Chauvin Trial Analysis: State Offers Abbreviated Versions of Video Evidence

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 PandoraiHeartSpotifyApple PodcastGoogle Podcastsimple 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.]



5 thoughts on “Chauvin Trial Analysis: State Offers Abbreviated Versions of Video Evidence”

  1. Andrew, have you commented on the proposed jury instructions in this case yet? I don’t see how the jury could reach a just verdict in the case based on the prosecution’s or the defense’s proposed jury instructions. Or at least I know I couldn’t. With offenses based on other offenses that aren’t even charged and aren’t even offenses unless the conduct prohibited by those other offenses is not authorized by other statutes that aren’t even mentioned, the jury is going to be clueless.

    1. Attorney Andrew Branca

      I haven’t covered the jury instructions yet. I have them, just haven’t yet found the time to present and explain them.
      You’re quite right that obviously the jury instructions ought to be ultimately determinative in this case, as they ought to be in every case.

  2. I am stunned that the prosecution would present all of this body cam footage. Providing the entire context of this event—the 4-man struggle trying to get him in the squad car, the fact the Floyd was foaming at the mouth and complaining he can’t breathe from the moment they arrested him at HIS vehicle—only seems to support the defense and the claim that he died of a fentanyl overdose.

    1. It later occurred to me that these body cam presentations were not in front of the jury. Makes more sense now. So in the words of Roseanne Roseannadanna … “never mind.”

  3. I understand how past conduct can be considered prejudicial and therefore excluded. In this case, however, the state is putting forth that certain video footage from the incident in question is prejudicial, which I’m having a hard time fathoming! How often does this kind of thing happen, and what are the chances they will succeed in having portions of the video inadmissible?

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