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Chauvin Trial Day 11 Wrap-Up: Trial Expected to End Testimony This Week

Chauvin Trial Day 11 Wrap-Up: Trial Expected to End Testimony This Week

Judge Cahill Tells Jury to Expect Deliberations, and Sequestration, On Monday

Welcome to our ongoing coverage of the Minnesota murder trial of Derek Chauvin, over the in-custody death of George Floyd.  I am Attorney Andrew Branca for Law of Self Defense.

Today the prosecution presented three of its final witnesses, as the state closes in on the end of its case in chief.

I’ll get to those witnesses in a moment but I don’t want to bury the lede, so here it is:

At the end of court today Judge Cahill informed the jury that they should expect testimony to end this week, and that they should arrive Monday ready for deliberations to begin-which means, bring an overnight bag, because once deliberations begin, sequestration of the jury begins.

Indeed, testimony may end prior to Friday—the judge informed the jury that the only reason he’s not going to plan on closing arguments happening on Friday is right after closing they need to be sequestered, and he doesn’t want to have to send the jury into sequestration for the weekend.

The obvious implication given that the state hasn’t yet quite concluded its case in chief? That the defense case in chief is expected to be no more than three days in duration.

That’s in contrast to roughly 11 days of the state’s case in chief.

So, we’re almost at the end of this rodeo, folks. I expect daily content on this trial from Law of Self Defense through the end of this week, then Monday we’ll start our traditional VERDICT WATCH! and of course we’ll share the final verdict—or mistrial—news with all of you as soon as we get it ourselves.

With that out of the way, let’s jump into today’s witnesses.

If the headline to today’s post didn’t give it away, two of today’s witnesses were among the most annoying seen in this trial, and indeed among the most annoying I’ve ever seen anywhere.  Those were Dr. Jonathan Rich, a Cardiologist out of Chicago, and Professor Seth Stoughton, a Law Professor and purported use-of-force policy & standards expert out of North Carolina, I believe.

Now, let me state up front that “most annoying” is my own subjective perception of these two, and perhaps reasonable people—including the jury—would disagree with my assessment. That’s why we include the video of their testimony, so you can make your own call on such matters.

State Witness Dr. Jonathan Rich, Cardiologist

Dr. Rich’s testimony as a cardiologist struck me as entirely cumulative of previous testimony heard earlier in this trial—and if you don’t understand the term cumulative as a legal term of art, read our mid-day post today to get a solid grasp of that.

The general idea is that at some point the essentially identical testimony from numerous sources tends to have a biasing effect on the jury, and thus is generally discouraged by the courts. They prefer you get your best witness on whatever the issue or fact recounting is, use them, and move one. Don’t use a half-dozen (or, in this trial, more!) witnesses to effectively provide mere variations on the same testimony.

We really didn’t learn anything from the state’s paid expert witness Rich that we hadn’t heard from the other state’s paid expert witnesses—as far as the state’s paid expert witnesses are concerned, the sole cause of the death of George Floyd was the subdual neck restraint and positional asphyxia to which he was subjected by the officers involved in his arrest.

I mean, we get it.

The only real difference was that Rich presented his view of the same conclusion using the wide-eyed manner and the tone of voice of an adult reading a “I’ve got two Daddy’s” sexual orientation guidance manual to elementary school children would use.

Again, that’s arguably (unquestionably) subjective on my part. Maybe as far as the jury was concerned, he completely knocked their socks off. He certainly had the CV of a world-class cardiologist moving up in the world.

Indeed, I had the definite impression that Dr. Rich’s next “move up” was to enter the world of trial expert witness testimony—once again, in Dr. Rich we have a state expert witness who has never before been an expert witness. First time out. In a case of this high profile.

And he did it for free, at least until he actually showed up to testify in court, at which point he’s getting paid $1,200 a day. For all his prior effort (an effort other state’s expert witnesses have indicated exceeded 100 hours of work) it was free.

Again, in the context of Dr. Rich, he said what the state needed him to say:

George Floyd died from cardiopulmonary arrest caused by low oxygen levels, those were induced by the prone restraint and positional asphyxiation that he was subjected to.

Of course, we’re once again dealing with a physician making detailed clinical findings based on other people’s reports, and smartphone, body camera, and surveillance video, without ever having actually seen or examined the patient in any way.

Further, like all the previous similarly minded physicians who similarly lacked direct examination of Floyd, Rich very much presented the appearance of someone who’d watched the most awful looking part of the Floyd bystander video, drawn an immediate conclusion, and then identified an opportunity for professional advancement by working his way backwards from that conclusion to a speculative medical rationale consistent with where they once again wanted to end up.

I won’t spend much time on his direct testimony, as the quote above basically captures it.

Like some earlier state expert witnesses, Rich claimed to be able to identify on video the precise moment that Floyd went into cardiopulmonary event, right there on the street in front of Cup Foods—in contrast to other state expert witnesses, for example Dr. Baker the only physician in all of this who actually laid hands on Floyd’s body for post-mortem examination, and who testified that he believed Floyd was alive when put into the ambulance and didn’t die until he reached the hospital.

If that sounds to you like the state’s expert witnesses fostering reasonable doubt around Floyd’s manner of death, welcome to the club.

Dr. Rich also had some views of cardiovascular physiology and function that struck me as rather odd. Granted, I’m no cardiologist. Still—very odd.

For example, George Floyd’s enlarged heart, technically cardiomegalopathy driven by hypertension of the sort that ultimately leads to congestive heart failure and death, was not the sign of compromised physiology, but actually a strength—literally.  You see, that was just Floyd’s heart getting stronger, just like if you go to the gym and lift weights.

In other words, cardiomegalopathy is not a glitch, it’s a feature!

I kid you not.

Rich also participated eagerly in the prosecution’s preferred means of medical deception of the jury, which is to conflate narrowly defined medical terms of art with much broader commonplace terms for physical ailments, and then deny the presence of the narrow term to suggest denial of the broader common term.

