Derek Chauvin trial: Minneapolis police chief expected to testify – live

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Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell just arrived at his destination with his witness, hospital emergency doctor Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld.

The doctor first signaled that he heard no feedback from the paramedics who brought George Floyd to the hospital that the man was there because of a drug overdose or heart attack.

Langenfeld then went on to describe his attempts to revive Floyd, and his analysis after Floyd had been in cardiac arrest for more than 30 minutes and had been declared dead, was that he didn’t find evidence that would have led him to believe that a heart attack had stopped the heart.

He concluded, in essence, that Floyd’s death had come about because of oxygen deficiency.

Blackwell asked him for another way to describe death by oxygen deficiency.

“Asphyxia,” Langenfeld said. Blackwell said “no further questions” and the court began a 20-minute break.

Blackwell is trying to get out ahead of the defense who want to show that Floyd died of a heart attack brought about by drug use and underlying conditions, not that his heart stopped after he was asphyxiated by the police officers holding him down.

Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, the doctor who pronounced George Floyd dead, testifies as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Monday, April 5, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd.
Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, the doctor who pronounced George Floyd dead, testifies as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Monday, April 5, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. Photograph: AP

Updated at 11.41am EDT

There is no doubt that policing in America is on trial right now, with so much attention focused on this case.

On the day of opening arguments, George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, described the prosecution’s murder case as a “slam dunk” based on bystander video showing then-police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck as he and two other officers had the man pinned to the street.

But the Washington Post advocates caution, bringing this report on the track record of conviction of police officers when they kill members of the public.

Prosecutors face a steep legal challenge in winning a conviction against a police officer. Despite nationwide protests, police are rarely charged when they kill someone on duty. And even when they are, winning convictions is often difficult.

Between 2005 and 2015, more than 1,400 officers were arrested for a violence-related crime committed on duty, according to data tracked by Philip M. Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University.

In 187 of those cases, victims were fatally injured in shootings or from other causes. The officers charged represent a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of police officers working for about 18,000 departments nationwide.

Police charged with committing violent crimes while on duty were convicted more than half the time during that period. In the most serious cases — those involving murder or manslaughter — the conviction rate was lower, hovering around 50 percent.

In comparison, about 6 in 10 people charged with violent crimes were convicted, according to a federal report that examined cases adjudicated in the country’s 75 most populous counties in 2009.

The number increased to 70 percent when murder was the most serious charge. Most criminal cases in the United States end in plea bargains, rather than court trials.

“The law favors the police, the law as it exists,” said David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert in policing.

“Most people, I think, believe that it’s a slam dunk,” Harris said of the case against Chauvin. But he said, “the reality of the law and the legal system is, it’s just not.”

Emergency doctor who declared George Floyd's death testifies

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell is questioning his witness, emergency hospital doctor Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld.

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell. Photograph: Reuters

He asked the doctor whether paramedics who brought Floyd into the hospital in Minneapolis told him that Floyd was in the condition he was in because of a drug overdose.

“No,” said Langenfeld.

Blackwell asked: Had the paramedics told the doctor that Floyd had had a heart attack?

“No,” said Langenfeld.

The defense is expected to try to convince the jury that George Floyd died because of those above situations, with underlying medical conditions contributing - not from asphyxiation because of Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck.

Langenfeld said that the team at the hospital tried for about 30 minutes to revive Floyd after his lifeless body was brought into the emergency department.

We had been expecting that the Minneapolis police chief, Medaria Arradondo, might have been the first witness up on the stand today. But he has not been called yet. The court has released a full list of witnesses planned by the prosecution and defense, but there has not been an order of appearance issued, so there is an element of estimation involved in trying to figure out who’s taking the stand and when.

The trial is likely to continue all week and into next week. The defense has not called its witnesses yet. Debate is still ongoing with the judge about who can be called and what topics discussed.

