Did you see the video? The one where George Floyd is pulled out of the SUV, upset, crying, and scared to death police would kill him? You are likely thinking of the May 25, 2020 video made on the day Mr. Floyd died. But there is another video. This one, prosecutors tried to keep the world from seeing – and for a good reason. It shows Mr. Floyd behaving in the very same manner, using the same words even, but it was from May 6, 2019. The jury standing in judgment of Derek Chauvin will now see some of it too.
On Friday morning, Judge Cahill ruled on four pending motions in the case. He denied separate defense requests for a continuance and to move the trial to another county in Minnesota, saying he did “not think that would give the defendant any kind of a fair trial beyond what we are doing here today.” The judge explained that moving the case to another county in Minnesota would not likely provide relief from the problem. It’s not like they don’t have Facebook or Twitter in the rural counties. Instead, Cahill said he granted an increase in peremptory juror challenges and further examined jurors for impermissible bias.
A prosecution effort to allow a doctor to speculate on Mr. Floyd’s mental state during his encounter with police on the day he died was also denied. Judge Cahill ruled that the doctor’s opinion would only be admitted if the defense’s evidence and arguments presented during the trial might allow it to be entered. The prosecution’s problem would then be that the entire May 6, 2019 video would likely then be admitted. For now, just part will be – and not the part where Floyd cries for his mamma as he did on May 25.
Derek Chauvin’s defense will be able to use parts of the 2019 video to demonstrate modus operandi or a particular way of doing something. In this case, the defense claims that means that Mr. Floyd has a particular way of behaving during a vehicle stop with police where he is handcuffed and ingests drugs he possesses. This footage and testimony about Floyd’s behavior will now be admissible for the limited purpose of demonstrating his medical condition when confronted in the same situation.
Defense counsel will also call the paramedic that treated Mr. Floyd in 2019 to testify about Mr. Floyd’s statements made for the purpose of medical diagnosis, especially including what drugs he took, the volume of the same, and when they were ingested. The paramedic will also testify why they advised Floyd to go to the hospital immediately (to avoid death from a heart attack or stroke).
This video and the testimony that will accompany it may be very damaging for the prosecution and benefit Mr. Chauvin’s defense. The jury will see that only a couple of years before the incident they must judge; Mr. Floyd was stopped by police and handcuffed. They will hear him speak with the same tone as the day he died and witness his distress. All that gives the lie to any notion that Mr. Chauvin and the officers he was with were the effects of such behavior by Floyd on the day he died. “Floyd reacted the exact same way before!” will be what the examination and questions by the defense will indicate.
The trial is still scheduled to start opening statements on March 29 in Hennepin County. Jury selection resumed Friday after Judge Cahill’s announcement and will continue until 12 jurors and two alternates are selected.
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.
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