Medical experts gave testimony state needed, without imploding on cross
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, providing guest commentary and analysis of this trial for Legal Insurrection.
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Today the state presented three medical/science experts. The first was Dr. Martin Tobin, Physician in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Chicago, presented as an expert witness on respiratory matters. He was followed by Daniel Isenschmit, Forensic Toxicologist, NMS Laboratories, who was involved in drug testing Floyd’s blood. And the day closed with Dr. William Smock, Emergency Medical Physician, and self-described “Police Surgeon,” who discussed excited delirium and some other issues.
OK folks, I won’t bury the lead—today’s trial proceedings looked a lot more typical for a prosecution presenting its case in chief than has been the case so far in Minnesota v. Chauvin. What I mean by that is that the state finally had a day in which its own witnesses did not end up doing the defense more good than themselves.
We’ve grown so accustomed to Nelson simply having his way with prosecution witnesses that today might appear as if it were bad for the defense. It would be more accurate to say it was not a great day for the defense—which is quite a change from past experience.
In truth, however, this is what every day of the trial should have looked like so far. Right now it is the prosecution in charge, presenting their case, in control of direct questioning. The defense is very limited in what they can do on cross-examination. They can’t simply produce their own evidence for the jury, they can’t argue with the state’s witnesses, they are limited in their cross-examination to only the issues the state has chosen to raise in their direct questioning.
These are all real and substantive constraints on the defense while the prosecution is presenting their case in chief. The amazing thing about this trial to date is how well the defense has been doing even while bound by those constraints.
Today was, again, far more typical of what should be expected. The prosecution is putting forth its witnesses, framing the issues the way they want them framed, asking the scope of questions the way they want them scoped—every day should make the prosecution look just awesome.
The turnaround on that perception really ought not be expected until the defense has their turn at bat, gets to present their own witnesses, to frame the issues the way they want them framed, ask the scope of questions the way them want them scoped—and the state finds itself bound by all the constraints that so far have limited only the defense.
This is also why I urge all of you to not make day-to-day judgments about how the trial is going, at least not in the sense of expecting any day’s events to predict the likely outcome of the trial. A football game is not decided in the first half, and a criminal prosecution ought not be expected to be a wrap when only the state’s version of the narrative has been fleshed out in court.
That said, the state got done what it needed to get done today with its expert witnesses, who unambiguously told the jury that Floyd’s death was the direct result of the police restraint used to hold him for EMS, period, and that nothing else mattered. Not Floyd’s fentanyl level, not Floyd’s substantial co-morbidities. Not Floyd’s poorly made decision to fight four police officers against lawful arrest.
So, as would normally be expected at this point in the trial, but which has gone missing up to now, the state had a good day today.
That’s not to say the defense did poorly, within the constraints already described.
I will note that Defense Counsel Eric Nelson definitely appeared tired today, he was hoarse, and clearing his throat. Could he be wearing down? With any luck tomorrow, Friday, will be an early day and he’ll have the weekend to get some R&R. I trust he’ll be back to form on Monday.
It must be said that getting handed new state exhibits at night, as occurred to him just last night, after being in court all day, and knowing that review of those exhibits will be necessary for cross-examination of witnesses today, certainly can’t be making his job any easier.
Dr. Martin Tobin, Physician in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Chicago
A couple of interesting points about Dr. Tobin, up front. First, although he normally charges substantial fees ($500 per hour) for acting as an expert witness in court, he agreed to provide his services in this case for free. His explanation is that he’s never been an expert witness in a criminal trial before, so didn’t want to charge. I suppose that could be why. Alternatively, I suppose it’s possible he’s motivated to do the job for free for political reasons. Who knows?
Second, while Prosecutor Blackwell was walking Dr. Tobin through his background, training, education, expertise, and all the other stuff you do to qualify your expert in front of the jury, Dr. Tobin mentioned that a chunk of his practice consists of treating patients who require mechanical ventilation due to a variety of underlying causes—including drug overdose. No kidding.
