Forensic Scientists Weigh in On Evidence Found in Police Squad Car, George Floyd’s Car
The final part of Wednesday’s testimony in the Derek Chauvin murder trial focused on the finding of forensic scientists who participated in the investigation of the criminal case.
Much of what prosecutors and the defense chose to ask witnesses about were the pills linked to George Floyd that were found in the squad car where officers tried to place him when he was arrested last May.
Prosecutors called to the stand McKenzie Anderson, who is a crime scene leader with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. She testified that no evidence was collected from the scene in Minneapolis where the incident took place. Both Floyd’s vehicle and the squad car were towed to the BCA’s headquarters for processing. She performed that task on May 27, two days after Floyd’s death and took photos of the interior and exterior of the vehicles.
After being shown a series of those photos, she said that there may have been blood and possibly some counterfeit money.
But a later processing of Floyd’s car in December 2020 turned up suboxone pills, which are used to treat people with opioid addictions. She also mentioned a pill found on the floor of the police squad car, but she said that at the time it wasn’t collected because she did not know of any links to drugs.
“I was given specific things to look for,” Anderson said. “I was told to collect … pills in the center console, gum if there was any gum present, money.”
In January 2021, upon another examination of the squad car, requested by the defense, more materials that could have been pills were found in its back seat. One of them was tested and Floyd’s saliva was found on it. Blood was also found in the squad car that matched Floyd’s DNA.
The defense chose not to cross examine Anderson.
More brief testimony from prosecution witnesses followed, first with Brehna Giles a forensic scientist with the Minnesota BCA. She testified to Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Matthew Frank that two pills found in the console of Floyd’s vehicle had markings indicating they contained the drugs oxycodone and acetaminophen. But when tested, they turned out to contain methamphetamine and fentanyl. Street drugs, she said can be stamped with pharmaceutical marks to make them seem legal.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson cross examined Giles and she said there were some hints of other chemicals found in pills discovered in the squad car, but couldn’t say whether or not they contained fentanyl. “I can't speak to if they were controlled or uncontrolled substances,” she said.
Finally, the prosecution questioned forensic chemist Susan Neith, of NMS Labs in Pennsylvania. She talked about the two pills found in the console of Floyd’s car and the pills found in the squad car. Testing, Neith said, revealed small amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine in each of the items.
Nelson did not cross examine and Judge Peter Cahill dismissed the court for the day.
Lead Minnesota Investigator Notes Length of Time Chauvin Kept George Floyd Pinned
The prosecution in the Derek Chauvin trial began to turn toward the investigators who analyzed the evidence in relation to the death of George Floyd and it came down to the specific details within a 10 second period of the arrest.
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Senior Special Agent James Ryerson, who was the lead investigator in the criminal case took the stand Wednesday to answer questions about the probe. At first he described what his responsibility was as far as collecting evidence, surveying the scene, questioning witnesses and even a criminal examination of Chauvin.
But much of the testimony came down to video recording composites from witness Darnella Frazier, who previously testified and body camera footage from officer J. Alexander Keung, who was one of the three other officers responding to the scene.
Reyerson testified under questioning from Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Matthew Frank that Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck long after he had stopped talking and moving.
Using a timestamp from the body camera footage, Reyerson agreed that Chauvin pinned Floyd with his knee at 8:19 p.m., on May 25, 2020. Floyd stopped making any sound at about 8:24 p.m., and at 8:25 he stopped moving. He was still under Chauvin’s knee more than two minutes later when paramedics got to the scene.
Reyerson agreed when Frank asked him if it appeared that Chauvin was using his weight to hold Floyd down on the ground where he was lying in a prone position.
On cross examination, defense attorney Eric Nelson continued to press the concept that Chauvin’s knee was not on Floyd’s neck the whole time.
“Do you observe Mr. Chauvin's right knee to be compressing Mr. Floyd's left arm?” Nelson asked.