Example: Did Floyd have a “heart attack”? Why, no, there was no sign of ischemic occlusion in the coronary arteries.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Floyd didn’t die as a result of his heart failing because it received an insufficient supply of oxygen due to causes largely independent of Chauvin’s knee, such as 90% occlusion of coronary arteries, fentanyl overdose, methamphetamine use, a lifetime of drug abuse generally, pathological hypertension, COVID, the decision to fight four officers in an effort to avoid lawful arrest.

It merely means that the precise manner of Floyd’s heart stopping was not an abruptly formed clot resulting from the rupture of atherosclerotic plaques in his coronary arteries—and Dr. Rich was happy to detail to us that no such plaque rupture was reported to have occurred.

For anyone who doesn’t understand the distinction, however—and who on the jury would?—the conflation works. It sounds as if the annoying and patronizing doctor said that Floyd’s health couldn’t have pooped the bed for reasons other than Chauvin’s knee, which was, of course, the state’s goal in calling Rich to the witness stand.

Dr. Rich also had remarkably succinct and definite notions on whether anything other than Chauvin’s knee could have killed Floyd. Fentanyl overdose. Nope. Meth? Nope. Why not? Floyd’s a drug user, probably had tolerance.

Any mention of Floyd being “clean” for a considerable period of time, until a couple of weeks prior to his death, as recounted in testimony by his co-addict lady friend, suggesting a much reduced tolerance relative to a chronic user? Nope.

Dr. Rich also happily participated in another common rhetorical sleight of hand used repeatedly by the prosecution on the issue of whether Floyd could have overdosed.  The state asks Rich if Floyd’s death had the typical appearance of someone suffering solely from a fentanyl overdose—the sleepiness, for example, and difficulty speaking clearly or responding properly to others?

Nope, answers, Dr. Rich, I saw nothing like that in all the videos I watched.

Setting aside the testimony the jury may never hear about Floyd’s passengers in his SUV being unable to awaken him to the point that they called others to come pick them up from the intersection of Chicago and 38th, the question entirely ignores the broader context of Floyd’s actual circumstances.

What’s a fentanyl overdose look like when, for example, it’s combined with meth, a powerful stimulant? When it’s combined with acute ingestion followed immediately by a 10-minute physical confrontation with four police officers?  I expect that begins to look a lot more like what we observed Floyd experiencing.

Rich also informed the jury that “I counted the minutes that Floyd was pulseless without CPR,” as part of the state’s argument that delayed care by Chauvin and the other officers is what killed Floyd.

In fact, the period of time from which the officers determine they can’t find a pulse to the arrival of the paramedics the officers know to be en route per code 3 lights and sirens is about 90 seconds, not minutes.

None of that matters, however, because the good Dr. Rich informs the jury that had Floyd not been subject to the neck compression and subdual restraint to which he’d been subject for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, he’d still be alive today.

In follow up the state asked if it was true that nobody, not a healthy person on the face of the Earth, could have survived that 9 minutes and 29 seconds of neck compression and subdual restraint. Defense counsel Nelson objected, Judge Cahill sustained the objection, the state asked the question a second time in slightly modified form, objection again, sustained again.

The bottom line from Dr. Rich’s testimony was that nothing else about Floyd could possibly have killed him, but for the conduct of the officers.  90% occlusion of coronary arteries? Nope. Fentanyl overdose. Nope. Pathological hypertension? Nope.

Other people die of those things? Yes.

But not Floyd? Nope.

Could Floyd have had a heart attack? Nope, no chest pain.

Left unasked by Nelson, however—might 11 ng/ml of the powerful pain reliever fentanyl have allowed for a painless heart attack without chest pain?  Alternatively, might the pain-inducing effects of the pills Floyd have taken—remember, essentially identical pills had sent him to the ER previously in similar excruciating pain—have simply masked the chest pain of a heart attack?

Here again Dr. Rich made a remarkable characterization of heart disease for a cardiologist.  Remember when having a pathologically enlarged heart was a feature, not a glitch?

Well, apparently having 90% occluded coronary arteries was also a feature, and not a glitch. Because when the coronary arteries got sufficiently occluded, the heart would begin to grow collateral blood vessels to make up for the constricted blood flow of the primary coronary arteries.

Indeed, it’s actually less risky to have a higher degree of coronary artery blockage that fostered collateral blood vessel formation than it is to have a lower degree of coronary artery blockage! Who knew?

As wide-eyed and dramatic as Dr. Rich was on direct by the state, he was tremulous and shaking on cross-examination—not unusual for someone serving as an expert witness in a prominent trial for the first time ever.

Nelson also spent some time with Dr. Rich discussing Floyd’s paraganglioma, which has the theoretical capability to dump a massive bolus of adrenaline into the body and cause a cardiac arrest.  This never seemed to go anywhere really, and I’m undecided about whether Nelson is doing just enough to establish some foundation for a medical expert witness he plans to bring into court for the defense case in chief.

As his last question, Nelson asked if it were possible after the lungs stopped for respiration to continue.  This seemed an odd question, and highly unlikely physiologically, but it turns out that’s why I’m a small-town lawyer and not a doctor.

According to Dr. Rich it is, indeed, possible for there to be a few extra breaths after the drivers of respiration have given up the ghost, although he wasn’t certain of the mechanism behind that physiological effect.  (It would later turn out one reason this question was important was that it appears the officers believed Floyd to still be breathing after the point where some state witness claimed they’d identified his death from their observation of videos.)

There was a brief re-direct and re-cross of Rich, but nothing much of substance.

Here are the videos of the Rich testimony.

Rich Direct Questioning

Rich Cross-Examination

Rich Re-Direct

Rich Re-Cross

State Witness Philonise Floyd

The next state’s witness was Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd.  I won’t spend much time on this testimony, because the brother has no first-hand knowledge about the events surrounding Floyd’s death, he isn’t positioned to offer an expert opinion, and so he can’t offer testimony that would be relevant to the legal merits of the prosecution or defense in this case.