Third, Tobin would arrive at his expert opinion after watching videos of the event literally “hundreds of times,” as well as after leisurely reviewing perhaps thousands of pages of investigative reports, forensic results, medical history and more.
None of that, of course, was available to officers on scene as they fought an intoxicated 6’ 6” 230-pound Floyd as he violently resisted lawful arrest, in the presence of a hostile and threatening crowd, as they waited for the code 3 “lights and sirens” requested paramedics to finally arrive on scene.
In any case, Tobin gave Prosecutor Blackwell on direct questioning exactly what they needed from him, and that was an expert opinion, to a reasonably degree of professional certainty, that what killed Floyd was impaired breathing that resulted in sufficiently low oxygen levels to cause his death, as a result of the manner in which he was restrained by Chauvin and the other officers. Here’s video of his testimony that captures those statements.
So there we have it: According to the opinion of the state’s retained expert witness, it was Chauvin et al. who killed Floyd. Exactly as the state’s expert witness is supposed to do. Surprise, surprise.
Blackwell stepped Tobin through more than two hours of direct questioning, during which Tobin provided a lengthy rationale for how he’d reached his opinion. Frankly, the entire rationale struck me as working back from a conclusion. That is, it appeared that Tobin started with the conclusion that the officers’ conduct had killed Floyd, and then worked backwards from there to build out a framework that led him right back to where he’d started.
Of course, circumstances were quite different for the officers actually dealing with Floyd, who didn’t have the ability to see into the future and know that Floyd would die that day, nor did they know a great many other relevant facts made available to Tobin but unknown to the officers attempting to, first, lawfully arrest Floyd and, second, get him apparently badly needed medical care.
In addition, Tobin’s path to reach his opinion involved a substantial amount of high-level medical expertise, complex biological and physics models, even mathematics of a degree that the notation was indecipherable to this small-town lawyer. How any of this would be actionable by police officers called to a crime scene and compelled to fight a large and violently resisting suspect was not explained.
Tobin also demonstrated an amazing ability—or, at least, claimed an amazing ability—to make precise biological determinations from cell phone and body camera video. For example, Tobin claimed to be able to tell the precise instant when Floyd suffered brain damage as a result of low oxygen levels (it was when Floyd abruptly kicked out a leg).
He could discern precisely what was happening within Floyd’s body, despite there being no physical manifestation of those processes either while Floyd was alive or upon medical examination after Floyd had died. Indeed, he claimed to discern the exact moment that Floyd died, by the expression on Floyd’s face: “One second he’s alive, and one second he’s no longer.”
He had models illustrating loses in lung function to the individual percent, although he had no personal knowledge of Floyd’s respiratory capacity when alive.
When asked by Blackwell whether it was true that if someone could speak, it meant they could breathe, Tobin cautioned that this was a dangerous view, because just because someone was breathing now didn’t mean they would be breathing 10 seconds from now. Which strikes me as just another way of conceding that the actual statement itself is, in fact, true—if you’re speaking, you’re breathing. Nobody has ever claimed that if you’re speaking now it means you’ll be breathing later.
To undercut the theory that Floyd might have died not from police restraint but because of fentanyl overdose, Tobin argued that this could not be the case because fentanyl slowed the rate of respiration, and from the video he measured Floyd’s rate of respiration as normal.
Unaddressed on direct was the fact that Floyd’s respiration was being subject to a wide variety of biological drivers besides fentanyl—including arguably the combination of Floyd’s COVID history and the prospects for long-term lung disfunction, his existing cardiovascular disease, the presence of methamphetamine in his system, and his just completed 10-minute physical fight with multiple police officers.
The bottom line, again, is that Tobin on direct delivered what any prosecution should expect their expert witnesses to deliver—the opinion they needed to buttress their narrative of guilt.
Here’s that couple of hours of direct questioning of Dr. Martin Tobin by Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell:
Tobin Direct Questioning
On cross-examination, Nelson touched on many of the points I hit on above.