Updated at 11.34am EDT

Former police officer Derek Chauvin, the defendant who has been in court every day since jury selection began on 8 March, worked at the Minneapolis police department for almost two decades.

The Star Tribune newspaper has been examining his conduct record and also reporting critics the system in which Chauvin was a trainer of other officers.

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill presides during the sixth day of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill presides during the sixth day of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Photograph: Reuters

Following a previous post, the Star Tribune report adds about officers who were serving under Chauvin when they attempted to arrest George Floyd, Thomas Lane and Alexander Kueng:

Critics have blamed the training program for fostering a culture of aggressive policing that stretches back decades.

Retired Minneapolis Deputy Chief Greg Hestness wondered how much of Lane and Kueng’s trainers may have rubbed off on the rookie officers, saying he was struck by how quickly their arrest of Floyd over a fake $20 bill escalated into Lane yelling at Floyd to “show me your [expletive] hands!”

“Where does that come from on Day 4?” he asked.

“A really cynical but deserving question is would Chauvin have knelt on him for that long if he wasn’t training the officers at that time?” said Michael Friedman, a former executive director of the Legal Rights Center, saying it seemed Chauvin was “trying to demonstrate how to control a person.”

Gerald Moore, a retired 30-plus-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, said that because rookie officers must pass regular evaluations before they can go out on their own, it can create unhealthy power dynamics with their training officers.

To some, the larger problem is a tendency of some officers not to question and intervene when a colleague — particularly a senior officer — uses excessive force.

After Floyd’s death, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo announced a stricter “duty to intervene” policy that says officers who witness another officer “use any prohibited force, or inappropriate or unreasonable force” must attempt to “safely intervene by verbal and physical means.”

For years, groups like Communities United Against Police Brutality have pushed for the department to adopt a peer intervention training program developed by the New Orleans Police Department that is based on the premise that there is a tendency for officers not to intervene when they see a colleague engage in misconduct.

The program, called Ethical Policing Is Courageous, or EPIC, is built on the premise that intervention must be taught through training and role-playing and must be continually reinforced through more training to the point that it infuses the departmental culture.

St. Paul police participate in the training, but Minneapolis has not. The debate over police training has been brewing in Minneapolis in recent years after a series of high-profile on-duty killings of civilians.

Updated at 11.11am EDT

Testimony is now getting underway.

A doctor who tried to save George Floyd’s life on the night he died and, indeed, was the individual who pronounced him dead, is now on the stand being questioned by prosecutor Jerry Blackwell.

The witness is medical Dr Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld.

On Memorial Day last year, Langenfeld was working in the emergency department of the Hennepin County medical center in Minneapolis, where he was a senior resident.

“I provided the majority of direct patient care” for George Floyd when he was brought into the hospital.

Blackwell: “When Mr Floyd was brought in would you describe it as an emergency situation?”

Langenfeld: “Yes, absolutely”.

The doctor said Floyd’s heart had stopped.

'Salty dogs'

Derek Chauvin wasn’t just an officer in the Minneapolis police department when he encountered George Floyd on 25 May 2020, he was also a trainer of fellow officers.

There is some slightly different data being examined by different outlets, but here is very pertinent reporting from the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper:

Over his 19 years with the Minneapolis Police Department, Derek Chauvin … racked up 17 misconduct complaints and was involved in four on-duty shootings or other fatal encounters.

Yet despite an ever-thickening personnel file, Chauvin continued to serve as a field training officer, or FTO, even mentoring one of the two rookie cops who first interacted with Floyd outside of a South Side convenience store last May.

In body camera footage, some of which was played during testimony last week, that officer, J. Alexander Kueng, referred to Chauvin as “sir.” The other officer, Thomas Lane, followed Chauvin’s direction to stay put after he asked whether Floyd should be repositioned as they pinned him to the ground before he lost consciousness and died.

Revelations about Chauvin’s history and his conduct on the day Floyd died have drawn further scrutiny of his training role even though his superiors were aware of his at-times questionable decision-making.