“Clarification, I think from what I see here it was Mr. Chauvin's shin ... and the knee was on the back,” Reyerson replied, trying to make clear that Chauvin’s left knee remained on Floyd’s neck.
Later in questioning Nelson went into possible drug use by Floyd. He asked Reyerson if it appeared on the video that Floyd said “I ate too many drugs,” to which he agreed. But on redirect, Frank asked him about it again and Reyerson admitted he couldn’t clearly hear what Floyd was saying prior to that moment.
When Franks played the clip again, Reyerson says, "I believe Mr. Floyd was saying, 'I ain't do no drugs.' "
LAPD Expert Witness Believes Derek Chauvin Was Causing George Floyd To Experience Unnecessary Pain In Arrest
April 7, 2020
Expert witness testimony continued Wednesday in the Derek Chauvin trial with Los Angeles police Sgt. Jody Stiger telling jurors that the former Minneapolis policeman seemed to be inflicting pain on George Floyd while he was handcuffed and in a prone position on the ground when he was arrested last May 25.
Body camera worn by another officer at the scene, J. Alexander Keung, showed Chauvin’s right hand, which “appeared to use a pain compliance on Mr. Floyd's hand," he said.
Special prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked Stiger, who is a paid consultant for the prosecution, if as an officer arresting a suspect “you would inflict pain for the purpose of having the subject obey your commands?"
“Yes,” Stiger answered.
"What if there's no opportunity for compliance?" Schleicher asked.
"At that point, it's just pain," said Stiger.
He also said that Chauvin was in a position to cause Floyd to asphyxiate and that it was a part of the use of force being applied, but also put Floyd’s life in jeopardy.
The pressure that was being caused by the body weight would cause positional asphyxia which could cause death," said Stiger.
Under cross examination, Stiger admitted to defense attorney Eric Nelson that he had not served as an expert witness on use of force prior to this tria, although he has conducted more than 2,500 use-of-force reviews, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He also acknowledged the risk of an officer answering any call and not knowing what will be encountered.
"Once we put that uniform on and respond to a call, we know there's a risk factor, we just don't know the severity of the call," Stiger said.
In his line of questioning, Nelson went on to ask about Floyd repeatedly saying to officers that he couldn’t breathe, while simultaneously "he was actively resisting being put in the back of the squad car," the attorney noted.
“Have you ever had someone attempt to bargain with you to avoid being arrested?” asked Nelson.
“Yes,” Stiger said.
“Have you ever had a person feign a physical ailment?”
Nelson also asked about an agitated crowd at the scene, possibly giving reason for concern to the responding officers, a theme he has invoked with other witnesses, asking if “that could be perceived as a “threat.” But Stiger said that officers are trained against verbal taunts as a reason for excessive force.
Prosecution Consultant Calls Chauvin Use of Force ‘Excessive’
The seventh day of testimony in the Derek Chauvin trial ended with the expert testimony of Los Angeles police Sgt. Jody Stiger, who agreed that excessive force was used when George Floyd was arrested just prior to his death.
Stiger, a paid consultant, trained in use-of-force tactics and who helped write some of the LAPD policy on the topic, said that Chauvin went beyond what was necessary to restrain Floyd.
“My opinion is that the force was excessive,” said Stiger, who reviewed the case and the evidence in it before coming to Minneapolis to testify. He noted that Floyd did seem to be resisting arrest, so officers were justified in using force to get him to comply. “However once he was placed in the prone position on the ground, he slowly ceased his resistance and at that point the officers...should have slowed down or stopped their force as well."
Judge Peter Cahill ended testimony for the day early and said that Stiger would be expected back to continue his testimony Wednesday morning (April 7).
Minneapolis PD Use-of-Force Trainer Testifies Only The Necessary Amount of Restraining Hold Should Be Used on Suspects
Prosecutors have called to the witness stand the first use-of-force expert from the Minneapolis police in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. Minneapolis PD Lt. Johnny Mercil, served in several MPD units before he was promoted to lieutenant and placed in charge of the department’s use-of-force training.
