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The Trial Of Derek Chauvin, Death Of George Floyd

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Trial begins today at 2pm(gmt) & is available to watch on Court TV, Freeview Channel 89.

Or live stream here:

It is very clear that some of the British media in this case such as Sky and the BBC are acting in a manner wholly inconsistent with their primary function which is to report the news. The biased reporting on this trial by these two organisations is particularly appalling.

The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd commenced last week. He has been charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. The murder charges could carry 40 and 25-year sentences, respectively. Mr Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

The trial heard from several prosecution witnesses last week including a man and woman who were in Floyd's car with him, Floyd's girlfriend, bystanders, shop assistants, medics, and two senior police officers.

A Summary of the trial - Week 1 Day 1

The prosecution opening speech made the case that unreasonable force was used to subdue George Floyd resulting in his death by asphyxiation. They alleged that former police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd by keeping his knee on Floyd's neck for some nine minutes. They allege that the officers actions were not in keeping with Minneapolis Police Department training or protocol, that they were excessive and did not represent reasonable force.

The defence on the other hand argued that Floyd's death was due to pre-existing medical conditions exacerbated by chronic substance abuse and an attempt to orally conceal illegal drugs. They allege that Floyd was aggressive and non compliant and that officer Chauvin was entitled to take whatever measures he deemed necessary to protect himself and the other officers.

The first state’s witness was Jena Lee Scurry, the 911 dispatcher who handled the Floyd call. Prosecutor Blackwell had promised the jury that she would testify that she was so outraged by what she observed of the arrest via closed circuit camera that she felt compelled to call the police on the police. As already discussed above, the reality was far less compelling. Defender Nelson did a reasonable job on cross on undercutting her testimonial value for the state, and using her testimony to provide context helpful for the defence.

The state’s second witness was Alicia Oiler, a woman who at the time worked at the Speedway grocery store across the street from the Cup Foods where the struggle with Floyd occurred.

Her testimony was largely mono-syllabic and consisted of a large number of grunted “uh-huhs.”  She also seemed remarkably unable to recall relevant events, especially considering how extensively the state surely must have worked to prepare their second witness for their case in chief.

Much of Oiler’s testimony was around a series of a half-dozen very short cell phone videos she had taken of the events of the day.  None were anywhere as informative as the other much longer bystander and surveillance videos already available.  The only apparent reason to include them at all was that the state had spliced the Oiler videos into a longer surveillance video, and so had an excuse to expose the jury yet again to a longer video of what happened.

Perhaps the most interesting facet of Ms. Oiler’s testimony was the apparent freak-out by television “commentators” afterwards, who seemed frantic to convince the audience that Oiler’s testimony shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the prosecution had decided to intentionally “throw the case.”

The state’s third witness of the day was Donald Williams, the bystander who purportedly has expertise in “security” and “martial arts.”  Those of you who have watched the bystander video will perhaps best remember Williams as the “bro” bystander actively engaging with the officers while Floyd was restrained on the street.

Williams’ “security” background appears to consist primarily of being a bouncer and similar non-credentialed activities, and his martial arts background consists of some high school and junior college wrestling, and some mixed martial arts training in a local gym.

The state’s third witness of the day was Donald Williams, the bystander who purportedly has expertise in “security” and “martial arts.”  Those of you who have watched the bystander video will perhaps best remember Williams as the “bro” bystander actively engaging with the officers while Floyd was restrained on the street.

Williams’ “security” background appears to consist primarily of being a bouncer and similar non-credentialed activities, and his martial arts background consists of some high school and junior college wrestling, and some mixed martial arts training in a local gym—where, Williams said, he trained not only with members of the Minneapolis Police Department, not only with members of the FBI, but also with members of the CIA.  Having had the opportunity to meet my share of CIA personnel, color me skeptical that they are announcing themselves as such at the local MMA gym.  Further, much of Williams’ purported MMA expertise was substantially undercut by his apparent ignorance of the techniques he testified about, but more on that in a moment.

Williams spent much time describing how small movements on the part of Chauvin were intentional “shimmies” intended to “tighten” the “blood choke” that Chauvin was demonstrably not applying.  The notion that Chauvin’s body might have been moving slightly in order to maintain the neck restraint of the continually squirming and very large Floyd appears not to have occurred to Williams.

