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Apr. 7 highlights for the murder trial of Derek Chauvin Day 8

Highlights from Day 8 of the trial of Derek Chauvin. A LAPD sergeant and Minnesota special agent took the stand in the trial for the death of George Floyd.
Image: Derek Chauvin trial
A woman holds a George Floyd picture while seated on a concrete barrier near the Hennepin County Government Center, on April 5, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minn.Jim Mone / AP

Live coverage on this blog has ended, please click here for latest in Derek Chauvin's trial

Witness testimony in Derek Chauvin's murder trial in the death of George Floyd concluded on Wednesday with a string of testimony from forensic scientists who collected, photographed and tested evidence found at the scene. A senior special agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension also testified about his investigation of Floyd's death.

The first witness of the day was Sgt. Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department. He testified as an outside expert on police training and use of force.

This week has also included testimony from several Minneapolis police officers, including the police chief and experts in use of force, crisis intervention training and emergency medical response.

Eighth day of witness testimony ends after forensic chemist takes the stand

The eighth day of witness testimony in Derek Chauvin's murder trial concluded with testimony from Susan Neith, a forensic chemist for NMS Labs.

Neith testified that she found methamphetamine and fentanyl in pills she tested that were collected at the scene. She was one of three forensic scientists to testify Wednesday about the collection and testing of items found in George Floyd's car and a police squad car.

Also testifying Wednesday were James Reyerson, the special agent leading the investigation for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and LAPD Sgt. Jody Stiger, a use-of-force expert for the prosecution.

Court will resume Thursday at around 9:15 a.m. local time.

A second Minnesota forensic scientist testifies

Breahna Giles, a forensic scientist with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, took the witness stand Wednesday afternoon.

Giles analyzes items for the presence or absence of controlled substances and generates reports on those findings. She tested items related to the investigation into the death of George Floyd, including pills or what appeared to be portions of pills found in the car George Floyd had been driving and the back of a police squad car.

Forensic scientist with the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension takes the stand

Prosecutors have called McKenzie Anderson, a forensic scientist for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to the stand. 

Anderson responded to the scene at Cup Foods in the early morning hours of May 26. A previous BCA agent testified that Anderson searched George Floyd's vehicle and a Minneapolis police squad car after they were taken into evidence.

Prosecution and defense clash over Floyd's words on drug use in video

Prosecutors and the defense had differing claims Wednesday over whether a difficult to understand video of George Floyd screaming out as he was pinned to the ground by officers showed him denying he had taken drugs, or saying he had taken too many drugs.

Derek Chauvin’s defense on Wednesday played loud body camera footage of Floyd as he was pinned to the ground by officers and asked witnesses if they heard Floyd say, “I ate too many drugs.”

The first expert witness of the day, Jody Stiger, a use-of-force expert for the prosecution, said he could not understand what Floyd was saying when played the video.

Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, asked the day’s second witness, James Reyerson, a special agent with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and lead investigator on the case, if he previously had heard footage of Floyd said appearing to say he had taken too many drugs. Reyerson said he had not.

After listening to the video, Reyerson said he agreed with Nelson about what he heard Floyd say. 

On redirect, prosecutor Matthew Frank played a longer version of that moment from a different officer's body camera, which included discussion between the officers about drug use. After viewing that footage, Reyerson said he believed Floyd did not say he'd eaten drugs. 

"I believe Mr. Floyd was saying 'I ain't do no drugs,'" Reyerson said. 

The defense's argument in the case is that Floyd's death was caused by a drug overdose and health complications and not from Chauvin’s knee on his neck.

Prosecutors walk through how long Chauvin's knee was on Floyd's neck

Prosecutors Wednesday walked through body camera and bystander footage with a special agent investigator in the death of George Floyd to show how long Derek Chauvin’s knee was on the man’s neck and not on his back area as the defense has highlighted.

Prosecutor Matthew Frank took witness James Reyerson, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension special agent in charge of investigating Floyd’s death, through a detailed examination of a side-by-side video showing police body camera and bystander footage. Frank paused the video repeatedly to ask Reyerson about the placement of Chauvin’s knee. In his testimony, Reyerson confirmed that Chauvin's knee was on Floyd's neck for several minutes.

The testimony appeared intended to strike back at the defense. Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, has repeatedly shown images to experts this week that appear to show the former officer’s knee on Floyd’s back area at the time the ambulance arrived at the scene to suggest that it had been there the entire time.

