police chief Medaria Arradondo next. After a long interview about Arradondo's work history and the various operations and outreach efforts of the police department, the prosecutor revisited some policy issues that have become a big part of the prosecution's case. They discussed "de-escalation," "medical care," "use of force," "critical decision making," "defensive tactics," "choke hold," "neck restraint," etc. After viewing the viral video, Arradondo concluded that Chauvin's restraint of Floyd was "not de-escalation, not a trained MPD defensive tactic." Per policy, it did not appear to be "light to moderate pressure" on the neck. He said it "violates policy" and is "not what we teach"; "once Floyd stopped resisting" the neck restraint should have stopped. It also "violated policy on rendering aid."

Mr. Nelson began his cross-examination by pointing out that it has been many years since the chief personally arrested someone. He then focused on the policy manual's repeated use of the "reasonableness" standard. Officers are required to perform certain duties such as medical care or de-escalation when reasonable. Nelson quoted the manual stating that the "reasonable standard applies to the facts and circumstances known by the officer at the time force is being used."

He and the chief agreed that minor incidents (detaining a suspect) can turn into major arrests. Earlier the prosecution used Arradondo to say that passing a fake bill is a minor, nonviolent offense.

Nelson then addressed the issue of defensive tactics, distinguishing between a "best practice" and an explicitly prohibited one. Just because a new tactic is being taught instead of the old one, that doesn't mean the old one is against policy.

Regarding de-escalation, Nelson then asked Arradondo if he agreed that "sometimes you have to display a weapon so that you can de-escalate ... the use of force can be a de-escalation tactic." The chief didn't quite like Nelson's formulation, and they agreed that it would be better to ask the training instructors about that aspect. This question seems pertinent to Chauvin brandishing mace to control the man who stepped toward him onto the street.

Nelson also established that the chief does not have a degree in physics and is thus not qualified to speak to the amount of pressure Chauvin applied to Floyd.

Finally Nelson introduced the concept of "camera perspective bias." He showed Arradondo two video clips of the same time period but from different angles. Looking at the clip from the viral video, the chief said Chauvin's knee was on Floyd's neck performing a neck restraint. But then Nelson showed him an angle from bodycam footage, and Arradondo agreed that Chauvin's knee was "more on Mr. Floyd's shoulder blade."

During redirect Arradondo said the knee was on the neck up until the paramedic arrived. But Nelson's point about the camera angle remained. Arradondo was basing his conclusion on a misleading camera angle which had just fooled him in the courtroom during cross-examination.

The final witness of day six was Katie Blackwell, a police inspector in charge of the training center where officers receive instruction throughout their careers. She testified that Chauvin's restraint was "not a trained technique." She was also used to introduce Chauvin's training records. On cross Nelson pointed out that the records don't break down all the various instructors and classes an officer might have had during, for example, an 8-hour unit of training. Frankly I'm not sure what to make of this issue regarding Chauvin's training. Even if Chauvin wasn't trained to do what he did, that doesn't mean he murdered Floyd.

Edited by MisterSwig
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Day seven started with Morries Hall's witness motion which took place outside the presence of the jury. Hall was the man in red sweatpants with George Floyd. He's trying to quash his subpoena to testify. His attorney explained that if called Hall would plead the 5th to probably everything he might be asked. He's worried about exposing himself to 3rd degree murder involving Floyd overdosing.

If the prosecution doesn't believe Floyd overdosed, why not give Hall immunity and let him testify? Probably because Hall's testimony would go to reasonable doubt that Floyd was murdered by Chauvin. It would suggest the Floyd overdosed on drugs provided by Hall.

Judge Cahill agreed that most of Hall's potential testimony would be self-incriminating, except possibly for his mere observations of Floyd in the car. Hall's attorney disagreed, but they're going to consider some possible questions and continue the motion at the end of the week.

The prosecution's first witness with the jury present was Sgt. Ker Yang, who is the crisis intervention training coordinator. He discussed some concepts like "crisis," a situation that goes beyond someone's coping mechanism. In general I think his testimony was irrelevant or repetitive.

Next was Lt. Johnny Mercil, an actual instructor in the training division. He taught defensive tactics (or "use of force") when Chauvin had his in-service annual training in 2018. Mercil described the concept of "proportional force" in which police are trained to use the least amount of force necessary to achieve control of a subject. He said the force should be proportional to the level of resistance. After looking at Chauvin's knee on Floyd, Mercil said it was "not a trained or authorized neck restraint."