So why have him testify at all? Well, most states would not allow such testimony at this point in a trial, precisely because it doesn’t go to the legal merits of the case.

It’s an odd feature of Minnesota law, however, that they allow what they call ‘spark of life’ evidence in the prosecution’s case in chief. This is basically testimony about how wonderful the deceased person was, how much his family loved him, and so forth.

In most states such testimony is permitted, but only in the sentencing phase of the trial. In other words, after guilt has been determined the court can take such testimony into account for purposes of sentencing. Normally, however, such testimony is deemed not relevant to determining guilt or non-guilt in the first place.

Before I embed the “spark of life” testimony below, I do want to make clear that I’m addressing it only lightly because of its lack of relevance to the merits of the case, and not due to a lack of merit itself. Whatever one might think of George Floyd, and he certainly appeared to have a well-checkered history, I’ve no doubt his family loved him, and miss him terribly. And that’s as real as anything ever is.

That said, here’s that testimony—it’s solely direct questioning the defense widely declined to conduct cross.

Floyd Direct Testimony

State Witness Seth Stoughton

The last state witness of the day, and amongst the two most annoying of the trial, was Professor Seth Stoughton. He’s a law professor who had briefly (< 5 years) served as a police officer in Florida, and is now into the use-of-force expert witness game. And, at least in this case, the game pays well—he testified that he’s been paid about $25,000 for his expertise by state prosecutors, for just over 100-hours worth of work on this case.  (In my professional opinion, that beats doing the work for free, as some other state witnesses have done.)

I’m told by others who have looked online that Stoughton appears to be among the more rabid defund the police, reform the RACISTPOLICEMURDERERS activists out there. I make it a practice, however, to limit my trial commentary and analysis to what I actually see in court, and nothing much like that appeared in court (with one modest exception), so I’ll leave the reader to their own efforts in developing an internet-based understanding of Professor Stoughton.

As has now grown familiar, Stoughton was there to say the magic words for the prosecutors in this trial, and he didn’t fail to deliver the goods.

He purports to apply a four-step analytical framework to police use-of-force events to determine if the use-of-force in question was consistent with what would be expected of a reasonable police officer acting consistent with national generally accepted police standards.

Interestingly, Stoughton examines this question with zero inquiry into the standards, practices and policies of the actual department of the officer in question. That officer may have followed his own department’s policies to the letter, but if he didn’t meet the national generally accepted police standards as defined by Stoughton, his use of force was unreasonable and worthy of criminal conviction, and perhaps life in prison.

The four-step analytical framework consists of the following components.

Step 1. Look at the relevant facts and circumstances as they would have been viewed by a reasonable officer on the scene.

Step 2. Consider the degree of threat offered by the suspect.

Step 3. Consider the foreseeable effects of the force used by the officer.

Step 4. Apply generally acceptable national police standards to determine ultimate reasonableness.

In my modest opinion this is not a wildly unreasonable analytical framework for evaluating the reasonableness of an officer’s use-of-force, with the obvious caveat of GIGO.

That is, just as with any algorithm, if you put Garbage In, you get Garbage Out.

And that is, of course, precisely what Professor Stoughton did in this case to arrive at the conclusion the prosecution sought.

This began with Step 1, where he considers the facts and circumstances as would have been viewed by a reasonable officer on the scene.  Remarkably enough, the facts and circumstances most consistent with Floyd being the victim of RACISTPOLICEMURDER were prominent in Stoughton’s inputs to his algorithm.

Conversely, when asked by the defense on cross-examination about facts and circumstances that are incontrovertibly in evidence from other state’s testimony, Stoughton’s memory proved substantially defective and in need of constant refreshing, and the patronizing tone he’d adopted through direct questioning turned on cross-examination into stuttering, ums, uhs, can you repeat the question, and I don’t understand what you’re asking me.

Again, the prosecution returned to old tricks from prior state’s witnesses, even where those old tricks hadn’t worked out for them the first time.  You’ll recall that one prior state witness was presented with three bullet points from the MPD policy manual addressing justified use of force, and that these were presented as the entirety of the use-of-force justification analysis.

To refresh your recollection, those bullets were essentially:

  1. The severity of the crime at issue.
  2. Whether the suspect posed an immediate threat.
  3. Whether the suspect was actively resisting.

On cross-examination of that prior witness, Nelson had quickly gotten them to concede that while these were indeed three factors to consider in use-of-force decisions, they were representative of the relevant factors to consider, not the entirety of those factors.

Maybe the state thought Nelson would forget how he’d gutted this deception the first time it had come up in this trial?

Well, he hadn’t forgotten, and quickly had Stoughton making the same concession on the witness stand today on cross.

Stoughton also played fast and loose with the concepts of “risk” and “threat.” Specifically, a threat was an active use of force by a suspect, and only that active use of force by the suspect could justify an active use of force by the officer.

A mere prospect of force, however likely it might be based on actual experience and facts, was merely a risk of force, not a threat of force, and a mere risk of force could not justify any degree of force by the officer.

This is, of course, inane on its face, and to make it appear not obviously absurd even Stoughton had to make concessions that gutted the core principle he’d just espoused.

For example, what about passive resisters, people who laid across a street in protest? They are not threatening anybody with imminent harm, so were police prohibited from using any degree of force upon them, even the mere force necessary to carry them from the street.

No, that was OK, said Stoughton, because those people were “threatening force” in some amorphous manner that didn’t actually involve a physical use of force against anyone.

In particular, Stoughton said, once a suspect is handcuffed, he no longer represents any degree of threat to anybody, and therefore the police should be using no force against him whatever. I guess that means once the suspect is cuffed the police are just supposed to ask him to meet them at the police station at his convenience, maybe call him an Uber?

Indeed, Stoughton at one point took all this to truly ridiculous lengths by suggesting that instead of trying to fight Floyd into the back seat of the squad car in attempting his lawful arrest, once he’d made them aware of his anxiety and claustrophobia the officers instead should have offered to allow Floyd to ride in the front seat of the squad car—presumably one of the two officers would take the back seat, behind the barrier, while Floyd rode up front with his partner.