Several new hires have quit the force in recent months because they could not take the harassment they endured from their training officers, according to a department source knowledgeable about the departures.

Over the past decade, only four Minneapolis officers have been removed as trainers because they were unfit, according to department records. Three officers were stripped of their training duties in 2018 – two for disciplinary reasons and another in 2014 who was deemed a “Poor Instructor.”

Kueng and Lane had been working unsupervised for less than a week. Chauvin was among the rotation of senior officers whom Kueng was assigned to shadow during his probationary period.

After graduating from the police academy, new hires usually spend six to seven months riding along with more experienced officers to supplement what they learned in the classroom about proper use of force and other aspects of police work.

In practice, though, months of academy lessons can be undone by jaded veterans – “salty dogs” in Minneapolis police parlance – who set an example with their unnecessarily aggressive behavior.

Updated at 10.56am EDT

Legal arguments are continuing, with lawyers debating with judge Peter Cahill about what should and should not be allowed in testimony about use of force by police and how many officers should take the stand.

And particularly, Cahill is concerned about allowing too many police officers to give their opinions about what happened in the encounter between Chauvin and George Floyd, rather than baldly describing, for example, training policies and answering questions from the prosecution and cross-examination from the defense about matters like that.

We’re expecting not just the Minneapolis police chief to testify but also the lieutenant who is in charge of training officers and an officer who runs what’s being called the department’s “crisis intervention program”.

Testimony should begin soon on this sixth day of proceedings in the murder trial of former officer Derek Chauvin, charged in the death of George Floyd last May.

It’s looking increasingly likely that we will get Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo on the stand for the prosecution today. Arradondo (often known informally in the Twin Cities as “Rondo”) became chief in 2017.

He very quickly condemned the killing of George Floyd, calling it murder last summer. He had swiftly fired Chauvin and the three officers who helped him in the arrest of Floyd.

We expect that Arradondo will work hard to keep the focus on Chauvin and make efforts to show that the former officer stepped outside his training and police principles when he pinned down Floyd and knelt on his neck, even after the man was unconscious. (Floyd died on 25 May 2020. Chauvin denies murder.)

However, it will be difficult for the chief to divorce the department from the officer. Chauvin had been a police officer in Minneapolis for 19 years and had multiple complaints against him and evidence that he had used his knee to hold people down before, including by the neck.

The Marshall Project has reported that:

Nearly three years before the Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd as he cried that he couldn’t breathe last May, Zoya Code found herself in a similar position: handcuffed facedown on the ground, with Chauvin’s knee on her.

The officer had answered a call of a domestic dispute at her home, and Code said he forced her down when she tried to pull away.

“He just stayed on my neck,” Code said, ignoring her desperate pleas to get off. Frustrated and upset, she challenged him to press harder. “Then he did. Just to shut me up,” she said.

Code’s case was one of six arrests as far back as 2015 that the Minnesota attorney general’s office sought to introduce, arguing that they showed how Chauvin was using excessive force when he restrained people by their necks or by kneeling on top of them – just as he did in arresting Floyd. Police records show that Chauvin was never formally reprimanded for any of these incidents, even though at least two of those arrested said they had filed formal complaints.

Of the six people arrested, two were Black, one was Latino and one was Native American. The race of two others was not included in the arrest reports that reporters examined …

… Chauvin, who was fired, has said through his attorney that his handling of Floyd’s arrest was a reasonable use of authorized force. But he was the subject of at least 22 complaints or internal investigations during his more than 19 years at the department, only one of which resulted in discipline.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, right, in court last month.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, and former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, right, in court last month. Photograph: AP

Updated at 10.46am EDT

The judge in the Derek Chauvin trial, Peter Cahill, has entered the courtroom, in his customary black face mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

He’s just told the jury that there are some off-video, off-audio legal matters to deal with, so court is effectively going off air for a little while as that takes place, prior to witnesses being called and proceedings getting under way in public.