On cross Mr. Nelson asked if Mercil had experience with subjects who pretended to have a medical emergency. He had. Regarding continuing to use force, Nelson asked if Mercil trains officers to consider what happened prior to the use of force. He does. Nelson asked if Mercil saw Chauvin use a choke hold in the videos. He did not. Nelson asked how much pressure it takes to render someone unconscious with a neck restraint. Mercil said it depends on many factors such as the size of the person, the skill of the officer, whether narcotics are involved, heart rate, adrenaline rush, physical health, etc. He said it takes "under ten seconds" to render a person unconscious with a neck restraint.

Nelson then showed Mercil still images from bodycam footage. Mercil agreed that Chauvin's knee was "between the shoulder blades" of Floyd. Nelson asked if it was a neck restraint. Mercil replied no. He called it a "prone hold," and agreed with Nelson that sometimes you have to use body weight to hold someone until EMS arrives. Mercil also trained officers to say "if a person can talk they can breathe."

The concept of "de-escalation" came up again. Mercil agreed that deciding against using the hobble device and instead maintaining a hold can be a de-escalation technique.

On redirect Mercil agreed that the use of body weight increases the risk of positional asphyxia. And when asked if he was aware of someone losing their pulse and coming back to life and being violent, he answered no.

Mr. Schleicher called officer Nicole MacKenzie next. She is the medical support coordinator and trains officers in first aid, including the use of Narcan for opioid overdoses. She was used to introduce Chauvin's CPR card and raise medical concepts. She said that if there is no pulse CPR should be started immediately. She also said that just because someone is talking that doesn't mean they're breathing "adequately."

On cross Nelson asked if there was a class on excited delirium. MacKenzie said there was. He reiterated the importance of making a scene safe before rendering aid. EMTs won't come to a scene until it's "code 4" or safe, they agreed. Also, a hostile crowd makes it harder to focus, more difficult to assess a patient, and easier to miss signs. Distractions can harm the care of the patient. Nelson also asked her whether agonal breathing can be mistaken for effective breathing. She said yes.

On redirect Schleicher noted that officers must render aid in less than ideal conditions. He asked if the activities of onlookers can excuse the duty to render aid. MacKenzie said only if they are "physically getting involved."

Next Schleicher called an expert in the use of force, but that testimony was cut short due to the court recessing for the day. I'll begin with this witness in my post for day eight. 

Edited by MisterSwig
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The eighth day began with Jody Stiger returning to the stand. At the tail end of the seventh day, Mr. Schleicher called him as an expert witness but didn't finish the direct examination. Stiger is a sergeant and a tactics instructor for the Los Angeles Police Department. His expert opinion is that Chauvin used "excessive force" on Floyd. Initially Floyd resisted arrest but after he stopped resisting the officers should have slowed or stopped their use of force, according to Stiger. He referred to Chauvin's left knee being on the "neck area" of Floyd, and the right knee being on the back.

On cross Mr. Nelson pointed out that Stiger has never testified as an expert before and is not representing the LAPD. He wasn't in uniform. In preparing his opinion, Stiger had not watched the MPD training videos and had not reviewed any materials submitted to the case after January 2021, despite meeting with the prosecution team in February, March, and April.

Nelson and Stiger agreed that a Supreme Court case, Graham vs Connor, establishes a standard for the use of force by police officers across the country. The standard accounts for the fact that a reasonable officer must make split-second decisions in tense and rapidly evolving circumstances. All of the facts must be considered in assessing whether the use of force was objectively reasonable in a particular situation. Nelson pointed out that Stiger's "excessive force" opinion is not the standard for evaluating an officer's use of force. The standard is "objective, reasonable use of force."

Nelson then played a short clip from bodycam footage and asked if it sounded like Floyd was saying, "I ate too many drugs." Stiger answered that he couldn't understand what Floyd said. There was a lot of interference on the audio track.

On redirect Schleicher addressed the reasonableness standard, and Stiger said that Chauvin's use of force was not objectively reasonable, and based on that conclusion he called it excessive.

