When the jury sees the full videos, it may come back to bite the prosecution case if the jury concludes the abbreviated videos were misleading.
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.
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 Pandora, iHeart, Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, simple RSS feed, and more.
Last Wednesday, March 31, the last state witness of the day was Lt. Jeff Rugel of the Minneapolis Police Department. Lt. Rugel doesn’t have any substantive involvement with the Floyd death, and so can’t provide substantive testimony about those events. Rugel does, however, manage the MPD information systems, which includes video footage pulled from officers’ body worn cameras (BWCs) and from the city’s Milestone system of surveillance cameras.
For video evidence to be admissible in court there must first be an evidentiary foundation established, definitely tying the video footage to the event in question. The role of Lt. Rugel in testifying was to provide that foundational evidence required for the various bits of camera footage to be admitted as evidence.
When I did the end-of-day wrap-up post for March 31 I stepped quickly past Lt. Rugel’s testimony, simply because it was not substantive. I had mentioned then, however, that perhaps I would break out the individual videos introduced by the state and share them with all of you in a separate blog post.
Well, this is that blog post.
It’s also noteworthy that immediately prior to to the videos being offered into evidence by the state, the defense raised concerns with the court that the state was introducing only selected fragments of the body camera and other videos, and that the defense found this objectionable.
Rather, the defense argued, the entirety of these videos should be admitted as evidence, and not merely the portions offered by the state. Ultimately the court accepted a memory stick from the defense that contained the full-length videos and promised to review it and determine admissibility.
During this discussion the state told the court that they didn’t have any foundational objections to the defense offering the full-length videos—how could they, their own witness, Lt. Rugel, had just spent a couple of hours on the witness stand providing the necessary foundation—but that likely would have separate admissibility objections to the jury seeing the full-length videos. Presumably these objections would be based on claims that the added video segments would be more prejudicial than relevant, but the state didn’t specify.
A reasonable person might wonder why the state preferred to offer the jury only selected portions of the videos, rather than be entirely transparent and ensure that the jury is fully informed on the totality of the video evidence relevant to the events surrounding Floyd’s death, but maybe that’s just me.
Or maybe it’s not just me. For example, the full length video of Officer Lane (BWC 5Z7) shows Lane climbing into the ambulance with Floyd—at Chauvin’s direction!– and providing chest compressions in an effort to save Floyd’s life.
The state’s offering of that same video footage as Exhibit 47 cuts off immediately prior to Chauvin ordering Lane to jump into the ambulance to provide this medical assistance.
Coincidence that the state’s version excludes Chauvin ordering Lane into the ambulance to assist the efforts to save Floyd’s life? Things that make you go, hmmm.
You can hear the argument in court over this issue of the state offering only abbreviated versions of these videos, with these arguments made outside the hearing of the jury, here:
In the meantime, here are the various videos offered by the state last Wednesday, each identified by their unique “exhibit number” assigned by the court. For purposes of distinguishing each of the BWC clips, I’ve noted the last three characters of each BWCs ID number.
Exhibit 42. Milestone Camera Video of Floyd on Ground, Taken From Across Street at Speedway
Exhibit 43. Body camera footage from Keung (BWC 5AT)
Exhibit 44. Body camera footage from Chauvin, part 1 (BWC 2VK)
Exhibit 45. Body camera footage from Chauvin, part 2 (BWC 2VK)
Exhibit 47. Body camera footage from Lane (BWC 5Z7)
Exhibit 49. Body camera footage from Thau (BWC 5BE)
OK, folks, that’s all I have for all of you for now.
Don’t forget to join me Monday morning for our ongoing LIVE coverage of the Chauvin trial proceedings, as well as for our end-of-day wrap-up post each evening.
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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