We’ll keep you posted, of course. The live stream is now fixed, silently, on the image of the seal of the state of Minnesota, on the wall behind the judge, as he takes the jury through some stuff.

It shouldn’t go without saying that of course the regular Guardian US politics live blog is running, with my colleague Joan Greve at the helm. You can follow that here.

Updated at 10.35am EDT

If, as expected, Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo testifies for the prosecution in the trial of the officer he fired after George Floyd’s killing, Derek Chauvin, it will be one of the most significant moments of the proceedings.

When Arradondo was a lieutenant, in 2007, he and four other African American officers sued the department alleging discrimination in promotions, pay and discipline.

Medaria Arradondo in Minneapolis last June.
Medaria Arradondo in Minneapolis last June. Photograph: Jim Mone/AP

Now he’s in charge, the first Black police chief in Minneapolis.

On the weekend, the New York Times reported its own analysis and investigation, finding that:

Only about 20% of Minneapolis residents are Black, but about 60% of use-of-force incidents with the city’s police involve Black people … the city’s police officers use force against Black people at seven times the rate of white people.

Body-weight pinning, which Derek Chauvin used on Mr Floyd, is one of the most popular use-of-force mechanisms in Minneapolis and it, too, is employed in a racially disparate way.

Since 2015, Minneapolis officers have used it against 2,200 times against Black people, more than twice as many times as they have used it against white people.

The influence of the city’s police union, the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, has made reforming the department a struggle, some analysts say.

There have been some limited reforms since Floyd’s death. More on that in upcoming posts.

Updated at 10.17am EDT

More police witnesses to testify in trial of former fellow officer

Hello, Guardian liveblog readers, welcome back to our dedicated blog on the trial in Minneapolis of white former police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with murdering George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, in the city last May.

The proceedings are being livestreamed from the courtroom in downtown Minneapolis and we are including this stream at the top of the blog, so do tune in.

This is day six of testimony and the prosecution is still calling witnesses. Last week was harrowing, with eye-witnesses to Floyd’s death recalling their horror and helplessness and continuing trauma at watching Chauvin kneel on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes on the ground, and the playing of multiple bystander videos of the fatal encounter.

Chauvin, 45, denies all the charges against him: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Opening arguments took place last Monday as the trial got fully under way.

Then later in the week, police officers started taking the stand, describing their role in securing the scene after Floyd had been taken away by ambulance, lifeless, and locating witnesses.

And the city’s top homicide detective and longest serving current officer , Lieutenant Richard Zimmerman, testified that Chauvin’s use of force was “uncalled for” and dangerous.

Here’s a recap and analysis of last week’s proceedings or if you’re very short of time, a bullet-point review, here.

With Floyd’s killing in particular spurring a huge resurgence in the Black Lives Matter racial justice movement last year and the biggest civil rights uprisings since the 1960s, this trial is in the world’s spotlight and American socio-politics and, especially, race, equity and policing, are in focus. Minneapolis is on edge, the Minnesota city braced for the outcome.

Here’s what’s coming up:

  • Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo is due to testify for the prosecution, perhaps as early as today. This is a very rare occurrence indeed, for a serving police chief to testify at a trial of an officer or former officer.
  • Arradondo fired Chauvin and the other three officers who were involved in arresting George Floyd on 25 May last year. The other officers will stand trial in August, together, accused of aiding and abetting murder.
  • The trial has heard from bystanders, George Floyd’s girlfriend, and now is hearing from police. After this we expect medical experts to testify about what exactly caused and contributed to Floyd’s death.
  • Protesters have been outside court every day. Sometimes relatives of Floyd, mostly his brother, Philonise Floyd, talk to them upon heading into the court house.
  • The coronavirus pandemic has heavily restricted public and media presence in the court room, which is why for the first time in its history, Minnesota is allowing the full televising of this criminal trial.

Updated at 9.59am EDT

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