In questioning from special prosecutor Steve Schleicher, Mercil testified, explaining conscious and unconscious neck restraint. The first is moderate pressure, the second is more extreme, to make a suspect lose consciousness so an officer can gain control. But also said the MPD does not train neck restraint by using the legs and as far as he knows, never has.
"The minimum amount of force that you need to accomplish the objective of arresting and detaining somebody is what you should use,” Mercil explained.
Mercil, who did not train Chauvin, was shown a photo of the former officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck Schleicher asks, "If the subject was under control and handcuffed, would this be authorized?" To which he replied "I would say no."
But the lengthy testimony included cross examination in which the defense continued to ply the theory that Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck was not the lethal force the prosecution is portraying and that an angry crowd may have been a factor in Chauvin holding that position.
In a photo that showed Chauvin restraining Floyd on the ground, defense attorney Eric Nelson asked Mercil, who has studied Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, about use of prone control techniques to gain control of a suspect in a particular circumstance. He views the image and says Chauvin could have employed the use of his body weight to subdue Floyd, but he has trained officers to stay off of the neck.
Officers, he said, are told to “be mindful of the neck area and look for the shoulder."
Nelson then showed another photo from the perspective of former policeman Thomas Lane’s body camera, pointing out that Chauvin’s knee appeared to be on Floyd’s shoulder blade rather than his neck. Mercil said he couldn’t quite tell.
“Does this appear to be a neck restraint?” Nelson asked. “No, sir,” Mercil said.
In a redirect, following Nelson’s questioning, Schleicher asks Mercil if the kneeling across a suspect’s back is meant to end at a certain point, to which he agreed and that it is not appropriate to hold someone in that position until they no longer had a pulse.
The testimony continued with Schleicher and Nelson volleying with questions about the impact bystanders had on the arrest.
“If we’re talking about the continuation of use-of-force and the involvement of onlookers,” Nelson asked, “the words they use matter, correct?”
“Yes, sir, they do,” Mercil answered.
“If they’re cheering on and saying ‘good job, officer’ that’s one consideration,” Nelson asked.
“But if they’re saying ‘I’d slap the f--- out of you,’ or ‘you’re a p-----,’ or ‘you’re a chump,’ would that reasonably tend to rise alarm in a police officer?
“Yes sir.” Nelson then concluded his questioning.
On a final redirect, Schleicher asked a single question: “And if they’re saying ‘get off him, you’re killing him,’ should the officer also take that into account and consider whether they’re actions need to be reassessed?”
“Potentially, sir. Yes,” said Mercil.
George Floyd’s Friend Appears At Hearing On Allowing His Testimony in Chauvin Trial
Morries Hall, the friend of George Floyd who was a passenger in his vehicle when he was arrested by Minneapolis police, appeared in a virtual court hearing Tuesday, but it hasn’t been determined if he will be compelled to testify in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin.
Hall is in jail on charges not related to Floyd, having been arrested in Texas after fleeing Minneapolis shortly after Floyd’s death and extradited back. He has said that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and declined to testify.
But prosecutors who want to use his testimony are hoping that Hall could be granted immunity so that any testimony he gives would not incriminate him. A number of questions he could be asked might do that if he were not immune from prosecution, including queries regarding prior testimony of Floyd’s girlfriend Courteney Ross that Hall gave Floyd drugs a month before he died; that Hall gave Floyd two pills before police approached him and he fell asleep, which could potentially make him a party to third degree murder.
However, Judge Peter Cahill decided there were some questions that Hall could be asked about the incident that would not incriminate him. “There is really a small narrow topic that might be permissible," he said during the hearing. No jurors were present.
RELATED: George Floyd's Close Friend Morries Hall Will Not Wear Prison Jumpsuit During Trial Hearing
After hearing from Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Matthew Franks, defense attorney Eric Nelson and Hall’s public defender Adrienne Cousins, the Judge asked Nelson to write out the questions he would ask him.