The next witness, James Reyerson, was the lead investigator in this case. He is a special agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). Basically he was used to introduce security camera video from the Dragon Wok restaurant, whose owner wouldn't share the video without the BCA serving a search warrant. From Reyerson we learned on cross that 50 BCA agents and about 25 FBI agents worked on this case. 440 reports were generated. Yet nobody collected and tested pill fragments from the police squad car until the defense requested it.

Nelson then showed Reyerson the same short clip he showed Stiger, and Reyerson agreed that it sounded like Floyd said, "I ate too many drugs."

Reyerson also agreed that a streak of fluid on the street appeared to be condensation dripping from the police cruiser, not urine from Floyd.

After a rest break, Mr. Frank (on redirect) played a longer clip of the bodycam footage that includes Floyd allegedly saying something about drugs. Frank then asked Reyerson what he thinks Floyd was saying now that more of the context was added. Reyerson, changing his mind, said that it appears Floyd said, "I ain't do no drugs."

The day ended with a set of forensic scientists (McKenzie Anderson and Breahna Giles of the BCA, and Susan Neith of NMS Labs) who collectively testified to the fact that speedball pills were found in the Mercedes-Benz and the police car. The ones in the back of the squad car were partially consumed. DNA on the pills matched George Floyd. 

Edited by MisterSwig
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Day 9 started with Mr. Blackwell calling Dr. Martin Tobin to testify for the prosecution. Tobin is a world-renowned expert in pulmonary medicine. His opinion is that Floyd "died from a low level of oxygen" which caused brain damage and his heart to stop. He said the cause of low oxygen was shallow breathing due to being prone on the street, handcuffed behind the back, with Chauvin's knees on his neck and back. He stated that Chauvin's left knee was on Floyd's neck at least 90% of the time, and his right knee was on the back at least 57% of the time. He discussed in detail how pressure on the handcuffed hands, the neck, the back, and the chest impeded Floyd's rib cage and lungs from expanding. A still image showed how Floyd was pressing his right hand against the squad car to get leverage, seemingly so he could raise his right side and take deeper breaths.

Tobin further argued that Chauvin had up to half his body weight on Floyd and all that pressure caused a narrowing of Floyd's hypopharynx, making it harder to breathe.

Tobin said that after five minutes on the ground, Floyd's leg extension and facial expression indicated a hypoxic seizure from low oxygen. He said this is when Floyd suffered fatal brain damage, and at this point "there was not an ounce of oxygen left in his body."

Tobin addressed Floyd's pre-existing health conditions by claiming that even a healthy person would have died from the police restraint.

He addressed the idea of an overdose by visually measuring Floyd's rate of breathing and claiming it was about twenty-two breaths per minute, whereas someone overdosing on fentanyl would have about ten breaths per minute. Fentanyl depresses breathing.

Regarding the high level of CO2 in Floyd's blood, Tobin said that this was expected for someone who went without oxygen for nine minutes between his last breath at 8:25:16 and when the paramedics inserted an airway.

Mr. Nelson clearly had his work cut out for him on cross-examination. Tobin was a powerful and articulate witness for the prosecution, making many strong points. Nelson began by pointing out that Tobin has never before testified in a criminal case, and he is not a pathologist. Nelson also made the point that the officers did not have the knowledge and training that Tobin possesses. Tobin has spent much time studying video, reports, and making calculations based on his medical expertise, whereas the officers were reacting to an escalating situation in real time.

Tobin agreed that "if you can speak you can breathe" is a "dangerous proposition" because it gives a "false sense of security." He said that even physicians have trouble with this phrase and miss certain diagnoses due to the misconception. You might breathe and talk in one moment but then fail to breathe and die the next moment. Nelson pointed out that an MPD lieutenant testified that the phrase is common in their police training.

Nelson noted some assumptions in Tobin's calculations, which Tobin had characterized as "rigorous, precise science." Nelson said that Tobin hadn't measured Chauvin's weight or gear, and had assumed an equal weight distribution between the left and right legs. Also, in calculating Floyd's lung volume, Tobin assumed that Floyd was healthy, didn't factor in a 90% coronary blockage. He also hadn't factored in the size of Floyd's stomach, which would relate to the pressure on his lungs. Tobin admitted that smoking (nicotine) might change the lung function. Also fentanyl can cause "wooden chest syndrome," which would make it harder for the lungs to expand. Nelson also asked if Tobin knew about the pills in the squad car. Tobin said he had heard reports but didn't know the status. They agreed that after ingesting fentanyl the "peak respiratory depression" would be expected five minutes later, which is about how long Floyd struggled on the ground before dying.

