Day seven of the Derek Chauvin murder trial had an odd beginning, as Adrienne Cousins, the lawyer for George Floyd’s friend Morries Hall was in court representing her client. She told the judge that she does not intend to let her client testify if it means he may incriminate himself. Hall was in the car with Floyd the day of his fatal arrest on May 25, 2020.
Excited delirium, the controversial and often refuted medical condition made its way into the courtroom as well,. The day ended with a use of force expert Sgt. Jody Stiger from the Los Angeles police department. It was a bit of strange irony since 30 years ago, the department was on trial for use of force against Rodney King.
Higher-ups from the Minneapolis Police Department took the stand as the distancing of Minneapolis police from Chauvin continued.
Sgt. Ker Yan, Minneapolis, police crisis intervention training coordinator, took the stand and reaffirmed the prosecution’s line of reasoning that Chauvin was trained properly but broke protocol in the fatal arrest of Floyd.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson in cross-examination continued to push the idea that the bystanders on the scene kept his client from protecting Floyd, though at no time does the body camera footage appear to show Chauvin showing concern about Floyd’s health or condition while lying prone on the ground.
Nelson asked Yang if an officer is trained to view the totality of the circumstances. He asked if officers have to consider how to handle bystanders, and other interactions with the suspect while being aware that medical help is on the way. And he asked if creating time and distance is an important part of de-escalation. Yang answered them all in the affirmative.
During redirect, prosecutor Steve Schleicher countered the defense by asking if, in critical response, there’s a difference deciding between a big thing versus a small thing and Yang answered yes. The prosecutor asked if someone needing medical attention was a big or small thing. Yang answered “a big thing.” He then asked if a crowd taking video was a small or big thing, he answered, “a small thing.”
Schleicher asked Lt. Johnny Mercil, the MPD use of force trainer who trained Chauvin, if during officer restraint of a suspect and use of force, does the restraint have to be reasonable? And Mercil answered yes.
The prosecution seemed to score points when Mercil told Schleicher that a person who is handcuffed should be put in a recovery position because of the possibility of positional asphyxia. “The sooner the better,” said Mercil because “when you further restrict their ability to move it can further restrain their ability to breathe.”
Lt. Mercil, though called by the prosecution, seemed to give the defense a lot of leeway in cross-examination. When shown a still of a video with Chauvin’s knee still resting on Floyd’s neck, Nelson got Mercil to agree that his knee was on his back. Mercil also admitted that the use of the knee on the neck is not unauthorized.
Nelson, apparently with his eye still on the idea that Floyd was a threat while lying unconscious on the ground, asked if a person who was once aggressive but lost consciousness, can suddenly regain consciousness and become more aggressive. Mercil said yes. But during redirect, the prosecution asked specifically asked Mercil if he’d ever witnessed someone regain consciousness and become more aggressive after losing their pulse. Mercil said no.
In the defense cross-examination, Nelson asked MPD medical support coordinator officer Nicole Mackenzie about whether fentanyl use was on the rise and she agreed that it was. And he asked about whether a hostile crowd could impact medical care and she said it could. She suggested that if the crowd was a problem the patient should be moved.
For reasons that remain unclear, the prosecution allowed Mackenzie to introduce the term “excited delirium.”
She admitted that it is taught by MPD but it is frowned on by some in the medical field because its real-life application proves to be quite dangerous. It has been used in the past to justify police use of excessive force that has ended in the deaths of people in police custody.
Incidentally “excited delirium” is not listed in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
A study published on excited delirium last year discovered that the “syndrome” was most often fatal in the presence of aggressive forms of police restraint, including manhandling and hog- or hobble-ties. The study found that “excited delirium is not a unique cause of death in the absence of restraint.” The study concluded that “the association between stimulant use and death is likely secondary to the use of aggressive police maneuvers.”
Asked to give his opinion on the force Chauvin used on George Floyd. LAPD Sgt. Stiger said, “My opinion was that the force was excessive.” His testimony will continue on Wednesday.