UPDATE (4:50 p.m.): The state’s final two witnesses testified about the substance of the pills found in the cars at the scene of George Floyd’s fatal arrest.
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension forensic scientist Breahna Giles was first on the stand. In addition to the pills, she tested a glass pipe found at the scene. It was found to contain THC, but “there was no visible plant material that was able to be identified as marijuana.”
Giles testified that pharmaceutical markings on the pills indicated they contained oxycodone and acetaminophen. Further testing on two pills found in Floyd’s vehicle revealed they contained methamphetamine and fentanyl.
Additional items from the squad car were tested and contained methamphetamine.
During cross examination, Nelson asked about the weights of the different items tested. He also questioned Giles about other substances potentially found in the squad car, specifically fentanyl.
“I can’t confirm,” Giles said.
“You can’t say it was or wasn’t fentanyl?” Nelson asked. Giles said yes.
The final witness of the day was forensic chemist Susan Neith, who works for a lab in Pennsylvania and tested three pills she received from the BCA in this case.
She tested the pills for methamphetamine and fentanyl, finding a fentanyl concentration of less than 1% in each of them. She testified that that amount is common in her quantitative analysis of street fentanyl.
She testified that the levels of methamphetamine found were low compared to other quantitative analysis she’s done of street drugs.
Court is in recess until Thursday morning.
UPDATE (4 p.m.): Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension forensic scientist McKenzie Anderson has spent much of her time on the witness stand explaining how she processed the two vehicles taken from the scene at East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.
First, though, prosecutor Matthew Frank briefly asked her about her arrival at the scene on May 25, 2020.
Anderson joined the BCA’s crime scene team in 2014 and became a team leader in 2016.
She said she arrived at the scene around 1:15 a.m. May 26 and remained there for about two hours, during which time she was made aware of and watched part of the bystander video of George Floyd’s arrest.
The state then moved its questioning to the vehicles, focusing mainly on pills that were found in the back of squad car #320 during a second search but missed during initial processing.
“I was given specific things to look for,” Anderson said of the second search. “I was told to collect … pills in the center console, gum if there was any gum present, money.”
Pills found in the other vehicle searched, the vehicle Floyd was in prior to his arrest and subsequent death, were identified as suboxone, which Anderson described as “a prescription medication used for adults with an opioid addiction.”
One of the pills found in the squad car was initially covered by another piece of evidence, a shoe. Anderson said she did notice the white object during initial processing but didn’t give it any “forensic significance” at the time.
Pills found in the squad car were tested and found to contain both Floyd’s saliva and DNA. Blood stains in the back of the squad car also contained Floyd’s DNA.
UPDATE (2:50 p.m.): Upon being recalled to the stand, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension senior special agent James Reyerson reconsidered his interpretation of something George Floyd was heard saying on body camera footage.
When defense attorney Eric Nelson earlier asked Reyerson if it appeared Floyd was saying, “I ate too many drugs,” Reyerson said yes.
The state played the lead-up to the clip Reyerson previously watched, in which the officers on scene can be heard mentioning drugs. Prosecutor Matthew Frank then asked Reyerson what he now thinks Floyd was saying.
“I believe Mr. Floyd was saying, ‘I ain’t do no drugs,'” Reyerson said.
The state’s next witness, McKenzie Anderson, is now on the stand. She is a forensic scientist with the Minnesota BCA.
UPDATE (2:20 p.m.): Afternoon testimony continued with prosecutor Matthew Frank questioning James Reyerson, a senior special agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Frank first questioned Reyerson about evidence found at the scene and how it was processed. Two $20 bills and a pipe were sent away for testing. Squad car #320 and George Floyd’s vehicle were towed to a secure lot before processing.
Some of Frank’s questioning focused on where and how the squad car was stored in the time between May 25, 2020, its initial processing and the re-processing that occurred months later after the defense searched the car and found what they called a pill.
“[The defense] drew that to your attention?” Frank asked.
“Yes, sir,” Reyerson said.
Later, during cross examination, defense attorney Eric Nelson asked Reyerson to clarify that he wasn’t suggesting the defense placed the pill in the squad car.
“No, sir, I’m not suggesting that,” Reyerson said. He noted that he did not notice the pill while reviewing 750+ photos of the initial search of the squad car.
Frank also played surveillance and body camera footage of Floyd’s arrest for Reyerson and the jury, noting the timestamps of when Floyd stopped verbalizing, when he stopped moving and when paramedics arrived.
During cross examination, Nelson largely focused on the scope of the BCA investigation, noting about 50 BCA agents and 25 or 26 FBI agents worked on this case.
Nelson asked Reyerson to confirm that this investigation was “unusual” because it occurred simultaneously with a court process, which he did.
After showing Reyerson a brief clip of body camera footage where the officers were restraining Floyd on the ground, Nelson asked about what Floyd was saying in the video.