Police officers have nowhere near the medical expertise of Tobin, indeed they’re not even trained to the level of an EMT.
Tobin had the luxury of watching the videos hundreds of times, all different angles, still framing, slow motion, and so forth, as well as seven meetings with the prosecutors, including as recently as yesterday and the day before.
Tobin had also had the opportunity to prepare for the prosecution a whole series of exhibits—diagrams, illustrations, graphs—to use alongside his testimony.
Exhibits that were provided to Defense Counsel Nelson … last night.
That’s not a typo. Last. Night.
Nelson also emphasized that the biological circumstances around Floyd’s death were not a simple model of four force factors and limited to the conduct of the officers, as simplistically described by Tobin, but in fact were much more complex. Floyd’s drug levels, his badly impaired health, his decision to fight four police officers for 10 minutes before they were compelled to restrain him for EMS, all played a role in that day’s outcome.
Tobin, however, insisted that it was all very simple. Just one biological process resulting solely from the officers’ force upon Floyd was all that mattered. Again, exactly what the state had ordered up from their expert witness.
On the “if you can speak you can breathe” issue, Nelson noted that in Tobin’s own report he’d written that even physicians often believe this to be true. Tobin agreed. You may recall that state witness MPD use-of-force trainer Lt. Mercil had previously testified that he himself taught that concept when instructing officers.
Nelson pointed out that Tobin’s purportedly precise calculations of how many pounds of force Chauvin was placing on Floyd were based on assumptions. You’ve assumed the weight of Chauvin on May 25, 2020? Yes. You’ve assumed the weight of his equipment, you didn’t actually weightthat equipment? Correct.
Body weight force model assumes that Chauvin kept his weight equally balanced on both legs throughout his restraint of Floyd, but in fact his weight was pretty frequently re-distributed. That’s correct, Tobin answered.
The biological models purporting to pin down precisely what happened to Floyd internally as he was restrained by police were based on generalized assumptions for a 46-year-old of the same height and weight as Floyd. Yes.
Who is healthy. Yes. Of course, we know that Floyd was far from healthy, with severe cardiovascular disease—including a 95% blockage of a coronary artery and seveer hypertension—as well as recent COVID
In the real world, Nelson suggested, the specific biology of Floyd comes into play. That’s correct, answered Tobin.
On the issue of fentanyl, Tobin insisted that the drug could not have played a role in Floyd’s death because he claimed Floyd’s respiration was not depressed, as would be the case with fentanyl overdose. Might there be competing factors that could offset fentanyl’s respiratory effect, at least transiently? Meth on board? Adrenaline from a physical fight with police? Tobin downplayed the importance of these factors.
Also on the topic of fentanyl, Tobin insisted that fentanyl made people sleepy, even unconscious, when it killed via overdose, and Floyd had after all just been fighting police. In response Nelson brought up the pill fragments found in the squad car, the pills that were found to consist of fentanyl and meth, covered in Floyd’s DNA.
If Floyd had consumed the pills in the squad car immediately before being proned on the street, wouldn’t we expect it to take some five minutes before the drugs reached peak effect? Yes, answered Tobin. And continue their effect after that point? Yes.
This would coincide, of course, with that period of time in which Floyd was visibly slowing down and apparently losing consciousness.
With respect to how Tobin had purportedly identified the precise moment at which Floyd had suffered brain damage, the kick of Floyd’s leg, Nelson asked if it might be reasonable for a police officer to perceive such movement as continued resistance. The state objected, and that objection was sustained—but the jury heard the question posed, which was really the point.
And that about wrapped up Nelson’s cross-examination of Tobin:
Make no mistake, however, that this cross-examination was nothing like the train wreck the state had experienced with so many of their earlier witnesses, including experts, including MPD officers. Nelson hit important points on cross-examination, but Tobin remained adamant that it was the officers’ restraint of Floyd that killed him, period.
