A Hennepin County judge ruled Tuesday that several incidents in which former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin used a neck or head restraint on a civilian cannot be introduced as evidence when he is tried for kneeling on George Floyd's neck, nor can Floyd's prior arrest and conviction.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill ruled Tuesday that prosecutors could use two other examples when Chauvin is tried on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges for Floyd's death last May 25. He also denied defense attorneys' request to introduce Floyd's 2019 arrest during a traffic stop by Minneapolis police and an aggravated robbery conviction from Texas.
A monthlong feud between prosecutors and defense attorneys continued to grow Tuesday when Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, filed an affidavit reasserting claims that prosecutors mishandled how they shared evidence with defense attorneys. Nelson wrote that Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank acknowledged last week he had more evidence that hadn't been shared with defense attorneys.
"I spoke to Assistant Attorney General Matt Frank and expressed my absolute anger and frustration with the manner in which the State has conducted discovery and made its discovery in this matter," Nelson wrote.
The Attorney General's Office did not return a message seeking comment.
The developments come as prosecutors and Nelson prepare to go to trial March 8 in Chauvin's case despite failed pleas from both sides to push back the start date.
Chauvin's former co-workers — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — will be tried in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Cahill issued several rulings on prosecution and defense motions, giving greater definition to both trials.
The judge ordered that prosecutors could introduce evidence about two cases from Chauvin's past:
• In 2015, Chauvin and other officers responded to a suicidal and intoxicated male. Other officers used a stun gun on the male and placed him in a "side-recovery position." Medical professionals later told the officers that if they had restrained him longer or delayed transporting him to a hospital he could have died.
• In 2017, Chauvin placed his knee on a female's neck while she lay on the ground. Prosecutors wrote in a court filing that Chauvin kept his knee on her neck "beyond the point when such force was needed."
Floyd was lying stomach-down in the street when Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes as Kueng and Lane knelt on his back and legs as he pleaded for breath. Thao kept an angry crowd at bay.
Cahill ruled that prosecutors could not introduce evidence about six incidents, among them: In 2017, Chauvin used a neck restraint on a juvenile, flipped him onto his stomach and pinned him to the floor; and in 2019, Chauvin used a neck restraint on an intoxicated male until he became unconscious.
Prosecutors argued in a previous filing that including all eight incidents would show Chauvin had "a propensity, or a modus operandi, regarding the way in which he approached arrestees."
Cahill denied each defense team's request to introduce evidence about Floyd's 2019 arrest and Texas conviction. Defense attorneys had argued that Floyd swallowed pills in the 2019 encounter and was taken to a hospital, and that the incident is relevant because he had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system when he died.
Defense attorneys have argued that Floyd died of a drug overdose and outstanding health issues.
Cahill denied the prosecution's request to admit evidence about nine incidents involving Thao. According to the evidence, he sat in his squad while other officers handled a call and attempted to manipulate a domestic abuse victim in 2012 so he wouldn't have to file a police report.
Prosecutors are also prohibited from presenting evidence about a 2019 arrest involving Kueng and other officers pinning a person to the ground.
Nelson on Tuesday continued to allege that prosecutors mishandled discovery, the process of sharing evidence with defense attorneys, despite Cahill stating in a mid-January ruling that he believed prosecutors were acting in good faith.
All four defense teams have accused prosecutors of sandwiching key evidence in between irrelevant materials, providing duplicates and missing deadlines, among other claims.
Nelson obtained copies of the same evidence as they were first created by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), which investigated the case. The BCA kept the evidence in a "well organized, labeled and easily identifiable" manner, Nelson wrote, but prosecutors converted some of the same evidence into a single, 6,032-page PDF file that was not searchable.
Prosecutors previously defended their method, saying they shared evidence as they received it.
Nelson said his review of BCA files revealed that some evidence given to prosecutors, including a Minneapolis police PowerPoint presentation on neck restraints, hadn't been shared with defense attorneys.
According to Nelson's filing, Frank called him last Friday and said he became aware of a flash drive with more evidence, including police training materials and personnel records. Frank also said a video on "positional asphyxia" that had been allegedly shown to all Minneapolis officers was among evidence his office hadn't shared with defense attorneys.
Prosecutors hand-delivered the new evidence to Nelson at his home last Friday.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708