“Did it appear that Mr. Floyd said, ‘I ate too many drugs’?” Nelson said.
“Yes, it did,” Reyerson said.
On redirect, Frank asked Reyerson if this was the first time he performed such an assessment on that particular clip, to which Reyerson said yes. Frank also noted that the clip shown to Reyerson did not include conversation from the officers beforehand.
UPDATE (12:08 p.m.): The state calls James Reyerson, a senior special agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, to testify.
Reyerson is part of a newly-formed unit that investigates use of force cases. He was assigned to investigate the death of George Floyd on May 25, becoming the first investigator to look into the incident.
Reyerson testified that he took a photo of Derek Chauvin at Minneapolis City Hall at the start of the investigation. He said the former officer weighed about 145 pounds at the time, with his gear adding another 30-40 pounds.
Reyerson said he responded to 38th and Chicago later that night, between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. When he arrived, the BCA crime scene team was already there.
Following the start of his direct questioning, the court took a lunch break.
WATCH: BCA Special Agent James Reyerson took a picture of Derek Chauvin on the night of May 25, 2020 at Minneapolis City Hall. He described the ex-officer’s weight, his equipment and the weight of that equipment. Reyerson was the first investigator to look into the incident. pic.twitter.com/Pp1tKs8Muw
— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) April 7, 2021
UPDATE (12 p.m.): The testimony of Jody Stiger, the first paid expert brought by the state, has ended. Stiger is a use-of-force expert from the Los Angeles Police Department.
While under cross examination by Eric Nelson, the lawyer for Derek Chauvin, Stiger reviewed images of George Floyd’s arrest on May 25. Stiger agreed with Nelson that sometimes images don’t capture the full dynamic of what happened in a given situation.
Nelson further questioned Stiger about the placement of Chauvin’s knee and whether or not it was, at times, placed between Floyd’s shoulder blades, not on his neck. After reviewing certain photos, Stiger agreed that Chauvin’s knee appeared to shift between Floyd’s back and the base of his neck.
On redirect, prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked Stiger that if pressure on the neck or body increases the threat of positional asphyxia. Stiger said that any pressure on the body increases the risk of positional asphyxia.
Following Stiger’s testimony Tuesday that Chauvin used “excessive” force against Floyd, Schleicher asked Stiger if, in his professional opinion, the force applied by the former officer was objectively reasonable or not objectively reasonable. “It was not objectively reasonable,” Stiger said.
Schleicher also questioned Stiger on his comments concerning the “Awful But Lawful” training brought up earlier during cross examination. “If it’s not objectively reasonable and it’s not lawful, then it’s just awful?,” Schleicher asked.
“Correct,” Stiger answered.
WATCH: State asks LAPD use-of-force expert Sgt. Jody Stiger to clarify the “awful but lawful” training for policing. #DerekChauvinTrial
“But if it’s not objectively reasonable and it’s not lawful, then it’s just awful.” – State
“Correct.” – Stiger pic.twitter.com/X7mc8ZJtCw
— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) April 7, 2021
UPDATE (10:46 a.m.): Eric Nelson, the defense attorney for Derek Chauvin, began cross examining Jody Stiger, the paid use-of-force expert brought by the state.
Nelson started his line of questioning by asking if Stiger had ever testified as a use-of-force expert in state or federal court. Stiger said that he hadn’t. However, he said that he had reviewed hundreds of use-of-force cases for the Los Angeles Police Department, although they were not concerning deadly use of force.
Nelson questioned Stiger about the reasonableness of the use of force in certain situations and the details of the call that led Chauvin to encounter George Floyd on May 25. When Nelson asked if Floyd was actively resisting arrest when Chauvin arrived at the scene, Stiger agreed. Stiger then admitted that Chauvin would have been justified in using a stun gun on Floyd in that instance.
When trying to highlight how chaotic scenes can be, Nelson played video from former officer J. Alexander Keung’s body-worn camera showing Floyd in the prone position during the arrest, speaking to officers. Nelson asked Stiger if he could hear Floyd telling officers that he “ate too many drugs.” Stiger said he couldn’t make it out, even though Nelson played the video twice.
Nelson confirmed that Stiger participates in a training program called “Awful But Lawful.”
“The general concept is that sometimes the use of force, it looks really bad, right?” Nelson said.
“Sometimes it may be caught on video, and it looks bad, right? But it’s still lawful.”
“Yes,” Stiger said, “based on the department’s policies and based on that state’s laws.”
WATCH: In defense cross examination of LAPD use-of-force expert Sgt. Jody Stiger, attorney Eric Nelson asks Stiger about “awful but lawful” training and says an incident may be caught on video and look awful but it’s still lawful.
— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) April 7, 2021
UPDATE (9:35 a.m.): Prosecutor Steve Schleicher questioned Sgt. Jody Stiger, a use-of-force expert from the Los Angeles Police Department. Stiger was the first paid expert called by the state. On Tuesday, he called Derek Chauvin’s use of force against Floyd “excessive.”