In the real world, of course, the police consider not only active threats against themselves or others, but also the reasonably foreseeable prospects for continued or renewed threats.  A compliant driver pulled over for speeding is rarely subject to any force by the police officer involved—and I would know, I have more than my fair share of speeding tickets (I blame the motorcycle!).

Once a suspect has been physically non-compliant or even violent with an officer, however, a reasonable officer will position himself to be prepared for continuing or renewed non-compliance or violence.  It would be profoundly unreasonable to require officers to treat a just-violent suspect now offering to be compliant the same way they treat a suspect who has been compliant throughout the interaction.

But not according to Professor Stoughton.

As poorly thought out as his analytical approach to police use-of-force might be, however, Professor Stoughton had no doubt whatever about the conclusion it brought him to.

What killed Floyd according to Professor Stoughton? Can you guess?

Sure enough: neck compression and positional asphyxia induced by subdual restraint.

Who’d have guessed it.

Also like every other state witness testifying on these questions, it was very clear that Stoughton had started from the conclusion that Floyd’s death was the result of Chauvin’s use of force—after all, POLICERACISTMURDER!!—and then worked his way back from there to build out a rationale that would, shocking enough, bring him right back to where he started.

Indeed, whereas I’m largely speculating that other state’s witnesses followed this “build your rationale from the conclusion you want” approach, we actually have evidence consistent with that approach in the case of Professor Stoughton.

This came in the form of an op-ed that Stoughton wrote with two others (both co-authors on his latest book) in which they concluded that Floyd’s death was the result of Chauvin’s RACISTPOLICEMURDER!!! neck restraint and positional asphyxia.

How do we know about this Washington Post op-ed? Nelson was kind enough to ask Stoughton about it on cross-examination.

What’s notable about this conclusion was that the op-ed was written in a four-day period between the date of Floyd’s death and when it was published in the Washington Post, and before Stoughton had seen anything other than the bystander video—no medical reports, no autopsy report, no toxicology results, no hours of body cam footage or surveillance camera footage, no 40,000 pages of investigative reports and MPD policy and training materials.

Who needs all that when you already know what happened from the bystander video?

Incidentally, one of the most common and effective means of impeaching the credibility of a purported expert witness is to be able to demonstrate that they approached the question in issue not with an unbiased, impartial and open mind, but instead with having decided the question beforehand.

Which is exactly what Professor Stoughton did in this case.

The state was also eager to use Stoughton’s testimony to undercut the defense narrative that the hostile and threatening mob killed Floyd, or at least substantially contributed to Floyd’s death by complicating the ability of the officers and responding paramedics to do their jobs

Remember, the mob was perceived as sufficiently threatening by the paramedics that they elected to do a “load & scoot” rather than treat Floyd on site—one consequence of which was it took much longer than would otherwise have been the case for the backing fire department responders to meet up with the ambulance they didn’t know had moved three long blocks away.

To do this, Prosecutor Schleiter would show the witness and jury an image of the bystanders on the sidewalk, always as a still photo, typically early in the event when there were only four or five passively watching Floyd’s arrest.  Another photo a few minutes later, again showing only six or seven unobjectionable bystanders filming with their phones.

At no time did Schleiter show video of the angry, shouting mob hurling insults and threats of imminent physical violence, because of course not.

Did the apparently passive observers in the still photos qualify as something that should have distracted the officers from their attention owed to the suspect in their custody. Not if they are reasonable officers, answered Stoughton.

The prosecution also shared images of several selected points in the restraint of Floyd—these were generally not still photos, but close to it—little 10 second clips of different portions of the event, such that an entire context was difficult or impossible to draw.

Was Floyd a threat here? No. Here? No. Here? No.  And because a suspect being a threat, in the odd way threat was defined by Stoughton, was a required element of a finding of justified use-of-force, by Stoughton’s algorithm has applied to the selected facts and conclusions he favored, there was never a point after Floyd was on his knees after fighting himself out of the squad car that the officers had any privilege to use any further force against him whatever.

After all, Stoughton said—and I’m not making this up—Floyd even said “thank you” after fighting his way out of the squad car, so the officers knew that any resistance he’d ever intended to offer them was certainly over now.

The state spent 90 minutes on direct questioning of Stoughton, but it was all of the same tenor as described above, so I’ll leave my detailed commentary at that. Of course, I provided the video of his direct here for your viewing pleasure:

Stoughton Direct Questioning

On cross-examination by Nelson, we suddenly saw the patronizing Stoughton on direct suddenly turn forgetful, stupid, and apparently unable to comprehend simple and direct questions—where he wasn’t, that is, providing answers wildly beyond the scope of the question actually asked.

Mostly, by the way, Nelson allowed Stoughton to run-on in this manner in his answers. Only once or twice did Nelson exercise his privilege to cut off Stoughton’s self-offered additional information by correctly pointing out that it was non-responsive to his actual question.  Every time Nelson did object in this manner, his objection was sustained by Judge Cahill, and you could almost see Stoughton working his mouth as if choking on a chicken bone.

I’m not sure why Nelson didn’t rightfully object more frequently on grounds of non-responsiveness. He seems generally disinclined to raise legitimate objections throughout this trial, passing up many, many opportunities to do so, and indeed objects far less often than does the prosecution (whose objections are most often overruled by Judge Cahill, by the way).

There are possible strategic reasons for adopting this stance on objections.  If Nelson hits a home run while presenting his own (apparently relatively brief) case in chief, then arguably this quiet approach might well have contributed to an acquittal. If not, he’ll look like he passed up a lot of opportunities to object, and did so for no good reason.

I guess time will tell.

There wasn’t much of anything productive to gain from rigorous cross-examination of the suddenly stupid and easily confused Stoughton, so while Nelson touched on the most important points of contention, he didn’t waste energy trying to get argumentative with a clearly hostile state witness—a prudent approach we’ve seen with similar state witnesses earlier in the case.

