The Potluck

Defense begins their case in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial

By: - April 13, 2021 8:13 pm

Barry Brodd, a police consultant, testified for the defense Tuesday during the murder trial of Derek Chauvin.

The defense began putting on its case in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial Tuesday. Jurors heard about a similar traffic stop one year before George Floyd’s fatal police encounter. An ex-girlfriend said Floyd fell asleep in his car after leaving Cup Foods and before police arrived. And a police consultant said Chauvin’s actions were justified on the day he put his knee on Floyd’s neck. 

Here are the highlights from the trial’s 12th day of testimony:   

Cop testifies about 2019 traffic stop involving Floyd

A retired Minneapolis police officer testified about how Floyd behaved during a traffic stop one year prior to the fateful Cup Foods incident.

Scott Creighton pulled a gun on Floyd — who was in the passenger seat — during a traffic stop in May 2019. He said Floyd refused to comply with his demand that he show his hands and turned toward the driver, where Nelson says another officer told him to “spit it out,” referring to drugs Floyd put in his mouth.

In Creighton’s body camera footage, the encounter quickly escalated, as Creighton yelled at Floyd, “Keep your hands where I can (expletive) see em!”

“He keeps moving his hands around!” he tells another officer. “He won’t listen to what I have to say!”

Floyd was taken out of the Explorer and handcuffed. Creighton described Floyd as “very nervous, anxious” during the incident.

Judge Peter Cahill allowed the defense to present as evidence portions of the 2019 arrest to show the effect ingestion of opiates may have had on Floyd. He instructed the jury not to consider the incident as evidence of his character.

In cross-examination, Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldridge noted Floyd didn’t fall asleep or collapse.

“Mr. Floyd didn’t drop dead while you were interacting with him, correct?” she asked Creighton. 

Paramedic took Floyd to hospital

Retired Hennepin County paramedic Michelle Moseng testified that she was summoned to the Fourth Precinct to tend to Floyd after the 2019 traffic stop.

“He was upset and confused,” she said.

He told her he’d taken opiates every 20 minutes that day, including one when the officer approached him, but still he was “real agitated,” she said.

She took his vital signs, and his blood pressure was 216/160, so she took him to a hospital, where he was monitored for a couple of hours and released.

Moseng said Floyd initially denied a health problem but later said he had a history of hypertension and hadn’t been taking his medication. 

On cross-examination, she said his blood oxygen, pulse, heart rhythm and EKG were all normal. He didn’t have a stroke, go into a coma, stop breathing or go into cardiac arrest.

The judge also allowed this evidence strictly to show the effect opiates may have had on Floyd.

Ex-girlfriend says Floyd fell asleep in the car

One of the two passengers in Floyd’s SUV the day he died testified Tuesday that Floyd fell asleep in his car after leaving Cup Foods, before police arrived.

Shawanda Hill said she ran into Floyd, then her ex-boyfriend, at Cup Foods that day, where he was “happy, normal, talking, alert” and offered her a ride home.

Once they got to his SUV, they talked for a while. Hill got a phone call from her daughter, and Floyd suddenly fell asleep at the wheel, she testified.

She and the other passenger, Morries Hall, roused Floyd repeatedly as Cup Foods employees came out to confront Floyd about paying with what they said was a fake $20 bill. Police arrived.

“He was not coherent at the time,” Hill said.

When a police officer approached with a gun, Floyd grabbed the steering wheel and started pleading with him not to kill him, she testified.

Park police officer was worried about officers’ safety

Minneapolis Park Police Officer Peter Chang testified that he kept watch over Floyd’s two passengers while the other four officers struggled with and restrained Floyd on the other side of Cup Foods. He was unable to see what was unfolding.

He could see a gathering crowd, which was growing increasingly agitated.

“I was concerned for the officers’ safety,” he testified.

On cross-examination, Chang confirmed when he initially arrived on the scene, Floyd was coherent enough to give Officer J. Alexander Kueng his name and date of birth. He said the officers never called for assistance from other officers.

Nicole Mackenzie is recalled 

An MPD medical trainer was called by the defense back to the stand to testify about how officers are trained on “excited delirium.”

Nicole Mackenzie, a medical supply coordinator for MPD who trains police officers, confirmed Officer Thomas Lane was trained on excited delirium — a controversial medical diagnosis that police say can give people super-human strength. The condition has not been recognized by the American Medical Association or the American Psychiatric Association.

She testified that often people with the condition are confused, resistant and incoherent.

The three other officers who were on the scene — Lane, who held down Floyd’s legs; Kueng, who knelt on Floyd’s back and Tou Thao, who kept onlookers at bay — go on trial in August for aiding and abetting Chauvin.

Consultant says Chauvin’s actions were justified

Barry Brodd, a consultant on police practices, said Chauvin’s actions were justified and did not constitute deadly force.

On cross-examination, Brodd acknowledged that Chauvin pressing his knee onto Floyd “could” produce pain, in which case the use of force would not be justified.

Brodd also agreed a reasonable officer would take into consideration what Floyd was saying. Floyd said “I can’t breathe” six times in nine seconds. He also acknowledged a reasonable officer would consider what was causing the person pain. Brodd also acknowledged Floyd wasn’t talking or resisting after a certain point, particularly when he lost consciousness, and yet Chauvin kept his position.

Former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty said prosecutor Steve Schleicher did an excellent cross examination of Brodd.

“His opinions were based on a the belief of an escalating model of response for police, which is completely contrary to the policies of MPD,” she said. “At one point, Brodd opined that George Floyd was still resisting because he wasn’t ‘resting comfortably’ when he was in a prone position with his hands cuffed behind his back. This prompted the prosecutor to ask, incredulously, ‘Did you say resting comfortably?’ This is just one example of the many implausibilities the prosecutor was able to point out during cross.”

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.