The court only got partially through Williams’ testimony on the first day with the last couple of minutes of his testimony not beng broadcast due to a technical problem.

(Summary acknowledgment Attorney Andrew Branca)

A Summary of the trial - Week 1 Day 2

Today saw the Chauvin court wrap up the testimony of martial arts and security “expert” Douglas Williams, a bystander witness to Floyd’s in-custody death. It also saw the state proceed through four female minor witnesses because they were bystander witnesses who were under 18 years of age at the time of the incident. Finally, the state brought the firefighter bystander witness to the stand, with the court recessing partway through her cross-examination.

The most interesting event of the day however was certainly during the testimony of the firefighter, when Judge Cahill cleared the jury from the room and scolded her for being argumentative with the defense during cross, before excusing her meantime.

As was the case with most of the state’s witnesses today, the purpose of Williams testimony seemed to be largely to share emotive observations of Floyd’s in-custody death—albeit at least in Williams’ case there may have been a secondary motive to attempt to leverage his purported martial arts and security “expertise.”

Much of Williams direct testimony focused on Floyd’s demeanor as he died:  “He was in pain, his mouth was wide open, with drool and slob, and dryness, and eyes rolling back, and trying to gasp for air and trying to be able to breath, and trying to move his face from side to side.”

Williams also made several comparisons between Floyd’s demeanor and the death of the fish he’d captured earlier in the day and kept in a plastic bag as they died, a story he’d first recounted yesterday.

Williams denied engaging in any threatening behavior, but then in an effort to make Officer Thau look bad he recounted how Thau had put a hand on his chest to push Williams back to the sidewalk—which action was only required because Williams had stepped off the sidewalk and aggressively approached to within a foot or so of Thao.

In a further effort to make himself look good, Williams described how he was obliged to restrain other members of the bystander crowd to keep them from aggressively approaching the officers—which, of course, would suggest that the officers had good reason to believe the bystander crowd was inclined to close aggressively on them.

Before he closed out direct examination of Williams, Prosecutor Frank made sure to dive into how Williams felt about the whole experience—that feeling was of course, negative, as was the case with all the state’s witnesses. How Williams or the other witnesses felt, however, has little to do with whether Chauvin violated any of the criminal statutes under which he has been charged.

It’s also notable that Williams would describe making his 911 call after the ambulance left with Floyd as “calling the police on the police”—a catch phrase used repeatedly by Prosecutor Blackwell during opening statement.  The message, of course, is that Chauvin’s conduct as a police officer was purportedly so egregious that it was necessary to take the extraordinary step of calling the police on the police.

Nelson took up cross-examination of Williams for the first time. It was here that Nelson took notice of Williams’ notes, and an extensive exchange took place.

Nelson did a good job exploring relevant use-of-force issues such as the disparity in weight between Floyd—some 230 pounds—and the police officers—the largest of whom, Chauvin, reportedly weighed 140 pounds.  He did this by exploring the use of weight classes in wrestling and martial arts, which obviously divides competitors by weight differences of as little as 10 or 20 pounds, much less the nearly 100-pound difference between Floyd and Chauvin.

Nelson also explored some of the more technical aspects of various choke holds, including distinguishing “air chokes” and “blood chokes,” as well as attempting to get Williams to concede that an effective carotid (blood) choke requires constriction of the carotid arteries on both side of the neck.  Here it should be recalled that Chauvin was applying pressure to only one side of Floyd’s neck, not both.

Williams’ responses here were largely incoherent and confusing and often self-contradictory, and he insisted a carotid choke required constricting only one side of the neck.  Obviously, the defense has its own use-of-force expert witness it intends to call, and presumably he’ll be more articulate and better informed on these matters than was Mr. Williams.

Williams did agree that a carotid choke results in loss of consciousness in a matter of seconds, which is obviously a vastly shorter time period than the 9 minutes or so in which Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck. Clearly Chauvin could not have been applying a carotid choke for that 9-minute period, during nearly all of which Floyd was demonstrably conscious and moving.

Nelson also was able to undercut much of Williams’ testimony claiming that he’d merely been “professional and professional” while a bystander witness, by referring both to video footage of Williams at the scene as well as to the transcript of an interview Williams had with police investigators.