At one point I thought Nelson was going to turn cross into a ground fight of his own, after Stoughton repeatedly was unable to recall important and well-known facts around the Floyd event, facts caught repeatedly on various body cameras and by other means. You don’t remember this? Nope? You don’t remember that? Nope.

Yet you’ve testified you’ve spent 140 hours of your time reviewing the materials of this case, including the videos, in forming your expert opinion?

Uh, yes.

But Nelson ultimately moved on to the next questions about which Stoughton had only a vague recollection of the facts.

Alternatively, Stoughton claimed an interpretation of events entirely inconsistent with that of probably every other human who has seen the videos.

Do you agree that when Chauvin arrived on scene he immediately observed Lane and Keung struggling with Floyd at the door to their patrol car?

Stoughton: I wouldn’t call that struggling, really.

You’re kidding me.

How about that moment when Floyd was laid prone and immediately kicked his legs out at Lane, prompting the officers to consider going to the hobble restraint?

Stoughton: No, that’s not what I saw, I say Lane grab Floyd’s legs and straighten and twist them to flip Floyd into the RACISTPOLICEMURDER!!!! prone subdual position.

Of course that’s what you say.

There was a portion of cross-examination here where I felt Nelson really dropped the ball, and it was on the question of proportionality of police use of force.

Nelson proposed that it was reasonable for an officer to use greater force than was being offered by the suspect. Stoughton pushed back on the use of “greater force” as the controlling concept here.  What if the suspect is running in flight, what’s “greater force” in that context?

I found that a fairly effective push-back on the notion of “greater force,” because I also happen to think it’s not a very effective way of framing the issue.

A more productive way of framing the issue is that the officer is allowed to use whatever degree of force is reasonably required to compel compliance, in the non-deadly force context, or to preserve innocent life, in the deadly force context. In both contexts, however, the officer is not permitted to use any more force than necessary to compel compliance or preserve life.

So, to Stoughton’s mocking hypothetical of a fleeing suspect, the force that can be used in the absence of a deadly force threat justifying deadly force by the officer would be whatever non-deadly force would be required to compel compliance (stop the flight), but no more.

That could be a TASER or it could be a full body tackle, or it could be a large fishing net, who cares. But that would be the framework I would apply to that analysis, and I’d have liked it if Nelson had used that framework in his own questioning on this issue.

In the context of Floyd, the officers would have been privileged to use whatever force was required to first, secure Floyd’s compliance with arrest, and second, once it was suspected that Floyd was in genuine medical distress and the EMS call was bumped to code 3, to secure Floyd’s continued presence on site for treatment by paramedics.

There is, of course, more to Nelson’s cross examination here, but I think you get the idea.  Here’s the video of that cross-examination of Stoughton.

Stoughton Cross-Examination

There was also a very, very short re-direct of Stoughton by Schleiter, which you can view here:

Stoughton Re-Direct

And that’s about it for tonight. Don’t forget to join us again on Tuesday morning, right around 9:30am CT, as we once again provide LIVE blogging of the day’s court proceedings, followed by our usual end-of-day wrap-up analysis and commentary in the evening.

Also, anyone interested in a free podcast version of our daily legal commentary and analysis of the Chauvin trial can access the Law of Self Defense News/Q&A Podcast, available on most every podcast platform, including PandoraiHeartSpotifyApple PodcastGoogle Podcastsimple RSS feed, and more.

And thanks, as always, to both Legal Insurrection and CCW Safe for the support that makes my coverage of this case possible.

Until next time, stay safe!


Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC

Attorney Andrew F. Branca’s legal practice has specialized exclusively in use-of-force law for thirty years.  Andrew provides use-of-force legal consultancy services to attorneys across the country, as well as near-daily use-of-force law insight, expertise, and education to lawyers and non-lawyers alike in the form of blog posts, video, and podcasts, through the Law of Self Defense Membership service.  If this kind of content is of interest to you, try out our two-week Membership trial for a mere 99 cents, with a 200% no-question- asked money-back guarantee, here:  Law of Self Defense Membership Trial.

[Featured image is a screen capture from video of today’s court proceedings in MN v. Chauvin.]



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Media desperate for a conviction, doing everything they can to make it happen.
Because they will be blamed for all the rioting, burning, looting, destruction of business, loss of life that went on summer of 2020.
Because they pushed that too. Remember the sports writer (rioter) who screamed “Burn that shit down” then realized it was low income housing in Minneapolis. Then screamed the next day in LA “They attacked our sister community, they are climbing the walls now. They are animals. Go back to where you live!”

Yes, you got it right Mr. Branca.
These two were both condescending, pompous asses.
Worse, they also floated some pretty outrageous claims.

As far as the tumor, I think Nelson has something up his sleeve. One of the witnesses is going to shed some light on this I think.

I am so looking forward to this monotonous prosecution coming to an end.

In other words, cardiomegalopathy is not a glitch, it’s a feature!

That would be news to my cardiologist!

Dr. Rich is wrong about cardiomegaly and coronary artery occlusive disease both being somehow protective.

Many medical specialty boards will de-certify a board certified expert witness who provides false medical testimony, as Dr. Rich apparently did. I am unsure if the American Board of Cardiology does this. I know the American Board of Anesthesiology does. The chilling effect of this threat will constrain physician hired guns from lying in medical malpractice litigation and presumably during criminal cases as well.

    healthguyfsu in reply to JustSayN2O. | April 13, 2021 at 12:37 am

    Nevermind that… was to the level of perjury for an expert witness IMO

    thetaqjr in reply to JustSayN2O. | April 13, 2021 at 2:42 am

    What in hell are you saying and why? Which boards? You sound like a hired gun.