In short, as already noted, Tobin served the purposes the state intended for him when he was retained as a medical expert for this trial, precisely as he ought to have done for the state.
There were also brief re-directs, re-cross, and even a re-re-direct of Tobin, but none really amounted to much. In any case, here they are:
Daniel Isenschmit, Forensic Toxicologist, NMS Laboratories
The next state’s witness was Forensic Toxicologist Daniel Isenschmit, of NMS Laboratories, whose direct questioning was conducted by Prosecutor Erin Eldridge.
Isenschmit had been involved in toxicology screening of Floyd’s blood, with a particular focus on concentrations of fentanyl and its metabolites, as well as methamphetamine.
The purpose of this testimony was to play around with various statistics to encourage the jury to infer that Floyd could not have died of fentanyl overdose. In this context, Isenschmit compared the concentrations of fentanyl, metabolite afentanyl, and methamphetamine to selected populations of people who had also tested positive for these drugs, with the goal of showing that, hey, look, Floyd’s drug levels weren’t really all that high after all!
As a reminder, Floyd had a concentration of fentanyl in his blood of 11 ng/ml, often described (including by me) as a three-fold fatal dose of the drug. It must be said that this fatal dose is presumably for a naïve user of fentanyl, and that a chronic user could have a substantially higher tolerance—and indeed, would be expected to.
Of course, we also have testimony from Floyd’s co-addict lady friend that he had (she claimed) been clean for some lengthy period prior to the May 25, 2020 arrest, right up until shortly before that event when he began using again. Tolerance is lost as well as acquired, so to what extent Floyd had fentanyl tolerance on the day of his death is probably unknowable.
In any case, Isenschmit would present the jury with a chart like this one:
The point was to illustrate that, hey, when NMS Labs tested the blood of 19,815 people who had died and who also had fentanyl in their system, those people had an average concentration of 16.80 ng/ml, and a median level of 10.0 ng/ml.
Well, look at that—now Floyd’s concentration of 11 ng/ml doesn’t look so bad? I mean, look at all those dead people, they had a way higher average concentration of fentanyl than did Floyd. Surely that means Floyd could not have died of fentanyl overdose!
One obvious weakness of this argument is rather dependent on people not understanding what an average and a median are—and that’s probably a pretty safe assumption these days.
The median of 10 ng/ml, for example, means that exactly half of the dead people had blood concentrations greater than that amount—but it also meanst hat half of the dead people had blood concentrations lower—and therefore lower than Floyd’s concentration of fentanyl.
Even worse, however, and a point brought up by Nelson on cross-examination, these dead people were not necessarily people who died of fentanyl overdose—they were just people who died, who happened to also test positive for fentanyl.
Could they be people who were fentanyl users who had died not from fentanyl but because they’d been shot? Sure. Because they’d been in a car accident? Sure. Because they’d had cancer? Sure.
Did Isenschmit know what any of these people had died from? He did not.
Was it possible that of the 19,815 people whose positive fentanyl result was included in this graph, fully 19,814 of them had died of gunshot wound?
It was unlikely, Isenschmit replied. But of course, that’s not really the point.
If the presentation of this data is to suggest that Floyd’s 11 ng/ml was too low to have killed him, this data is in fact entirely useless for that purpose, but we’re not comparing apple to apples, fentanyl overdose death to fentanyl overdose deaths.
A second data presentation, this one in the form of a pie chart, was also presented, for much the same purpose:
This one purported to compare fentanyl concentrations found among people involved in DUI, on the one hand, and Floyd, on the other hand. Here the data representation was really remarkably disingenuous, particular in the manner in which data was sorted and organized within the pie.
I mean, look at that—about 10% of the people involved in DUI cases had fentanyl levels comparable to those of Floyd! And they were alive, driving cars! Surely that means Floyd’s mere 11 ng/ml of fentanyl could not have been a fatal dose!
Much like the chart above, however, the presentation of the data here intended to mislead. Before, we were presented with dead people who tested positive for fentanyl, but had to dig before we learned we had no idea whether they’d died of fentanyl or from some entirely unrelated cause.
