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 Pandora, iHeart, Spotify, Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, simple RSS feed, and more.
Well, yesterday was truly a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for the prosecution in the trial of Derek Chauvin, for reasons I detailed in yesterday’s wrap-up post, which you can find here:
The bottom line, however, is that two of the state’s most important witnesses, the Minneapolis Police Department use-of-force trainer Lieutenant Johnny Mercil and the MPD medical services coordinator Sergeant Nicole MacKenzie, both provided extensive testimony highly favorable to the defense on cross-examination—and therefore, of course, highly damaging to the prosecution.
If you haven’t seen their cross, I provide it again here for your viewing pleasure—it’s worth the watch:
Mercil Cross-Examination (April 6, 2021)
MacKenzie Cross-Examination (April 6, 2021)
Indeed, so effective was the testimony of the medical coordinator for the defense, that the defense has informed the court that they intend to re-call her as a defense witness when it’s the defense’s turn to present the jury with their case in chief.
Now a week-and-a-half into the state presenting its narrative of guilt for the jury, until yesterday I would have characterized the prosecution’s performance as weak, scattered, and not entirely internally coherent—all terrible traits when one bears the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Indeed, those are traits that foster a reasonable doubt.
Yesterday, however, was a genuine catastrophe for the state, on a level I’ve not seen for a prosecution since the trial of George Zimmerman.
In the Zimmerman case, the bad days for the prosecution were not isolated events, but rather occurred sequentially, day after day, with each day seemingly being worse for the prosecution than even the previous horrible day. Whether that will prove to be the case in Minnesota v. Chauvin remains to be seen—but it doesn’t look good for the prosecution so far.
Today the State will presumably seek to recover its balance with the testimony of its paid expert witness on use of force, Sergeant Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Stiger began his direct testimony yesterday afternoon, with the court recessing for the day before direct was completed, so I expect we’ll begin today with Stiger’s continued direct.
What I saw of Stiger yesterday was not what I’d call compelling or impressive testimony, however. Sure, he said the words the state paid him to say, essentially stating in a conclusory manner that Chauvin’s use of force was excessive. He even suggested that instead Officer Lake, who Stiger believed had established a rapport with Floyd, should have continued to talk Floyd through the whole interaction. Really? After Floyd had taken a fatal dose of fentanyl upon initial contact by Lake? I guess that’s one view of events, but it doesn’t strike me as a view likely to stand up to critical questioning on cross-examination.
For your viewing pleasure, here’s yesterday’s partial direct questioning by the state of Sergeant Stiger:
Stiger Direct Questioning (April 6, 2021)
In any case, I suppose we’ll find out today, when Sergeant Stiger is subject to the cross-examination skills that Defense Counsel Eric Nelson used with such destructive (to the state’s case) effect with state’s witnesses MPD Lieutenant Mercil (use of force trainer) and MPD Sergeant Nicole MacKenzie (medical trainer).
That’s where things stand today, folks as we prepare to conduct our usual LIVE real-time coverage of the trial proceedings throughout the day at Legal Insurrection, LIVE: Chauvin Trial Day 8 – Will State’s Expert Witness Save This Prosecution?, followed this evening by our usual end-of-day wrap-up commentary and analysis.
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.]