    Flatworm in reply to JustSayN2O. | April 13, 2021 at 5:25 am

    Do you really think they’re going to de-certify a witness for the prosecution in such a high-pr0file trial, where almost the entire press has already decided what the “correct” verdict must be?

    clintack in reply to JustSayN2O. | April 13, 2021 at 5:55 am

    Isn’t that one of the Boards and Colleges that issued a statement with the Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform condemning police brutality in the wake of the George Floyd killing? (The American College of Cardiology did, the American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine didn’t.)

    I would be surprised if they censure Dr. Rich, and not at all surprised if they threaten defense witnesses.

    Char Char Binks in reply to JustSayN2O. | April 13, 2021 at 9:02 am

    I wonder how they’d handle a doctor who didn’t blame trump for Cuomovirus.

    DaveGinOly in reply to JustSayN2O. | April 13, 2021 at 11:39 am

    The conflation of cardiomegalopathy with exercise-induced cardiac growth was positively stupid. Although the two are superficially similar (the heart grows in size in response to an increased work load), the long-term effects are completely different because the growth is caused by two wildly different types of loads. In exercise-induced cardiac growth, the heart becomes stronger (and therefore larger – all muscles grow in response to increased loads) because of regular, but limited and periodic, increases in in demands upon the heart (daily exercise, limited to 20 minutes to maybe 2 hrs/day). Cardiomegalopathy is the heart’s attempt to keep up with constant, long-term excess loads. The constant, long-term nature of the load (with no recovery or rest periods) creates stress levels in the heart’s muscles that they ultimately can’t sustain, leading to progressive weakening of the heart. It’s the constant stress of a load that’s unsustainable that kills, not heart growth in response to the load.

    Cardiomegalopathy is protective insofar that it’s a reaction compensating for a pathology (abnormal resistance to blood flow caused by hypertension or atherosclerosis), and temporarily allows the sufferer to endure the underlying disease mechanism.

What if the suspect is running in flight, what’s “greater force” in that context?

ANSWER: Belgian Malinois. AKA Bork bork nom nom (for followers of the doughnut operator)

Stoughton didn’t even know the underlying crime, he told Nelson it was in response to a forgery, not trying to pass a counterfeit bill.
If this was the last day of state testimony, they did not end the day on a strong note.

This is going to be a negligibly underdefended case if Nelson doesn’t have a couple hammers to drop on the other side.

I don’t get this at all. It’s like he’s assuming the jury will actually be fair, objective, and impartial when he was at voir dire and knows about the taint on this entire process. I feel like best he can hope for at this point is hung jury because he’s not going to get a full acquittal without the aforementioned hammers dropping (and they better not be subtle). The partial and non-objective jurors will be happy to ignore his entire succinct presentation unless there is something they absolutely cannot ignore. One more question: who hired Nelson and do they trace back clean?

Midfiaudiophile | April 13, 2021 at 12:36 am

I’ve noticed that Nelson doesn’t seem inclined to object to exhibits. I’m still annoyed by that stupid “Look at all of these responsible people wearing masks in a hospital… and here’s Chauvin recklessly mask-less murdering your grandma” photos (from Zimmerman’s bodycam?) which were basically solely used for prejudicial purposes and completely irrelevant to any of state’s theories of the crime.

I agree with Mr Branca. I think Nelson did not object enough. Why for example was the state allowed to ask Stoughton what – in his opinion – was Floyds cause of death? Stoughton is in no way qualified to answer that question. Question’s should have been strictly limited to use-of-force. I don’t know what strategic “upside” there could be for the defense to permit such questioning.

Did we get a decision on whether Hall’s statements to the FBI will be admissible or for that matter statements from the woman who was in the car with Floyd? They are probably the most important witnesses to Floyds final moments. If they refuse to testify any statements made to police/FBI should be admissible in court (if not why do police even take statements from eyewitnesses?)

There are possible strategic reasons for adopting this stance on objections. If Nelson hits a home run while presenting his own (apparently relatively brief) case in chief, then arguably this quiet approach might well have contributed to an acquittal. If not, he’ll look like he passed up a lot of opportunities to object, and did so for no good reason.

I was on a jury where the counsel displayed two distinctly different approaches. The plaintiff counsel was aggressively pursuing everything he could, frequently objecting, and giving the appearance of grabbing hold of whatever he could to win his case. The defense counsel was much more easy-going, and to me gave the appearance of having every confidence he would prevail. I had to work to ignore the differences in personality.

In this case, I could imagine Nelson working on giving the appearance of being extremely confident in his case, and letting the prosecution look like they’re pounding on the table in an attempt to win at all costs.

Nice tactic, if it works.

    Char Char Binks in reply to karl_lembke. | April 13, 2021 at 9:11 am

    Any tactic, no matter how ill-conceived or blundering, is “nice “, if it works.

    Nelson is doing a superb job, and is exposing the faulty logic, emotional pleading, and dishonesty of the prosecution. Once it’s goes to jury deliberations, it will be out of his hands.

    Chapster in reply to karl_lembke. | April 13, 2021 at 10:43 am

    “I had to work to ignore the differences in personality.”

    I don’t think all jurors can or will do that work. I was testifying in an armed robbery trial where the defense attorney objected very frequently. The facial expressions of the jurors (up to and including eye rolling, sighs, etc.) made it clear to everyone (except apparently the attorney) that he needed to dial it back.

    It got to the point where the judge turned to me and said “Sergeant, could you do me a favor? After the District Attorney asks you a question, could you please pause long enough to allow defense counsel time to leap to his feet to object?” (I thought perhaps the case would be overturned on appeal after that comment from the bench, but it wasn’t.)

    Quickest “guilty” verdict I’ve ever witnessed. “Likeability” of counsel or witnesses shouldn’t be a factor, but…

    Rorschach in reply to karl_lembke. | April 14, 2021 at 4:57 pm

    it is also a “long game” tactic too. if as we all suspect the “fix is in” and he will be found guilty for being a white cop, then such “error” can be pointed to to claim “ineffective counsel” and potentially buy Chauvin a new trial, hopefully long after Minneapolis is no longer a smoldering wreck.

In one of the videos GF may be heard screaming something like “I can’t breathe!” while still in the backseat of the squad car (and with no knees on his neck!).

