Week two of the Derek Chauvin trial began early Monday morning. The prosecution has called a number of witnesses since then, including two new witnesses – Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, the E.R. doctor who pronounced George Floyd dead, and Minneapolis Police Department Chief Medaria Arradondo.
American criminal legal system on trial
Chauvin is the defendant in this case. But many are looking more broadly at this trial as a stress test of the American criminal legal system. Those working in the criminal justice sphere have begun rethinking how we describe this system built on principals of White Supremacy and upheld by systemic racism. Dr. Tiffany Crutcher, executive director of the Terence Crutcher Foundation, makes a point to always say ‘criminal legal system’ versus ‘criminal justice system The Black Wall Street Times agrees wholly with that approach.
Dr. Wankhede Langenfield spent a short time on the stand, comparatively. He was reserved and very direct with his answers. He testified that he ran a series of tests to determine the cause of Floyd’s cardiac arrest. Floyd was in the emergency room for approximately 30 minutes before Wankhede Langenfield pronounced him dead at 9:25 p.m.
Floyd’s death ruled homicide: lack of oxygen to brain
The E.R. doctor took the jury step-by-step through the half-hour of care. He testified that, after a series of tests and analysis, he concluded that a lack of oxygen reaching the brain, or asphyxia, was likely the cause of Floyd’s death. He also stated the paramedics had not alerted him to any potential drug use or a possible mental health crisis.
Notably, Wankhede Langenfield testified that, upon Floyd’s arrival, he was not notified that his patient has just suffered through more than 9 minutes of a grown-man’s knee on his neck. From a prior day of testimony, we learned that Officer Thomas Lane had rode with the paramedics and Floyd to the hospital – performing chest compressions for some time. It begs the question, why did Officer Lane not alert the E.R. doctor of the method of force his fellow officer used?
Chief Arradondo took the stand next and spent a considerable amount of time running through Minneapolis Police Department policy. It was a damning testimony. Witnesses explained in excruciating detail each policy Chauvin violated. They also went through each opportunity he could have taken to deescalate the situation. While discussing his departments policy on use of force, Arradondo said, “It is my firm belief that the one singular incident we will be judged forever on will be our use of force. While it is absolutely imperative that our officers go home at the end of their shift, we want to make sure our community members go home, too.”
MPD Chief Arradondo testifies
Based on Arradondo’s testimony, responding to a complaint of a counterfeit bill should not have even required Floyd being taken in to custody for arrest. The prosecution then took on the “critical decision making model” that the defense has leaned on heavily. In past days of questioning, the defense claimed that Chauvin was simply following the critical decision making model when he continued to “apply force” while he was in fear of the people pleading for him to check Floyd’s pulse.
Prosecutors asked what responsibility MPD’s officers have to people in their custody. Arrandondo responded, “We have an obligation to make sure that we provide for their care. (When they’re subjected to defensive tactics) They’re still in our custody. They have rights. And the humanity of this profession, we need to make sure we’re taking care of them.”
The MPD police chief testified that the first time he saw a video of the Floyd’s murder was right after he was alerted that Floyd was deceased. He described the video as not having audio and having a poor angle of the event – the video is in evidence labeled as the ‘Milestone video.’ Later that evening around midnight, a community member contacted him and asked, “Have you seen the video of your officer choking and killing that man.” Within minutes, the chief located and viewed the bystander video that rocked the United States.
A violation of department policy
Arradondo then said, “That action is not de-escalation. We talk about the framework of sanctity of life… and that action goes contrary to what we’re taught.” Chauvin’s former chief of police directly said he “absolutely agrees that it (Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck) violates department policy.”
Based on Arradondo’s testimony, once Floyd was no longer resisting, was motionless, Chauvin should have stopped his use of force. “To continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way, shape, or form is anything that is by policy. It is not part of our training, and it is certainly not part of our ethics or values,” Arradondo said.
With that, the defense stepped up to cross-examine the police chief. In a show of manufactured micro-aggressions and disrespect, defense lawyer Eric Nelson began questioning Arradondo. Earlier in the trial, Nelson tried to bait MMA fighter and witness Donald Williams. Similarly, he smugly questioned whether the chief really had any relevant knowledge or experience of the work day-to-day officers do. It was an underwhelming cross-examination that ended without much fanfare.