Minneapolis, MN – Legal experts have said that former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s legal defense has started poking holes in the testimony of some of the state’s witnesses in his murder trial during cross-examination.
On Tuesday, Minneapolis Police Officer Nicole MacKenzie, the police department’s medical support coordinator, testified about the training officers received about excited delirium, KSTP reported.
Officer MacKenzie explained that officers were taught that the symptoms of excited delirium included elevated body temperature and heart rate.
She also said officers were trained to be aware that someone experiencing excited delirium might not feel pain and could have super-human strength, according to KSTP.
Officer MacKenzie said that when officers were trained on excited delirium the curriculum included a discussion of controlled substances “because what we’re usually teaching is that most people that are experiencing something like excited delirium, there’s illicit drugs on board that might be a contributing factor.”
Experienced trial attorney Lee Hutton told KSTP that Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, was doing well in setting up his client’s defense with his thoughtful cross-examinations.
“This was very good for the defense where they got testimony that corroborates what they’re eventually going to go to in their case in chief, that the causation of death was not because of the knee but because of drugs,” Hutton said.
Officer MacKenzie will return to court next week as a witness for the defense, KSTP reported.
Prosecutors have invested a lot of their time questioning witnesses trying to beat back the defense’s assertions that the fentanyl and methamphetamine found in 46-year-old George Floyd’s system the day he died were what actually killed him, The New York Times reported.
Nelson also undermined the credibility of the prosecution’s first paid witness, a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) sergeant who was paid more than $10,000 to testify about use of force.
The LAPD sergeant testified that Chauvin used excessive force on Floyd, but the defense attorney pointed out in his cross-examination that the state’s expert wasn’t actually a qualified expert witness anywhere outside California, or more specifically, Los Angeles.
The expert testified that he knew nothing about Minneapolis Police Department policy or its application prior to receiving a retainer to testify for the state.
The biggest score made by the defense on Wednesday was the admission by Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) Special Agent James Ryerson, who confirmed under oath that he could hear Floyd say “I ate too many drugs” in the bodycam video played in court.
WATCH: During defense cross-examination of BCA Agent James Reyerson, attorney Eric Nelson plays a clip of the arrest and asks if George Floyd said “I ate too many drugs.” Reyerson agrees that it appears he does say that. #DerekChauvinTrial | Watch: https://t.co/nHYrdo9ksK pic.twitter.com/qHYHmkeyJw
— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) April 7, 2021
Agent Reyerson’s confirmation lent weight to the defense’s argument that Floyd’s death could be attributed to an overdose, the West Central Tribune reported.
The prosecution hit back with rebuttal that claimed that rather than saying “I ate too many drugs,” Floyd actually said “I ain’t do no drugs,” and Agent Reyerson agreed that could be what he heard in the video, but the jury had already heard both interpretations.
The agent also testified he was in charge of the search of Chauvin’s police SUV and admitted that BCA’s search missed drugs left in the back seat of the vehicle that were found when defense attorneys asked to view the police SUV.
He testified that when Chauvin’s defense attorneys requested to view the police SUV they found pieces of pills that tested positive for illegal narcotics that had been missed by crime scene investigators.
Then McKenzie Anderson, the BCA’s forensic scientist who searched the police SUV the night Floyd died, testified that she had seen a pill on the floor of the backseat of the vehicle but had ignored it because she “didn’t know I was looking for a pill.”
The crime scene photos from the first search of the vehicle clearly showed a whole pill on the floor of the SUV and multiple half-chewed pill fragments smeared across the back seat where Floyd had been sitting.
After the defense examined the SUV months later, Anderson said she was ordered to go back to the police SUV and re-examine it and collect the evidence spotted by Chauvin’s team.
The crime scene expert tech testified that DNA testing on the saliva on the partially-chewed narcotic pills found in the back of the police vehicle on her second search of the SUV matched Floyd.
Another forensic scientist for BCA testified that she tested all of the pills recovered from the police SUV and found pills that contained oxycodone and acetaminophen and pills that tested positive for fentanyl and methamphetamine.
The revelations that the BCA crime scene team had dropped the ball on their initial search of the police SUV could play a role in establishing reasonable doubt in the jury’s eyes about what caused Floyd’s death.
Last week, Floyd’s girlfriend testified that the people in his SUV with him the day of his death were drug dealers from whom he had regularly purchased illegal pills and heroin.
About the same time, a “key witness” for both sides notified the court he intended to invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege not to incriminate himself if he were forced to appear to testify.
The state has so far refused to extend immunity to the witnesses who were inside Floyd’s car the day he died and could face charges for providing the drugs that the defense has claimed killed him if they testified.
Prosecutors want to stop the defense from calling the witness to the stand so that the jury can hear him invoke the Fifth Amendment, so the judge has scheduled a hearing before trial on Thursday morning to explore the matter.
Floyd’s girlfriend testified that she didn’t like the witness who was invoking the Fifth Amendment and said that he had previously sold them pills that were not as represented and made Floyd jumpy and unable to sit still.
Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree and third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd as he was being arrested by Minneapolis police officers.