Nelson noted that Williams had called the officers “such a man,” and “bogus,” and “such a tough man,” and “a f’ing p*ssy,” and a “f’ing bum.’ Indeed, Nelson pointed out that Williams had called the officers “a bum” no less than 13 times. When asked if this was true, Williams became thoroughly hostile as a witness, repeatedly responding “if that’s what the video shows,” until Judge Cahill finally had to order him to answer the questions.

On re-direct by prosecutor Frank, Williams described the police at the scene as being a “human sh*t show,” to which Judge Cahill naturally sustained a defense objection. Frank attempted to undercut some of Nelson’s cross about weight classes and such by asking Williams whether in MMA fights or wrestling one’s opponent was handcuffed.  Naturally the answer was no—unless, I suppose the opponent had just attempted to pass a bad $20 bill and then fought off lawful arrest.

Finally, the defense decided to re-cross briefly, by asking Williams if any time he had ever been choked out in martial arts he’d been able to hold a conversation while that was happening.  The prosecution made a silly objection based on hearsay, which Judge Cahill overruled. Williams simply answered that he hadn’t previously been engaged in conversation when he was being subject to a carotid choke.

The state then decided to do a re-re-direct.  Here, the state asked Williams about whether in martial arts one was obliged to stop their choke hold if an opponent tapped out, and Williams laughingly said yes.  It’s not clear what the corollary to police use of force is here—are the police supposed to release a restrained suspect if he taps out?—but in any case we were finally finished with Williams as a witness.

Next up came a series of four bystander witnesses who were female minors (under 18 years of age) at the time of George Floyd’s in-custody death. Although two of the four have since achieved adulthood, Judge Cahill nevertheless allowed all four some special treatment, such as not having to give their names while on public broadcast.  Accordingly, I refer to them as Minor 1, Minor 2, Minor 3, and Minor 4, respectively. (Their names are, however, public knowledge, if anyone cares enough to look them up in public media reports.)

Frankly, these witnesses added very little of substance to the trial, although they did through plenty of coal onto the emotive steam engine, each being emotionally distraught, sobbing, even crying on the witness stand. After all, the common theme went, they’d stood there and watched as the police killed George Floyd.

Indeed, two of these witnesses were not even subject to any cross examination by the defence.  In the case of one, Minor 2, this was almost certainly a prudent strategic decision by the defence, as she was only 9 years old as of this day of testimony. She had little to add that the other bystander witnesses wouldn’t separately testify to, and one wonders what level of cruelty it required to have her subject to such traumatic recollection for not very good purpose.

Another of the four “minor” witnesses, Minor 4, was also not subject to cross, likely because it would have served no substantive purpose for the defence.

Minor 1, however, was subject to direct, cross, and re-direct.  This witnesses’ actual first name appears to have been Darnelle, and she was the older (at the time 17, now 18, year old) cousin of the very young Minor 2.

Minor 1 and Minor 2 had travelled together to the Cup Foods convenience store for snacks, and like the other bystanders largely saw the same things occur.

As noted, there was lots of emoting, lots of mind reading, lots of conclusory statements of fact—“We all knew what was happening was wrong.” “Objection.” “Sustained, jury will disregard.”—but little of genuine substance that the video didn’t reveal on its face.  Floyd was restrained by three officers, including Chauvin’s knee, complained about breathing and being in pain, called for his moma, worsened physiologically, and apparently died on the street, and Chauvin never “let up to get up.”

Like every other bystander witness, none of the “Minor” witnesses had a full understanding of what was occurring even during the limited period they were watching Floyd’s arrest, and none had any idea whatever of all of Floyd’s conduct that led up to him being restrained on the street.

On cross-examination, Nelson did a good job getting out of Minor 1 what he could. Indeed, Minor 1 provided more substantive value to the defence than she did to the state.

As with Williams, Nelson was able to wheedle out of Minor 1 testimony consistent with the bystander crowd being an arguably threatening mob to the police.  She denied they were threatening, but then conceded conduct, such as repeatedly stepping off the sidewalk towards the police, and becoming increasing loud and angry, that could readily be perceived as threatening.