Here we are presented with DUI cases, but guess what—we have no idea of any driver’s intoxication was the result of fentanyl or some entirely unrelated substance—meth, pot, even simple alcohol.
So, again, we’re not comparing apple to apples.
There is, of course, a fundamentally different flaw in all of this data presentation and that is that even if we had apples to compare to apples, all the apples are substantively different—so not even that comparison can be done.
If we had the identical fentanyl dose, and gave it to two different people, the physiological response could easily be wildly different, depending on their size, general health, developed tolerance to fentanyl or other opiates, and more.
But we never have identical fentanyl doses, because there’s no control for that in this data.
Some of these people were likely taking fentanyl lawfully prescribed by a physician for lawful purpose. Others were taking prescription drugs, but unlawfully. At least those two populations have some idea of the dose they were ingesting, because they are consuming pharmaceutical grade fentanyl.
Many of those people, however, are consuming street fentanyl—and there are no Good Manufacturing Practices for street fentanyl. No two pills are the same even physically characteristics, much less in their constituent chemistry. When one takes a street fentanyl, one is taking an unknown dose of fentanyl, and one likely mixed with some other combination of illicit drugs, methamphetamine being a common pairing.
The direct of Isenschmit then stepped through a similar faux data representation in the context of methamphetamine, but I won’t bother dragging you through that here.
I will note, however, that it does appear that Floyd’s concentration of methamphetamine was rather low. This raises the legitimate question of whether it could have had the “offset” function to counter the sedative effects of fentanyl as has been occasionally suggested by Nelson. Obviously, the state’s witnesses play down that possibility, so having heard only them the theory appears tenuous. We won’t really have an informed understanding, of course, until we hear from the defense medical experts later in the trial.
Another issue raised by Eldridge on direct of Isenschmit was the ratio between fentanyl and its metabolite afentanyl. So, when fentanyl is ingested we get an immediate level of fentanyl in the blood, and then over time the fentanyl is metabolized to afentanyl, which can also be measured. If limited to that single dose, eventually the levels of fentanyl will drop as the levels of the metabolite afentynal will increase.
Floyd had significant levels of both fentanyl and afentanyl in his system. Eldridge argued from this that, hey, look, Floyd must have taken his last dose of fentanyl some time ago, because a bunch of it had already metabolized to afentanyl—therefore, given that the peak effect of fentanyl occurred five minutes after dosing, Floyd could not still have been under the effect of fentanyl when subject to arrest.
If Floyd had only just taken fentanyl moments before, there would have been no time for afentanyl to be present at such meaningful levels.
There is, of course, an entirely distinct and opposite interpretation of that same data, and it was one pointed out by Nelson on cross-examination. What if we’re not talking about someone who took just a single dose of fentanyl, but rather someone who took fentanyl on a habitual basis—like, you know, a opioid drug addict like Floyd.
In that case we’d expect him to take fentanyl dose 1, fentanyl levels would quickly spike, then begin to drop as levels of the metabolite afentynal increased. Left there, eventually fentanyl would go to zero, even as afentynal was increasing.
But what if the user than took a second dose of fentanyl—perhaps while fighting multiple officers in the back of a squad car, spewing partially chewed and spit-covered fentanyl tablets over the back seat of the vehicle in the process? Then we’d expect to see the afentanyl levels present for the metabolization of dose 1, but also high fentanyl levels present from the just-taken dose 2.
Nelson pointed out some of these data incongruities and metabolite deceptions in his cross of Isenschmit, but I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t a statistics major in college, and so it was difficult to substantively and clearly undermine Isenschmit’s presentation of these data and figures.
And even if Nelson had possessed the necessary statistical savvy, the effectiveness of deploying it would also be a function of the ability of the jury to absorb what was being said—and I expect there wasn’t all that much of that ability for much of this jury.
