The case against the Minneapolis cops in the death of George Floyd is quickly falling apart (op-ed)

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This editorial analysis of the case against the four Minneapolis cops is brought to you by a staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.

Minneapolis, MN – Minneapolis attorneys representing former police officer Derek Chauvin have filed for a dismissal of all charges on two grounds. 

The first cites a report over whether George Floyd intentionally ingested a lethal dose of fentanyl shortly before his arrest. 

The second is that a Minneapolis Department police training manual demonstrates a technique similar to the one Chauvin used on Floyd to subdue violent and resisting suspects.  The technique involves placing a knee on the suspect’s neck.

KARE 11 News reported that documents issued by the medical examiner who performed Floyd’s autopsy were added to Chauvin’s defense.  An official court memorandum summarizing the medical examiner’s statements, as part of the Minnesota Attorney General’s investigation into Floyd’s death, was also entered into defense. 

Dr. Andrew Baker, Hennepin County Medical Examiner, reported that Floyd had 11 nanograms per milliliter of fentanyl in his system, which is almost four times the lethal limit. 

Baker commented in his cause of death report, that this is a “fatal level of fentanyl under normal circumstances.”

According to the official court memorandum, Baker told investigators:

“If he were found dead at home alone and no other apparent causes, this could be acceptable to call an OD. Deaths have been certified with levels of 3 (ng/ml).”

Baker reported in his medical exam that Floyd also had what he called a “heavy heart,” and indicated that there was some severe blockage in one of his arteries, of up to 75%.

The documents indicate that Baker performed the autopsy before watching videos of Chauvin’s neck restraint of Floyd, in order to avoid bias in any of his findings. 

After watching the videos, Baker then concluded that Floyd’s death was a homicide, caused by “law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

He is quoted in the memorandum, however, as stating:

From videos I have seen it appears like his knee is on the side of his neck, not where the structures are.”

The memorandum describes the course of events from the time that the 911 call was made to report Floyd, to his autopsy and subsequent findings of the examination. 

The document mentions a small “white object” that was visible on Floyd’s tongue when officers first approached his vehicle, and that the object was no longer visible after Floyd turned his face away and back toward them. 

The document also mentions Floyd being seen foaming at the mouth, and acting erratically, which body cam footage of the incident also shows.

Defense attorneys argue Chauvin’s knee technique is recommended in official Minneapolis Police Department training materials for suspects who are actively resisting arrest.  This is part of the Maximal Restraint Technique (MRT),

Attorney and CourtTV host, Vinnie Politan analyzes an excerpt of the training manual with a panel of other attorneys and a legal correspondent, describing the MRT game changer below:

Politan comments during the segment:

“This one is absolutely shocking. I mean, this is what the whole story is about. This is what outraged millions and millions of people, this is what caused the protests. It was the knee on the neck.  And now, Ashleigh Banfield, the defense is saying dismiss the charges because the knee on the neck is right there in the police training manual!”

Banfield, a CourtTV legal correspondent, replied:

“What people will say though, when they see the snippet of video that has been played over and over in the news they’ll think, ‘But how can any officer, any human being be so callous?  The man was clearly pleading, I can’t breathe, please, please, please.’

“You’re right, he was.  But a jury would see the entire :40 minute tape in which he’s saying the same thing :40 minutes prior when he was standing upright, and there was nobody putting any pressure on him at all.”

Attorney Michael Ayala, CourtTV anchor, referring to the accompanying picture shown in the manual’s MRT training section, added:

“That picture shows how you’re supposed to restrain people when you’re afraid for excited delirium.  Unbelievable.  This is a game-changer, Vinnie.  It’s going to be tough to overcome; he was doing it by the book, Vinnie.  By the book.”

Maximal Restraint Technique (MRT), as instructed in the MPD Training Manual.
Maximal Restraint Technique (MRT), as instructed in the MPD Training Manual.