On Wednesday, Stiger testified that Chauvin’s knee restraint against George Floyd on May 25 lasted 9 minutes and 29 seconds. He noted that Chauvin’s left knee was on Floyd’s neck and his right knee was on Floyd’s back for the duration of the restraint. Stiger added that because Chauvin’s feet were spread on the ground, most of his body weight was pressed down on his knees.
Stiger told the court that it’s been long known to law enforcement that restraint in the prone position carries the danger of positional asphyxia. Stiger noted that positional asphyxia is possible even without added body weight.
Stiger’s testimony was contrary to Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use-of-force trainer for the Minneapolis Police Department, who testified Tuesday during cross examination that Chauvin’s left knee was placed, at least for a time, between Floyd’s shoulder blades. Such a position was shown in court to be similar to one Minneapolis police are trained on, specifically for handcuffing people in the prone position.
Stiger also noted that he saw Chauvin use pain compliance techniques on Floyd’s hands while he was lying prone. Prosecutor asked what the point of using pain compliance techniques if someone has no opportunity to comply.
“At that point,” Stiger said, “it’s just pain.”
WATCH: LAPD use-of-force expert Sgt. Jody Stiger describes the positioning of Derek Chauvin’s knees during the “restraint period” of George Floyd.
— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) April 7, 2021
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, is set to continue Wednesday with more testimony from Sgt. Jody Stiger, a use-of-force expert from the Los Angeles Police Department.
The eighth day of testimony is scheduled to resume around 9:15 a.m. Stiger, a paid expert for the defense who has reviewed all the body-worn camera footage in the case, is expected to take the stand again and be cross examined by Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney.
On Tuesday, Stiger testified that while Chauvin and the other former officers were justified in using force against Floyd on May 25, Chauvin’s pinning Floyd down for nearly 10 minutes while he was lying prone and handcuffed was “excessive.” He said their use of force should have changed once Floyd was on the ground and no longer resisting.
“At that point, the officers, ex-officers I should say, they should have slowed down or stopped their force as well,” Stiger said.
WCCO-TV’s continuing coverage of the trial will be streamed on CBSN Minnesota. Jason DeRusha will anchor the coverage, and criminal defense attorney Joe Tamburino, who is not affiliated with the case, will provide expert analysis.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Prosecutors have told jurors that they should believe what they saw in the widely-seen bystander video of Floyd’s arrest, in which he repeatedly told Chauvin he couldn’t breathe and begged for his mother in his final moments. Last week, the jurors heard days of emotional testimony from citizens who witnessed Floyd’s arrest, including the teenager who shot the viral video, Darnella Frazier. She told the court she started recording that evening because “it wasn’t right, he was suffering, he was in pain.”
The defense, on the other hand, is arguing that Floyd died of underlying health conditions and because he ingested pills containing methamphetamine and fentanyl just before his arrest. They say that Chauvin was doing what he was trained to do, although that’s been disputed by a number of Minneapolis police officers over the last few days of testimony, including Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.
Earlier on Tuesday, Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use-of-force trainer for the police department, testified that Chauvin did not follow police policy that requires officers to move someone out of the prone position once they stop resisting arrest. Failing to do so risks positional asphyxia. “There is the possibility and risk that some people have difficulty breathing when their handcuffs are behind their back and they’re on their stomach,” Mercil said.
However, under cross examination, Mercil testified that he never saw Chauvin use a proper choke hold against Floyd. When viewing still images of body-worn camera footage, he agreed that Chauvin’s knee appeared to be placed, at least for a time, between Floyd’s shoulder blades, with Chauvin’s shin over Floyd’s neck. Such a position was shown in court to be similar to one that Minneapolis police officers are trained on, specifically for handcuffing people who are on their stomach.
Before testimony on Tuesday, Judge Peter Cahill heard motions about whether Floyd’s friend, Morries Hall, will be called to testify in the case. Hall was with Floyd in a vehicle outside Cup Foods before he was arrested for allegedly trying to buy cigarettes with a fake $20 bill. Hall has threatened to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. In court, his public defender, Adrienne Cousins, argued that if Hall testifies, he could face charges of third-degree murder.
In response, Cahill ordered Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, to draft questions for Hall and his attorney to review this week. The judge believes Hall could testify to Floyd’s condition in the vehicle before officers arrived without incriminating himself. A decision on whether Hall will testify — or perhaps be granted immunity — could come as soon as Thursday.
Last week, Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, testified that she and Floyd would buy drugs from Hall. She said they did so as recently as a week before Floyd’s death. Ross also testified that there was another drug dealer in the vehicle with Floyd and Hall when police arrived on the scene.
So far, the trial appears to be moving along as expected, perhaps even ahead of schedule. On Tuesday, the defense says they have witnesses scheduled to appear in court early next week. That means that the prosecution is on pace to rest and finish their case by then.