If all Isenschmit accomplished for the state was to throw some data and charts in front of the jury at the prosecution’s request, and created the inference that this meant the prosecution’s narrative on the role of fentanyl in Floyd’s death was supported by “the science,” he accomplished his mission for the state—at least, again, until the defense can bring their own medical experts before the jury.
Here’s the direct, cross, and re-direct of Isenschmit
Isenschmit Direct Questioning
Dr. William Smock, Emergency Medical Physician, “Police Surgeon”
The next state medical expert witness, and the last of the day, was one Dr. William (“Bill”) Smock, an Emergency Medical Physician who claimed specialized training in forensic medicine. Direct questioning was conducted by Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell.
Frankly, Dr. Smock struck me as a bit of a nut job. He was portrayed by the state as having a substantive expertise in forensics. In fact, a close reading of his self-stated background and qualifications suggests his expertise is much more akin to that of a hobbiest in forensics than actual formal expertise.
Further, he oddly informed the court that he engaged in “living forensics,” which he described as applying the same forensic techniques to living patients as was more routinely applied to corpses. I’m presuming that does not include autopsy.
Further, Dr. Smock is not board certified in forensics, has no degree in forensics, and has never been employed to do forensics. Rather, he has “specialized training” in forensics. This could simply mean that he has a personal interest in the subject and attends local continuing medical education courses in the subject. Oh, and he subscribes to a forensics science journal—though I note he did not say he actually reads it, he only said he “gets it.”
Like Dr. Tobin at the start of the day, Smock was present for the explicit purpose of sharing his expert opinion that Floyd’s death was the result of hypoxia induced by police restraint of Floyd, period. And he did that.
Indeed, he stated outright at the start of direct questioning: “Floyd died of positional asphyxia from pressure to his chest, back, and neck.” Period.
He had as a second purpose to share his opinion that excited delirium could not have been a causal factor of Floyd’s death, and he spent considerable time during his direct questioning focused on this particular issue.
Specifically, he showed a list of 10 characteristics of excited delirium, announced that at least 6 of the 10 must be present for a diagnosis of excited delirium, and then concluded that in fact not a single one of the 10 characteristics could be found in Floyd—and thus excited delirium was off the table.
I found Smock’s testimony on this point to be really disingenuous, in that he would carefully cherry pick Floyd’s conduct from different points during the interaction with police until he found evidence that was contrary to a diagnosis of excited delirium—and then would choose the next example of Floyd’s conduct from a different point in the Floyd timeline entirely. As a result, his portrayal of Floyd as not suffering from excited delirium was made up of a patchwork of different Floyd characteristics chosen from different points of time.
Here’s Smock’s slide with the 10 characteristics of excited delirium:
Note that one of these is “constant/near constant physical activity.” In concluding that this characteristic was off the table in terms of a diagnosis of excited delirium that could have caused Floyd’s death, Smock pointed to the period very late in Floyd’s restraint and pointed out that he wasn’t moving much.
Well, of course he wasn’t—he was probably dead, or about to die. And that period of relative inactivity would be true of every single person who has ever died while experiencing excited delirium—once dead, they engaged in very limited physical activity.
Another factor is “unexpected/unusual strength.” In this context Smock claimed this characteristic was missing because Floyd wasn’t merely hurling the officers off him like the Hulk. Of course, it’s also true that early in the confrontation Floyd managed to fight off four police officers attempting to place him in a squad car until they gave up the effort as futile. If that’s not remarkable strength, I don’t know what is.
I could go on with other characteristics, viewed from one perspective by Smock for the jury, but also readily viewed from an entirely different perspective by a reasonable commentator—but the truth is it doesn’t matter.
The legal question on the subject of excited delirium is not whether Floyd’s conduct and appearance actually met the clinical criteria for diagnosis as that would be applied by a highly trained and experienced physician with the appropriate background and education—you know, like Dr. Smock.
Rather, the legal question is whether a reasonable police officer could have believed that he might be dealing with a citizen suffering from excited delirium, thus warranting use of the police-trained response for that condition, which is full-body restraint, from head to toe, until EMS arrives with the ketamine.