Indeed, at one point Chauvin and Thau each reached for their OC spray, conduct that Minor 1 and other of the day’s witnesses professed was utterly unnecessary, but which was certainly circumstantial evidence that the officers felt they might imminently need to defend themselves from any physical assault.

There was little of value in Minor 2’s testimony, as one would expect from a 9 year old. She was not even subject to cross-examination.

Minor 3 was another female, now 18 years old, and in high school. She was subject to direct questioning by a female prosecutor Eldridge.

Minor 3 was one of a pair of girls who drove to the Cup Food to buy an “aux cable.”  The other of the two girls would testify immediately afterwards as Minor 4. Neither Minor 3 nor 4 added much of substantive value to the trial, though there was of course a great deal more emoting.

Interestingly, when the various videos are played during Minor 3’s testimony, we can clearly hear MMA witness Williams telling Officer Thau, “I will kick the f*ck out of you. I will kick the f*ck out of you. You’re a b*tch, bro.”  We can also clearly hear the firefighter Hansen, who will be the last witness of the day, also calling Officer Thau a b*tch.

On cross examination Nelson referred to a transcript of a phone interview Minor 3 had with investigators shortly after the event, Nelson pointed out that she told those investigators that she had seen the police restraining Floyd check his pulse multiple times before the ambulance got there.  She also repeated this narrative of the police checking Floyd’s pulse in discussion with the prosecution only days prior to her testimony, to which the defence apparently had discovery access.

Minor 3 claimed she had no clear recollection of saying the officers checked Floyd’s pulse “multiple times,” but had to concede the point when Nelson handed her the transcript of her interview.

She also conceded that the bystander crowd around the officers was genuinely angry, which will be an important circumstantial factor in the officer’s reasonable perceptions of their practical options in that context.  Indeed, it’s worth noting again that not even the paramedics stayed on scene to treat Floyd, but rather immediately loaded Floyd into the ambulance and drove a safe distance away from the angry crowd before doing so.

State’s witness Minor 4 was again questioning by Prosecutor Eldridge. She repeated much of what had already been stated by other bystander witnesses in relation to the police interaction with bystanders. She called the police aggressive when they put their hands on their Mace canisters. She denied that the bystanders were threatening towards the officers. The defence chose not to cross-examine her.

State’s witness fire fighter Genevieve Hansen appeared on the witness stand in her full dress uniform, presenting quite a different sight than she had as a bystander witness clad in sweatpants on the sidewalk.

Before even direct questioning of Hansen began, the prosecution submitted to the court some video evidence of the scene and audio evidence of a 911 call made by Hansen.

Prosecutor Frank spent much time polishing Hansen’s training and experience, albeit as of today she’d only been a firefighter for two years, and so for barely one year at the time of Floyd’s arrest.

Most of Hansen’s testimony was little different than that of the Minor witnesses: a lot of emoting and mind-reading, but little of substantive value. Like them, she had only a limited view of what was happening and had no knowledge of what had led to Floyd being restrained on the street in the first instance or of the scuffle in the back of the police car.

When asked what she would have done had she been permitted to “treat” Floyd, most of what she recited was action actually taken by the officers, like calling 911 and checking Floyd’s pulse. Other proposed actions would have been effective only if Floyd’s cause of death was actually Chauvin’s knee, which of course is a key issue in dispute and appears to be an unlikely cause of death on the available evidence.

Other possible actions suggested by Hansen were of a sort that neither the officers on scene, nor Hansen in sweatpants, was in a position to provide, like use of a breath bag or of Narcan for drug overdose.  In short, if Floyd required such care, he’d need to wait for the paramedics already called for by the officers.

It is notable that at no time did Hansen make any reference to Floyd’s ingestion of a three-fold fatal dose of methamphetamine/fentanyl speedball, to prevent discovery of the illicit drugs by police—a far more likely cause of death than Chauvin’s knee.

Like Williams, Hansen had also called 911—called the police on the police—to report her conclusion that she had just seen police kill a man, but then had hung up before completing her report to a police sergeant. She had no good reason for hanging up, other than getting distracted by events with other bystanders and the late-arriving fire department personal at the scene.