His decision on allowing Hall’s testimony is expected in another hearing in the coming days of the trial.
Testimony was scheduled to continue, including more from Minneapolis police personnel beginning Tuesday morning.
Chauvin Defense Pushes Back Against Minneapolis PD Chief On Use of Force Tactics
The defense lawyer for former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin tried to point out places where certain uses of force would be necessary when cross examining Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.
"Would you agree that the use of force is not an attractive notion?" attorney Eric Nelson asked.
"I would say the use of force is something that most officers would rather not use," Arradondo replied.
"Sometimes an officer has to command the presence? They have to take control of the situation?" Nelson asked, to which Arradondo agreed.
Nelson went on to ask Arradondo about using the neck restraint maneuver that Chauvin used on George Floyd. He admitted that it was within Minneapolis police policy to use it, but clarified further: “It is contrary to our training to indefinitely place your knee on a prone handcuffed individual for an indefinite period of time.”
Chauvin pinned Floyd by the neck for nearly nine minutes.
The chief was on the witness stand for nearly four hours on Monday (April 5). He answered lengthy questions from prosecutors in which he criticized Chauvin’s tactics and pointed out that what he did was a breach of reasonable boundaries when it comes to arresting a non-resisting suspect.
Minneapolis PD Chief Makes Clear His View Of Derek Chauvin’s Tactics
The head of the Minneapolis police force testified that former officer Derek Chauvin violated department policy and went beyond his training when he placed his knee on the neck of George Floyd last May, which led to his death.
Chief Medaria Arradondo, who fired Chauvin along with the three other officers responding at the time, said that de-escalation tactics were not followed as directed and the amont of force used was not necessary to subdue Floyd when officers restrained him after arresting him under suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.
"Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting — and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that — that should have stopped," Arradondo said. "There's an initial reasonableness of trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds. "But once there was no longer any resistance, and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way shape or form is anything that is by policy, part of our training and is certainly not part of our ethics or values."
The testimony came after lengthy questioning from prosecutors to spell out to jurors exactly what MPD policy is and how it should be applied.
Arradondo, who has been in the role for three years and also testified against former Minneapolis officer Momamed Noor, who was convicted in the 2017 shooting death of Justine Damond, blasted Chauvin’s use of the kneeling maneuver not long after it happened. He told special prosecutor Steve Schleicher that how such tactics are applied is what law enforcement is graded on.
"It is my firm belief that the one singular incident we will be judged forever on will be our use of force,” said Arradondo. “While it is absolutely imperative that our officers go home at the end of their shift, we want to make sure our community members do too."
Judge Peter Cahill ordered a break to prepare for defense cross examination after the chief’s testimony.
ER Doctor Treating George Floyd Says His Heart Had Stopped, Likely From Asphyxia
April 5, 2020
George Floyd went into a cardiac arrest which the emergency room doctor felt he had no means of treating, so he was pronounced dead, the physician treating him testified on Monday (April 5).
The second week of witness testimony began with prosecution questioning of Dr. Bradford Langenfeld, who was working the ER at Hennepin County Medical Center on May 25, 2020, and received Floyd for care. He told special prosecutor Jerry Blackwell that it was unlikely that Floyd died of a drug overdose, despite drugs being found in his system during an autopsy.
He said that the paramedics told him that he had been arrested, but did not say that he had overdosed or had a heart attack, nor that he got CPR from the arresting officers or bystanders.
When asked what moved Floyd into cardiac arrest, oxygen deficiency, or asphyxia, Langenfeld said: “At the time, based on the information I had, it was one more likely than the other possibilities.”
An independent autopsy found that George Floyd died of “asphyxiation from sustained pressure” to his neck, which was applied when former officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on it.
“Exited delirium,” on the other hand, Langenfeld said, was not something that was a determining factor in the cardiac arrest.
After the first hour of testimony, Judge Peter Cahill dismissed the jury for the morning break. Defense cross examination is expected to begin when court is called back into session.