We posted an article last month, providing a first look at details of the restraint technique that had recently emerged.  We also reported on a motion to dismiss charges filed by former officer Thomas Lane’s attorney.

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Report: Minneapolis Police Department training materials show knee-to-neck restraint similar to the one used on Floyd

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – One of the four officers implicated in the death of George Floyd recently filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him, by way of providing 30 pages of MPD training material that showcased officers were trained on applying a very similar restraint technique as seen in the infamous video.

The attorney for former Officer Thomas Lane filed a motion of dismissal for the charges of aiding and abetting unintentional second degree murder while committing a felony and aiding and abetting second degree manslaughter – culpable negligence creating unreasonable risk on July 7th.

Some of the arguments presented in the motion for dismissal drafted by defense attorney Earl Gray are certainly notable.

Namely, Gray alleges the aspects related to the restraint used on Floyd appears to be among MPD training material and also that there’s little evidence to suggest that Lane knew that Derek Chauvin was actively committing a felony.

What makes the latter so important is that the state must prove Lane knew Chauvin’s actions were criminal while they were ongoing, which the defense provided numerous exhibits that would make it extremely difficult to come close to that threshold of proof.

While the case was in its early stages, MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo noted that officers were never trained to apply a knee to a suspect’s neck.

However, Lane’s attorney provided MPD training material on what is known as the “maximum restraint technique,” or commonly referred to as the MRT.

According to the training material presented by the defense in the motion that showed the MRT to be nearly identical to the restrain used on Floyd, the following is stated about the application:

“The maximal restraint technique shall only be used in situations where handcuffed subjects are combative and still pose a threat to themselves, officers or others, or could cause significant damage [to] property if not properly restrained.”

The motion further pointed out that Lane could not have perceived the actions on May 25th to be criminal, based upon the circumstances of the entire scenario.

This notion was alleged based upon the lead taken by Chauvin, a designated field training officer with roughly 20 years on the force, and Lane having only been completed with his entire training for four days when encountering Floyd:

“Officer Lane did not know there was a felony being committed or attempted when Chauvin was kneeling on Floyd. If in fact a felony was committed or attempted. The training material supports that neck restraint was something taught to officers.”

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From there, the motion points out that while Lane was new to the job, he was trained that officers are allowed to apply force under certain instances when suspects aren’t cooperating.

Furthermore, exhibits provided by the defense showed that Lane asked Chauvin if it was appropriate to roll Floyd on his side twice.

In the first instance, Chauvin replied that they were going to keep Floyd just as he was, and when asked again by Lane, Chauvin simply didn’t respond.

Overall, 13 points were made by the defense’s motion to dismiss the charges against Lane, which are as follows:

  • Minneapolis Police training that was received by Lane
  • Lan had only been on the job for four days
  • Chauvin, field training officer, 20 years’ experience
  • Lane put his gun away immediately once Floyd showed his hands
  • Floyd’s resistance being hand cuffed, Floyd’s resistance walking to the squad, Floyd’s resistance getting into the squad
  • Lane offered to sit with Floyd, to roll down the windows, to turn the air conditioning on in the squad
  • Floyd initially claimed he couldn’t breathe when officers were attempting to put him in the squad vehicle, before he was moved to the ground
  • Floyd requested to be moved to the ground
  • Floyd continued to yell and move around while on the ground
  • Lane questioned Chauvin twice about rolling Floyd on to his side
  • Lane went in the ambulance and started CPR on Floyd
  • Lane’s consistent statement to the Sergeant at the scene
  • Lane voluntarily giving a statement, corroborated by video

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is expected to challenge the motion to dismiss brought up by Lane’s attorney, according to a spokesperson from the office. If that is indeed the intent, then the Minnesota AG has until August 10th to challenge the motion.

Challenges aside, the defense certainly provided some solid evidence with regard to clearing Lane. As for the other former officer implicated in the death of Floyd, it is unclear if anything similar to Lane’s defense is being considered.

 

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