Minnesota special agent who investigated Floyd’s death takes stand

The prosecution has called a senior special agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension who investigated George Floyd’s death to the stand.

James Reyerson is a special agent with the newly-formed use of force investigation group, which conducts criminal investigations into police use of force. He is the lead investigator in the review of Floyd’s death.

Outside expert says Chauvin could have used Taser while Floyd was resisting

An outside expert testified Wednesday that Derek Chauvin could have used a Taser on George Floyd while he was resisting arrest based on the use-of-force continuum employed by Minneapolis police.

The defense asked Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant and use-of-force expert for the prosecution, whether Chauvin could have used a Taser when he saw Floyd resisting being put in the back of a police car. Stiger agreed that based on the department’s use-of-force continuum, officers are within their right to use a Taser on a subject who is actively resisting.

Stiger also agreed the officers were reasonable in their use of force when trying to put Floyd in the back of the car.

But Stiger, along with other officers, have previously testified that an acceptable level of force can change throughout an incident. Stiger has said Chauvin used "excessive" force on Floyd in the more than nine minutes he was pinned to the ground under Chauvin's knee and not resisting.

LAPD use-of-force expert testifies he did not perceive onlookers to be a threat

Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant serving as a prosecution use-of-force expert, testified that he did not perceive the crowd of onlookers as "threatening." 

Derek Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, has argued that the bystanders who observed Chauvin and other Minneapolis police officers restrain George Floyd were "angry" and distracted officers from assessing Floyd's condition.

Stiger disagreed Wednesday.

"They were merely filming, and most of it was their concern for Mr. Floyd," he said. 

The prosecution showed an image of the bystanders, some of them with cellphones in hand, to argue that they did not pose a threat.

Stiger said he would define such actions as throwing bottles or rocks — which he said he has experienced on duty — as hostile.

Under questioning by prosecutor Steve Schleicher, Stiger acknowledged that loud noise and name calling can be distracting but said that Chauvin, a 19-year-veteran of the force, had had sufficient training to prepare himself for distractions.

Stiger testified that he did not believe the crowd prevented Chauvin from being attentive to Floyd because in videos from police body cameras, you can hear Floyd expressing his pain and Chauvin responding.

Outside expert says Chauvin used deadly force

A use-of-force expert testified Wednesday that Derek Chauvin’s restraint of George Floyd and his use of a knee on Floyd’s neck for as long as long as he did was “deadly force.” 

Prosecutors asked Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant and use-of-force expert, whether Chauvin’s restraining of Floyd for nine and a half minutes constituted deadly force, which Stiger agreed with.

Stiger said the actions counted as deadly force because at the time Floyd was not resisting and was handcuffed in the prone position.

“He was not attempting to evade. He was not attempting to resist and that pressure that was being caused by the body weight could cause asphyxia, which could cause death,” he said.

Stiger said positional asphyxia has been a known risk among police officers for at least 20 years.

Deadly force is defined by the Minneapolis Police Department as force that an actor uses with the purpose of causing death or which the actor should reasonably know creates a substantial risk of causing death or great bodily harm.

LAPD sergeant returns to witness stand to testify about use of force

Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, has returned to the witness stand. He is a use-of-force expert for the prosecution.

Stiger testified Tuesday that he has trained thousands of police officers in use-of-force tactics. He said he had reviewed the case and had come to a conclusion about Derek Chauvin's actions during the arrest of George Floyd last May.

"My opinion was that the force was excessive," he said.

Stiger was the last witness to testify Tuesday before the judge abruptly adjourned an hour earlier than usual.

Floyd's family takes its seat in ex-officer's murder trial

The Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — A member of George Floyd's family often occupies a reserved seat in the back corner of the Minneapolis courtroom where former police Officer Derek Chauvin is on trial in Floyd's death. The seat reserved for Chauvin's family goes unclaimed.

Floyd's younger brother Philonise Floyd, of Houston, has attended several days of the trial to bear witness on behalf of his family. He has watched the often-excruciating bystander, police body camera and security videos of his brother's fatal encounter with Chauvin on May 25, and listened to testimony from eyewitnesses and police.

“This is life-changing,” Philonise Floyd said during a break in the proceedings. “All this testimony is so hard on everyone.”