Things went less well for Hansen on cross examination by Nelson, however, largely because she proved rather outrageously hostile and uncooperative—to the point where a very irate Judge Cahill would eventually clear the jury from the court room and chastise her directly before sending her home for the day and adjourning court.

Nelson touched on the substantial training required to be a fire fighter and rhetorically placed Hansen into a hypothetical situation similar to that of the officers. Would it be difficult for her to follow her training and do her job putting out a fire if she was being shouted at by a threatening mob?  Hansen insisted it would not negatively impact her ability to do her job at all, but the protestations came across as entirely insincere.

He also explored whether she had ever before sought to interfere with police securing a scene for called medical personnel, and Hansen had to concede she had not.

An interesting exchange occurred when Hansen insisted to Nelson that a main reason for her concern was that she believed fire fighter EMTs could have been on scene prior to Floyd’s death, and that the delay in medical personnel suggested something had gone wrong.  Nelson pointed out that the police merely call for medical, period, and it’s the dispatcher who determines whether paramedics or fire fighter EMTs gets sent.

This whole exchange opened an entirely new narrative for the defence, in that the fault of providing timely care to Floyd might have been that not of the officers, who called for care promptly, but of other components of the city’s response system.

Hansen gradually became increasingly hostile and uncooperative. When asked if she remembered making particular statements to investigators, she denied knowledge. When offered a transcript to refresh her recollection, she refused to look at it. When compelled to look at it, she conceded that she’d made the statement, but then attempted to provide a lengthy, complex, and legally irrelevant explanation for why she made the statement she’d initially denied remembering having made.

Eventually Judge Cahill had had enough of Hansen, he cleared the jury, and chastised Hanssen directly. Even while he was chastising here, she continued to be argumentative, this time directly with Judge Cahill.

As you might expect, that went poorly for her.

That chastisement closed out the court for the day.

(Summary acknowledgment Attorney Andrew Branca)

A Summary of the trial - Week 1 Day 3

The court began the day with the not-yet-completed cross-examination of firefighter Hansen by the defence. It appeared that Hansen had been spoken to overnight because she was all “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir” today.

As it happened, the defence really had only one additional question for her on cross:  Had she shown the police officers on scene anything identifying her as a firefighter?  Her answer: She had not.

The state took the opportunity to re-direct, asking Hansen if the reason she hadn’t shown identification was because she didn’t have it on her person, this being her day off. She agreed that was the reason.

It is clear that the officers on scene had no basis to believe she was a firefighter other than her word—the word of an unknown woman who was part of an angry crowd and who herself was referring to the officers as “b*tch.”

Next up was Christopher Martin, a 19-year-old black male who was the clerk in Cup Foods to whom Floyd attempted to pass the counterfeit $20 bill, and to whom Floyd’s passenger had similarly tried to pass a bad bill earlier in the day. (Martin no longer works at Cup Food.)

Martin’s later testimony was largely as a sidewalk bystander witness of Floyd’s arrest, and that portion of the testimony added little value, in the sense that we’ve already heard from numerous bystander witnesses with essentially the same viewpoint.

His earlier testimony centered on his personal interactions with Floyd inside Cup Foods, and outside by Floyd’s car when trying to get Floyd to make good on the cigarettes he’d purchased with the bad bill, did add new substantive value to the trial narrative..

Several key facets of Martin’s testimony could really only be characterized as favorable to the defence, including:

Floyd had indeed passed a rather obviously fake counterfeit bill (after his friend had failed to pull this off in the very same store)
Floyd appeared substantively impaired while in the store (“He did look high,” as Martin put it)
Floyd was an unusually large man (it was what made Martin take exceptional notice of Floyd in the first place)
Floyd had refused repeated offers to simply make good on the bad bill, pay for his cigarettes with actual money, and the whole incident would be forgotten
Certainly, it’s hard to imagine how any of that testimony could be characterized as favorable for the prosecution.

That said, the testimony was going to happen, so the state did its best to underplay it.  While Floyd may have high, for example, he wasn’t so high that he couldn’t communicate verbally with enough dexterity to order cigarettes. On the other, Martin had told police investigators that Floyd’s speech was noticeably delayed, and that Floyd struggled saying words like “baseball” while in conversation with Martin.