    Observer in reply to sockdolagerm. | April 13, 2021 at 10:05 am

    Floyd complained about not being able to breathe seven — 7– different times before the cops placed him on the ground (and Floyd himself had requested that the cops let him lie down on the ground, BTW). Nobody was putting pressure on Floyd’s neck, back, chest, etc., during any of those 7 times. Floyd’s breathing difficulties were clearly being caused by something other than his body position or outside pressure placed on his body from some other person.

2nd night of riots. Still think the judge should call a mistrial. He got the case in the middle of a complete mess by refusing to change venue. No way the jury can stand aloof from the absolute chaos in the streets.

    lurker9876 in reply to Samantha. | April 13, 2021 at 7:39 am

    The prosecution team told the judge that it’s just a different county and has no impact to the case. Maybe the judge will decide today?

      Nanoushka in reply to lurker9876. | April 13, 2021 at 4:57 pm

      Minneapolis, site of the trial and additional rioting/looting and Brookyn Park are both in Hennepin County. While much of downtown Minneapolis has been boarded up for the last month, several businesses were looted and there was additional looting in other areas that were hit last year.

      4 of 7 metro area counties were under curfew last night, which, of course, only applies to law-abiding citizens of the sort who would be home by 7 pm anyway.

I really appreciate your commentary. You are doing an amazing job.

I do have a question – Can Nelson do an in trial demonstration of Chauvin’s subdual restraint? Steven Crowder of “Louder with Crowder,” who truly understands MMA and wrestling holds did an accurate replication on his show using himself as the victim. Crowder is the approximate size of Floyd, has a heart condition (although different from Floyd’s), was handcuffed and lay on cement prone under someone who was a little heavier than Floyd for 9-1/2 minutes and who deliberately distributed more of his weight on Crowder neck/back than Chauvin did on Floyd. As Crowder predicted, there were no ill effects. He was able to talk and breathe with ease throughout. See one hour/14 minutes in at

That kind of demonstration, if allowed, establishes the fact that the State’s so-called experts (and fact witnesses for that matter) do not know what they are talking about.

If so, do you know any way to get information about the video to Nelson? I suspect if asked, Crowder would be willing to do the demonstration himself with his “helper” or alternatively simply testify about his demonstration. Otherwise, I’m sure Nelson can find someone else to act as victim and policeman.

“Nelson also spent some time with Dr. Rich discussing Floyd’s paraganglioma, which has the theoretical capability to dump a massive bolus of adrenaline into the body and cause a cardiac arrest. This never seemed to go anywhere really, and I’m undecided about whether Nelson is doing just enough to establish some foundation for a medical expert witness he plans to bring into court for the defense case in chief.”

I agree. As I’ve mentioned several other places, there is something up with this paraganglioma angle.

If Nelson can create a plausible alternative explanation for GF’s death that none of the prosecution’s medical experts preemptively explained away, then that might be the key to reasonable doubt.

Again, I have to give it to Mr. Nelson – he is truly a dark horse – I think the prosecution severely underestimated him.

as a lay observer, I;m not too fond of the prosecution preempting the defenses theories with their own experts. It telegraphs where the Pros thinks they are weak. … I;m not on the jury though so pppplllllbbbbttt

Tecmo Bowl and banana mayonnaise sandwiches? This is a clown trial.

“Hey man, let’s go hooping…we always went hooping…you have to hoop every day…hooping was big…Magic, we watched Michael, we watched everybody hoop, every day.”

So George Floyd didn’t even attend his own brother’s wedding?

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to BillyHW. | April 13, 2021 at 8:57 am

    I guess not, but, there could be many reasons for that. And, because I have not watched the live blog or the videos, I have no idea how that even has any bearing on the case.

    Char Char Binks in reply to BillyHW. | April 13, 2021 at 9:16 am

    He was probably in prison with Morries.

OMG Stoughton didn’t even know that the dispatcher sent Chauvin in code 3. He doesn’t even know the facts of the case!

The whole paid expert game really bothers me. Seems that is the bulk of the state’s case, or am I just being biased?…. SMH… I didn’t know you could buy the your own truth if you spent enough money. TY Mr. Branca, another eye opener.

    BillyHW in reply to amwick. | April 13, 2021 at 7:22 am

    I trust unpaid experts even less.

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to amwick. | April 13, 2021 at 8:58 am

    My cynical view of American “jusitice” is, justice is for those who can afford it. BLM or whomever is investing a lot of money in this case.

    Char Char Binks in reply to amwick. | April 13, 2021 at 9:20 am

    Using paid experts invites corruption, but the unpaid true-believer experts seem to be an even bigger problem.

Why would the defence only use 3-4 days when the prosecution went on for 2-3 weeks?

    clintack in reply to BillyHW. | April 13, 2021 at 8:54 am

    How many expert witnesses can Chauvin afford?

      DaveGinOly in reply to clintack. | April 13, 2021 at 11:56 am

      How many does he need? So many of the prosecution’s witnesses repeated the same things over and over again that one good defense expert should suffice to counter much of what has been presented.

    Char Char Binks in reply to BillyHW. | April 13, 2021 at 9:28 am

    Most of the prosecution witnesses were emotional, table pounding, cumulative, duplicatative, and duplicitous.

    Nelson can cut to the heart of the matter — the bloated, blocked, drugged, cardiomegalopathic heart

I also found Dr. Rich and Prof Stoughton annoying. However, I would not under-estimate the deference members of the jury give to a doctor and a professor. Nelson chose not to attack their credibility on Cross. I hope his own expert witnesses are able to address the points of contention that Andrew Branca raises.

Jonathan Cohen | April 13, 2021 at 8:29 am

The prosecution witnesses have said that anyone would die if held in the position that George Floyd was in for a full nine+ minutes. Is that remotely reasonable?

What would happen if Nelson got Chauvin and his fellow officers to do to Nelson in court exactly what they did to Floyd? When he would get up after nine minutes, none the worse for wears, that would put a severe dent in the prosecution’s case.

