Watching the trial from within the confines of the courtroom usually adds to the drama, but the proceedings on Wednesday felt scripted and extremely sanitized.
However, the defense for Derek Chauvin, charged with murdering George Floyd, livened things up by putting words in Floyd’s mouth and claiming that Floyd complaining that he couldn’t breathe was an act of resistance. No, I am not making it up. You can’t make that up.
If that wasn’t colorful enough, defense counsel Eric Nelson added a flurry of f-bombs along with the p-word in another attempt to paint bystanders begging Chauvin to stop killing Floyd, as a menacing, threatening mob.
On the other hand, the prosecution appeared to be attempting to preempt the defense’s focus on Floyd’s drug use by confirming that drugs were in the police car and the Mercedes SUV, as they paraded three BCA experts to the stand.
LAPD Sgt. Jody Stiger continued his testimony from the Tuesday, testifying in the morning that once Floyd was in the prone position and it became apparent that he was in pain and was clearly in custody, the force should have ceased. “They should have slowed down or stopped their force,” said Stiger.
Stiger testified that in his opinion, “No force should have been used once he was in that position.” He also added that “he was in the prone position. He was handcuffed. He was not attempting to resist. He was not attempting to assault the officers, kick, punch or anything of that nature.”
Yet again, proving that the defense has no line it will not cross, Nelson said to Stiger, “In this particular case, when Mr. Floyd was initially saying that he couldn’t breathe, he was actively resisting arrest initially when he was in the back seat of the vehicle, right?”
Later in his cross-examination of Stiger, Nelson showed body camera footage of Floyd after initially being brought to the ground by the officers. Nelson claimed that Floyd said, “I ate too many drugs.” Nelson asked the L.A. sergeant if that’s what he heard and Stiger disagreed.
But it almost worked on Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) special agent James Ryerson who initially agreed with Nelson. But during re-direct, when the tape was played again by the prosecutor Matthew Frank, he agreed that Floyd actually said, “I ain’t do no drugs.”
During Nelson’s cross-examination of Stiger, while trying to make his point about his client being threatened, he asked if the crowd is “calling you names and saying you are f-ing p–y, that can be perceived as a threat?” He used the phrase again it seemed for effect and used the f-word again and Stiger agreed that folks shouting and yelling expletives could be seen as a threat even a deadly threat.
The prosecution seemed to painfully stretch out the testimonies of the BCA experts with questions about their background and exactly how and when the evidence was gathered, which threatened to lose the focus of the jury.
BCA experts testified that they found eight drops of Floyd’s blood in the squad car. They also testified that drugs were found in the squad car and the Mercedes SUV that Floyd was driving contained fentanyl and meth.
It was not clear why the prosecution introduced the fact that drugs were in the car. But the prosecution asked the BCA crime scene investigator McKenzie Anderson several times about whether the squad car and the Mercedes had been secured while in their possession as if to raise questions about why the defense did not request a thorough search of the squad car or Mercedes until December.
Anderson admitted on the stand that she didn’t collect the pills on her initial investigation in May because she said, “At the time, I didn’t give it any forensic significance.”
Defense counsel hacked away at the interpretation of Graham vs. Connor, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that gives police an enormous amount of leeway and discretion when deciding to use force. The ruling reinforced what is known as the “reasonableness standard.”
In a normal courtroom, there would be displays of emotions and an occasional groan or moan or sigh, but this one is noticeably quiet. The sanitized atmosphere likely favors the defendant. Just as the continued showing of Floyd being tortured has the potential risk of making folks immune to it.
For folks watching at home, this may have been the most uneventful day of trial, as the defense continues to peck away at the idea of what standards are acceptable from a reasonable police officer.
The prosecution is expected to rest their case by Tuesday, pivoting to medical witnesses to establish causation of death to close.