The state played a rather lengthy video of Floyd while he was inside the Cup Foods, and throughout Floyd’s demeanor is one of someone under the influence. Swaying, weaving, odd stretching motions, wincing, lots of erratic upper body movement, a little dance step performed in the middle of the store—to the point that other store customers backed up to give him additional space—and so forth.

Martin recounted that while he had immediately recognised as counterfeit the bill offered by Floyd’s friend earlier in the day, and rejected it as payment, when offered an essentially identical bill by Floyd he initially accepted the bill as payment for cigarettes.  Knowing that he himself was going to be obliged by his boss to make good on the bad $20 bill personally (this was store policy), Martin had second thoughts about letting Floyd get away with this fraud.

Martin alerted his boss to the fake bill, and seeing that Floyd was still sitting in the driver’s seat of the Mercedes SUV parked across the street, Martin’s manager sent him out to ask Floyd to come back into the store and make good on the purchase.  Martin did so, but Floyd refused to return to the store, or even discuss the matter.

When Martin returned to the store having been unsuccessful in his mission, the store manager sent out two different employees to speak with Floyd, and make the same offer.  Again, Floyd refused to make good on the purchase.

It was at this point that the manager had a store employee call 911 to report the crime, the call that resulted in the first two officers, Lake and King, arriving on the scene, followed shortly by Chauvin and Thau.

At that point Martin’s testimony reverted to that of being a sidewalk bystander, which again was of little additional value.

On cross-examination by defence counsel Eric Nelson, Martin was obliged to re-affirm statements he’d made to police investigators that Floyd appeared to him to be intoxicated during their interaction in Cup Foods.

Nelson also had Martin affirm that the store manager carried a pistol in his back pocket—this pistol is quite clear and obvious in the surveillance video reviewed during Martin’s testimony—which undercuts the insinuation the state has made with previous witnesses that the neighborhood of Floyd’s arrest was reasonably safe, and in no way high crime in nature.

Naturally, to the extent that the neighborhood could be characterized as unusually dangerous, that again would contribute to the officers’ reasonable perception of the need to use perhaps more force and be more focused on the gathering angry crowd and thus distracted from the care of Floyd, than would otherwise have been the case.

Further, Nelson had Martin recount to investigators how he described the neighborhood around Cup Food as a “hot block,” to indicate that “a lot of situations” occurred in the neighborhood. It’s perhaps worth noting here that Martin not only worked at Cup Foods, he and his mother lived in an apartment immediately above the store, so he would be intimately familiar with criminal events in the immediate neighbourhood.

It was here during cross examination that Martin discussed, or Nelson referenced, in some detail how Floyd’s speech was slow and delayed, and he had difficulty saying the word “baseball.”

Nelson also highlighted that whereas Martin had immediately rejected the fake bill offered by Floyd’s friend earlier in the day, on the grounds that it was obviously fake, he initially accepted an essentially identical bill from Floyd, despite agreeing that it was equally fake in appearance.  Could the difference in response be due to Floyd’s unusually large size and intoxicated demeanor—both factors the officers would also consider in making use-of-force decisions when Floyd refused to comply with lawful arrest?  If such considerations were reasonable for the clerk, could they be unreasonable for the police?

When asked about his perception of the anger of the bystander witness and MMA/security “expert” Williams, Martin told Nelson that it wasn’t so much that Williams was angry, he was just defending himself, because Officer Thau had pushed him. This would be when Williams aggressively advanced off the curb into the street and towards Thau, and Thau held out his hand to stop Williams’ progress.

Nelson also managed to get Martin to describe how he physically restrained another bystander witness who was apparently sufficiently heated and angry to require physical restraint. This undercuts the state’s claims—and the claims of the same sort by the state’s witnesses—that the crowd was in no way conducting itself in a manner the officers might reasonably perceive as threatening.

The state did do a very brief re-direct of Martin, in which they had Martin describe Floyd as having a friendly demeanor, just living life. Unfortunately for the state, Martin closed these remarks by saying: “But he did seem high.”

There was a similarly brief re-cross by the defence, in which it was once again emphasised how readily Martin had rejected a counterfeit bill offered by Floyd’s friend, but then reluctantly accepted an equally obvious fake from Floyd himself.