It’s not important for legal purposes whether officers possessing such a believe are correct. It’s only important for legal purposes that the belief, even if mistaken, was reasonably and genuinely held, given the background, training, and experience of a police officer not even trained to EMS standards.
Whether a medical doctor making an evaluation with the luxury repeatedly watching a variety of videos from all different angles, the full medical history of the suspect, as well as the suspect’s autopsy and toxicology results, would have come to the same conclusion is entirely irrelevant to whether the officer’s conduct was reasonable and lawful.
Smock was also used to attack the defense theory that Floyd’s fentanyl concentration might have contributed to his death, and he did so in a genuinely ridiculous manner.
Why, Smock recounted, there was one time when Floyd was brought to the hospital after taking 7 or 8 fentanyl pills, and it didn’t kill him. Indeed, all they did was watch him for a while and then let him go. (This was likely the year-earlier drug ingestion event by Floyd upon police contact.). Based on that experience, the notion that 11 ng/ml of fentanyl might have killed him on May 25, 2020 was ridiculous.
The flaws in this reasoning are obvious and numerous.
First, we have no idea if Floyd had a substantially higher tolerance at the year earlier event than he did on May 25. Indeed, we have reason to believe that his tolerance on May 25 may have been much reduced, based on the testimony of his co-addict lady friend that he had been “clean” for a lengthy period of time leading up to that date.
Second, on the year earlier event he’d consumed fentanyl and had a bad response, but there was a lot of things that he didn’t do like it was May 25, 2020. For one, he didn’t fight police for 10 minutes as they attempted to lawfully load him into a squad car, even as he was apparently munching on who knows how many fentanyl tablets in the process. He also wasn’t subject to arrest and restraint for 10 minutes or so while officers waited for the EMS they’d summoned on “code 3” lights and sirens basis.
As has always been the case, it is most likely not that any single factor killed Floyd, but that all the factors, working in combination, killed Floyd—his fentanyl levels, his compromised physiology, his lawful restraint by police, his poorly made decision to fight four officers for a full 10 minutes, and more.
Nelson did an OK job on cross-examination of Smock, but Smock was an experienced expert witness who knew who was paying him $300 an hour, and given that opposing counsel isn’t actually allowed to argue with the other side’s expert witnesses, there’s only so much Nelson is able to do in cross.
Again, the real counterpunch from the defense can’t realistically be expected until the defense presents its own case in chief and calls its own medical experts on direct. We’ve simply been spoiled in this trial with how skillfully Nelson has been able to routinely turn the state’s expert witnesses against them. That is not the norm, and ought not be expected.
In any case, there’s the direct, cross, and redirect of Smock:
Smock Direct Questioning
Bottom line, the state finally had a non-implosive day at trial, which is just another way of saying that today was the normal kind of day one should typically expect with a prosecution preventing their case in chief. It’s supposed to look good for them right now. That’s how it works. The state’s narrative is supposed to take its hits not during their own case in chief, but only after the defense gets their turn on the offensive.
OK, folks before I close out for the evening, I feel obliged to let you all know that I will not be covering the trial tomorrow, as I have been doing since jury selection began. I’m afraid I have other obligations to attend to. I will therefore leave you in the good hands of Professor Jacobson and the wonderful contributors and staff of Legal Insurrection.
But worry not, I’ll be back on the case come Monday!
Until then, 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. He wrote the first edition of the “Law of Self Defense” in 1997, which you can now order in its current edition for just the price of shipping and handling by clicking here. To know YOUR state’s use-of-force laws in an actionable way that will keep you safer physically and legally, take our state-specific advanced use of force class either streamed online or via a shipped DVD with a 100% no-question- asked money-back guarantee, here: Law of Self Defense State Specific Use-Of-Force Class.
[Featured image is a screen capture from video of today’s court proceedings in MN v. Chauvin.]
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