It probably won’t matter. The point is that the case isn’t really about Chauvin. It is white Americans who are being prosecuted for the crime of white supremacy and systemic racism. If the trial results in an acquittal or a hung jury, white people are all guilty. That is how the last ten months of coverage have framed the trial and it would be impossible for the jurors to ignore it.

In a strange way the trial is similar to the trial of OJ Simpson. The Simpson jury had nine black jurors. The defense made it seem that it was black people as a whole who were charged with the murder. Because of the history of racist notions of black men sexually threatening white women, Simpson’s guilt or innocence was somehow a judgment about the racist myth. Under the circumstance, the larger narrative took precedence over the facts of the case and Simpson was acquitted in spite of the overwhelming evidence of his guilt.

If Chauvin is found guilty on all counts, whites all over the country will breathe a sigh of relief in much the same way crowds of black students cheered the Simpson acquittal.

    luckystars in reply to Jonathan Cohen. | April 13, 2021 at 9:03 am

    Most people don’t know the real reason for the LA riots, especially now. The media narrative was that it was revenge for Rodney King. The real reason was a black girl was trying to steal a bottle of orange juice from a Korean owned store. The female owner shot her dead. When she was convicted she got only probation. The left the Koreans on their own so their man stood up on buildings armed to protect their businesses. The media has one job, to set the narrative the elites want. They did.
    Why would whites who have been on trial since 2020 campaign began sigh in relief if Chauvin is convicted? Floyd was part of the excuse to steal the election. Look at what the corps did to punish Georgia for getting sane voter ID laws?
    Yesterday they tipped their hand Evelyn Forrester de Rothschild has a group of 100 CEOs to attack any state or county that tries what Georgia did, stop election theft. This is not black against white this is the elites who want that so they can continue to steal. Rothschild’s best friend in Carlos Slim who owns Mexico, has financially raped the nation for decades. They are afraid the working and middle class come after them. So they pit one group against each other. During the pandemic when all little guys were put out of business their wealth soared.
    This trial is about that. It never should have been brought to trial in the first place..

The Defense still gets the last word in this country . Everything changes when this lawyer puts on his case. You are going to see the facts, What is legal and what is not. By the time Nelson is finished they are going to have a very hard time convicting this cop.

    Joeybags4 in reply to luckystars. | April 13, 2021 at 8:49 am

    Prosecution gets to close last tho. [in most states]

    Brave Sir Robbin in reply to luckystars. | April 13, 2021 at 9:54 am

    “By the time Nelson is finished they are going to have a very hard time convicting this cop.”

    Chauvin had been convicted long before this trial ever began.

    The fallacy is that the state has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. In reality, Chauvin must proved his innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.

    At best this is a hung jury. It has always been so. Do not be surprised if Chauvin is convicted. Even then, to save public order, the judge will have to throw the book at him, so he will be strongly incentivized to impose maximum sentence.

    This is the reality of the situation. Always has been.

My thoughts on State’s case so far: Fraudulent and Cumulative.

Fentanyl overdose. Nope. Meth? Nope. Why not? Floyd’s a drug user, probably had tolerance.

Medical question: Floyd, through his tolerance, might be more impervious to the effects of the drug, but biology is still biology: does drug tolerance increase the amount needed for a lethal dose?

Two persons of roughly the same height / weight / build, one is a long-time user while the other is new to the game. Does it take a higher dose to be lethal to the long-time user than it does for the newbie?

    TargaGTS in reply to ss396. | April 13, 2021 at 10:42 am

    Short answer: Yes, with most drugs including fentanyl, tolerance – known as pharmacokinetic tolerance – to the effects of the drug increases tolerance to the potential lethality of the drug. For pain management docs, this is something that they have to carefully observe and manage in treating patients with opioid-based therapies. It’s also one reason that patients begin to seek additional supply outside their legal supply chain; their tolerance increases to the point where ethical docs will no longer prescribe the amount that sates their need. So, they go to the street.

    Still, even in the most tolerant, habitual patients, 3x the lethal dose of opioid-based drugs is very likely going to be potentially lethal.

    Nanoushka in reply to ss396. | April 13, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    Mixing drugs makes them more volatile and meth itself is volatile, never mind that meth and fentanyl give your body different signals.

Haven’t seen it mentioned, but I would imagine the officers were tired, too. I can assume the had a better exercise routine than a drug laden, oversized person who, because of drugs, was probably incapable of recognizing his own exhaustion til it was too late. 2) this case only made the headlines because of supposed racism, yet, that topic has not been introduced.

    DaveGinOly in reply to stl. | April 13, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    “…this case only made the headlines because of supposed racism, yet, that topic has not been introduced.”

    Because if it had been, without supporting evidence, the defense would have had the judge slap it down immediately. Which infers that if the prosecution looked into Chauvin’s social media footprint, they didn’t find any such evidence.

Normally, however, such testimony is deemed not relevant to determining guilt or non-guilt in the first place.
And I would argue it shouldn’t even have relevance to sentencing.
But it certainly has no place in determining guilt! This sounds like a horrid violation of equality under the law.

So, to Stoughton’s mocking hypothetical of a fleeing suspect, the force that can be used in the absence of a deadly force threat justifying deadly force by the officer would be whatever non-deadly force would be required to compel compliance (stop the flight), but no more.
I’ve said for a long time that police should carry and be trained in the use of bolas. No need to chase the suspect. No need to get in direct contact to tackle them. A quick deployment, then a couple of flicks of the wrist and let fly. Then you can mostly walk up to your suspect and deal with them already hobbled.

Change my mind. 😉

Andrew, the thought occurs to me that Nelson may be playing a long game with his lack of objections. He may be building a case for “Ineffective counsel” into his case in places where he personally doesn’t feel the slight advantage of an objection buys much, but a lack of an objection may buy Chauvin a new trial (hopefully later after some of the dust has settled and Minneapolis is no longer burning.).