Up next was state’s witness Richard Belfrey, a 45-year-old black male, as he didn’t add much. Indeed, the defence did not even bother to cross-examine him.

In brief, Belfrey and his fiancé had driven to Cup Food to buy food. He drove a red SUV and initially pulled up behind Floyd’s black Mercedes at the kerb outside China Wok in time to observe Floyd’s interaction there with Officers King and Lane.  During this time his fiancé went into Cup Food to pick up their meal. Belfrey took the opportunity while parked behind Floyd’s Mercedes to make a short video recording.  When he heard sirens he grew concerned about ending up trapped in that spot, and decided to move his vehicle.

Belfrey drove across the street, parked at the opposite kerb by Cup Foods, where his fiancé, who had gone inside Cup Foods to pick up their meal, rejoined him, and video recorded a bit more, this time of Floyd, now handcuffed, being walked across the street to the squad car outside Cup Foods.  Shortly after this, Belfrey left the scene.

Neither Belfrey’s two short videos nor his personal observations added anything to the narrative of the case that isn’t better noted from other sources of evidence. There was no cross examination.

Up next was state’s witness Charles McMillian, a 61-year-old black male who provided very emotional testimony about the events of that day, at one point breaking down in sobbing and tears, to the point that Judge Cahill recessed the court for a short time, to allow him to recover.

McMillian’s testimony as a bystander witness was a bit different than that of the other bystanders, because he was on the scene well before the rest of the crowd began to gather.  He is seen in videos as standing in the street, but a good 10 to 20 feet (varies over time) from the squad car, and never attempts to approach the officers in any aggressive way whatever.

McMillian can be heard in the various videos as the voice urging Floyd to comply, not resist, to get in the squad car, and to make things easy for himself.  When asked his motivation for this, McMillian said he’d had his own interactions with police, and had learned that once the cuffs were on it was best to just accept that you were going to be arrested, and to stop resisting.

Unlike many of the prior bystander witnesses, McMillian gave no sense that he was attempting to slant his testimony in a manner to favour the prosecution. Certainly, his perception was that Floyd had been badly treated by the police, and perhaps even that the police were responsible for Floyd’s death, but he appeared to be telling the whole truth as he believed it.

Nevertheless, there were several moments during McMillian’s testimony that very much favored the officers, despite the emotional scene of McMillian’s breaking down in tears on the stand.

First, at one point, the prosecution is rolling body camera footage showing the officers moving towards Floyd laying on the ground, as they position themselves to do a full-body restraint, and Floyd deliberately kicks out at the officers with both legs. It was this conduct that led to the officers sending Thau to look for ankle hobbles, and why they were so determined to restrain Floyd’s legs from that point forward.

Second, while being questioned by Prosecutor Eldridge, McMillian was asked how Floyd appeared to him while being restrained, with Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck. I expect Eldridge was hoping for a reply along the lines of “he looked like he was being killed.”

Instead, what Eldridge got was McMillian stating that Floyd had foam running out of his mouth. A perhaps stunned Eldridge responded with, “Foam in his mouth?” and McMillian immediately affirmed, “Yes, foam in and out of his mouth.”

Foaming in the lungs, and by extension out the mouth, is, of course, a notable indication of pathological fentanyl overdose. This would obviously reinforce the likely defence narrative that Floyd was killed not by Chauvin’s knee but by the three-fold fatal dose of meth/fentanyl speedball drug cocktail he rapidly ingested to avoid its discovery by the police.

That was about all the substantive value contained in McMillians’ testimony on direct.

When it was time for Nelson to conduct cross, he briefly consulted with Chauvin, then announced he had no questions.

Next witness was Jeff Rugel, Lieutenant, Minneapolis Police Department. He was called for foundational purposes.

After Rugel the jury was dismissed for the day, but there was some additional court business. In particular, the defence wanted to admit into evidence fuller-length versions of the body camera and city surveillance camera footage than the state had offered into evidence.

Further, the defense wanted that video introduced in such a manner that it could be manipulated by the MPDs own software systems, which allowed for a zoom and pan ability not equaled in the versions the state had offered.

Nelson offered his version of the videos to Cahill for review.  The state had no objection to the video on foundational grounds.

(Summary acknowledgment Attorney Andrew Branca)


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