Regarding the CO2 level, Nelson pointed out that the drive to the hospital took about five minutes, meaning, I guess, that the blood-gas test was done later than when the paramedics inserted the breathing device. So there's some question about how Tobin calculated the expected CO2. I suppose Nelson will develop this point later. It hinges on the rate of CO2 buildup per minute after someone stops breathing, and the effects of CPR.

On redirect Tobin said the effects of pressure on the hypopharynx would not show up at autopsy because the knee was a static force covering a broad area, unlike strangling someone with your hands or a rope.

On recross Tobin agreed that fentanyl can also cause death due to low oxygen but "only a part."

Next Ms. Eldridge summoned Daniel Isenschmid to the stand. He is a forensic toxicologist with NMS Labs. He testified to the results of Floyd's blood and urine tests. Floyd had a high level of fentanyl in his system, a low level of methamphetamine, also some marijuana, caffeine, and nicotine (or their metabolites).

Isenschmid was asked about studies that compared fentanyl levels in blood from DUI patients who lived versus blood from postmortems. He said Floyd's level was closer to the DUI patients who lived. On cross Nelson asked how Isenschmid could answer that question when he didn't know which people in the postmortem study died from overdose and which died from other causes like gunshots. Isenschmid said that he looked at a large amount of data from within that population. But Nelson insisted that Isenschmid had no context for determining who died from what. He asked what if all but one of the thousands died from gunshots. Isenschmid, not really grasping the point, responded that that wasn't really a possibility.

The last witness of the day was Dr. William Smock, who specializes in forensic medicine and is a police surgeon in Kentucky. His opinion is that Floyd died from "positional asphyxia," low oxygen due to pressure on the chest and back.

Smock was also used to address the idea of excited delirium. Excited delirium is a controversial diagnosis but Smock believes "it is real." It is "a physical and psychiatric state" where the subject feels hot, has a fast heart rate and fast respiration, garbles his speech and acts out of control. He discussed an exhibit listing ten signs of excited delirium and concluded that Floyd showed none of them.

Smock also talked about the concept of "air hunger." He said that Floyd presented signs of wanting to breathe, which is not something that fentanyl causes.

Mr. Nelson began his cross by pointing out that Smock is not trained in anatomic pathology. They agreed that a combination of meth and fentanyl would cause a different reaction than just meth or fentanyl on their own. Nelson said that meth/fentanyl deaths have increased of late, and Smock said it "wouldn't surprise me." Smock even admitted that he has had patients with cardiac disease, meth and fentanyl who passed away. But when Nelson asked if sometimes the patients died from just those causes, Smock avoided giving a straight answer, replying that it "would depend on the case." Smock also failed to give a straight answer when asked how long the "coma state" is for fentanyl. He said it depends on "many variables."

The prosecution has been suggesting that Floyd had a high tolerance for fentanyl. Nelson asked if such tolerance dissipates very quickly when someone stops using it for a couple months. Smock said he was "not familiar" with that. They did agree, however, that some people complain of shortness of breath during heart attacks.

Edited by MisterSwig
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I like your summaries a lot.

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Smock avoided giving a straight answer, replying that it "would depend on the case."

This is the only issue I had. Why do you characterize this as avoiding a straight answer? When somebody asks about multiple things that can cause death, the best answer really is "it depends" because of how many variables were introduced. It's not avoiding because any other answer would be misleading. 

Edited by Eiuol
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49 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Why do you characterize this as avoiding a straight answer?

Here is the exchange. I characterized it that way because Smock already agreed that he had treated patients with cardiac disease, meth and fentanyl who passed away but not necessarily from those things. Nelson's follow-up question was whether sometimes they do die from just those things. It's a yes or no answer. But Smock, in my opinion, realizes he's trapped at this point, because Nelson is that good of an interrogator. So instead of just answering yes, he tries to wriggle out of the trap and says it depends on the case. Uh huh, what depends on the case? He just didn't want to give Nelson the point, which was a pattern in his testimony. Most of the expert witnesses have been decent about giving Nelson straight answers. But I think Smock was fishy.

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