Posted by Curt on 6 April, 2021 at 11:01 am. 1 comment.


by Andrew Branca

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.


Today’s court proceedings brought us a mere three state’s witnesses, although undoubtedly the state considered them among their most important.


The first was Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, the emergency room physician who treated Floyd, and whose testimony did literally nothing to diminish the theory that Floyd died of impaired respiratory function induced by Fentanyl overdose. Like every witness to date, Dr. Langenfeld’s testimony had the appearance of being compelling right up until it was subject to “the rest of the story” on cross-examination.


Much the same could be said of what might be referred to as today’ start witness, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. Chief Arradondo gave the prosecution the headline quote they’d certainly prepared for—effectively, Chauvin’s neck restraint was outside MPD policy, period!—but again much of the apparent power of this quote was gutted on cross-examination by Nelson. The fact that the media will only cover direct questioning, however, and will substantively ignore cross-examination has real implications for race relations in America generally and for urban infrastructure in the immediate aftermath of this case, specifically.


The final witness of the day was relatively brief, and that was Katie Blackwell, Commander of the MPD Training Division around the time of May 25, 2020, the date of Floyd’s in-custody death. Like Arradondo she, too, testified to the effect that she didn’t recognize Chauvin’s neck restraint as being consistent with MPD policy—“I don’t recognize that,” were here exact words. Nevertheless, that’s a far cry from the technique constituting murder, for reasons I’ll discuss below.


As usual, the testimony of every one of today’s witnesses is provided in today’s content below.




The day started with the testimony of Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, who was the emergency room physician who treated Floyd upon arrival at Hennepin County Medical Center, delivered by ambulance by paramedic Derek Smith and driver.


The testimony of Dr. Langenfeld has followed what has become a common pattern in this case. The (carefully prepared?) state’s witness is carefully questioned by the state to illicit headline worthy quotes, but it’s ultimately revealed on cross-examination that those quoted opinions were based on extremely limited information, lacked context of the full circumstances, and were gutted on cross-examination as a result.


This pattern actually raises a very interesting, and alarming, public policy danger, based on the media’s coverage of this case. From what I’ve seen of media coverage, which for me occurs only when the case recesses during the day and the talking heads pop up during the break, is that the media effectively only covers the direct questioning of the state’s witnesses. As a result, the public only hears the state’s version of the facts.


Well, just like if you only hear one side of any argument, it’s natural for the public to conclude that the state is KILLING IT!!!! in this trial, and that it’s SUPER OBVIOUS!!!! that Chauvin is a RACIST POLICE MURDERER!!!! You NAZI!!!!


There’s a reason that our legal system is adversarial in nature, however, and that’s for the obvious reason that there’s always two sides to every story. It’s only by listening to both sides, with their individual strengths and weaknesses, that one can have an overall informed opinion about what likely happened.


The jury in this trial will get both sides, and hopefully arrive at a verdict based on both sides.


The public, especially the public willing to riot, loot, and arson (arson must be a verb by now, right?), is however hearing only the narrative of guilt in this case. That means that anything other than a guilty verdict can only come as a complete shock to their sense of justice, and therefore a complete justification of any terror they wish to bring to bear to the public generally.


And who is responsible for this? Well, the rioters, looters, and arsonists are responsible for their own conduct, for certain. It’s kind of hard to not also assign blame to the media pouring out the gasoline across the public square and sparking the matches.


That’s pretty much all I have to say about that, at least today, but for those of you who partake of my Law of Self Defense analysis to make sure you get exposure to both sides of the story, thanks for that!


OK, back to Dr. Langenfeld, who was subject to direct examination by Prosecutor Blackwell.


As noted, Dr. Langenfeld was the emergency room physician who treated Floyd upon arrival at HCMC. We all know, of course, that Floyd died that day, and it seems likely that Langenfeld essentially considered Floyd dead on arrival. That’s not to suggest that the good doctor didn’t do everything possible to safe Floyd’s life, but when someone’s been in cardiac arrest for 30 or so minutes, well, the odds aren’t good. At no time under Dr. Langenfeld’s care was Floyd anything other than flatlined in terms of cardiac function.


In fact, Floyd had little meaningful cardiac activity when picked up by the paramedics on scene, little cardiac activity en route to HCMC, little cardiac activity upon arrival at HCMC, and little cardiac activity after treatment by Dr. Langenfeld. Ultimately it would be Dr. Langenfeld who would officially pronounce Floyd dead at HCMC, but the likely reality is that Floyd died some considerable time prior to the official “call.”


Prosecutor Blackwell made sure to emphasize the importance of initiating prompt care in cases of cardiac arrest, again hitting on the possible criminal liability claim of failure to provide timely medical care. One money quote from Dr. Langenfeld is that every minute CPR is delayed in a case of cardiac arrest means a 10-15% decrease in survival of the patient. Of course, the fact that Dr. Langenfeld possessed this factoid does not mean that it was possessed by Chauvin or the officers on scene, who are, after all, police, not doctors.


Much as was the case with the bystanders, Dr. Langenfeld found himself working with only partial information about what had occurred generally, and about his patient in particular. For example, Dr. Langenfeld had no information about Floyd’s apparent ingestion of a lethal dose of fentanyl/methamphetamine cocktail upon contact by police, and thus could not consider that likely cause of respiratory depression and cardiac arrest result in his differential analysis of Floyd.


Specifically, in his testimony Dr. Langenfeld told Blackwell on direct that he had no report that the patient had overdosed on a specific medication for which there might be a specific antidote. In fact, of course, Floyd had overdosed on the opioid fentanyl, for which there is a specific antidote. That information, however, did not reach Langenfeld.


Why didn’t Langenfeld know that Floyd had likely overdosed on drugs? Well, arguably because the paramedics didn’t tell him. Why didn’t the paramedics tell him? Because they themselves had probably not gotten that information from the officers on scene. Why didn’t the paramedics get the information from the officers on scene? Likely because the angry and threatening crowd compelled the paramedics to do a “load and scoot” to vacate the area of danger promptly, very much limiting the opportunity to exchange information with the officers.


Did the angry crowd actually kill Floyd, by interfering with his effective and efficient medical treatment?


Blackwell spent quite a bit of time in direct of Langenfeld getting the doctor to opine that the most likely cause of Floyd’s cardiac arrest was hypoxia, lack of oxygen in the tissues, induced by asphyxia, the inability of the respiratory system to deliver oxygen to the biological systems of the body.


None of that, of course, actually settles the key issue of what actually caused Floyd’s death. Even if asphyxia caused Floyd’s death, that doesn’t tell us that Chauvin killed Floyd via mechanical asphyxiation via compression of the neck. At least, not when there’s a perfectly viable, and evidence-supported alternative explanation for Floyd’s asphyxia—the three-fold fatal levels of fentanyl in Floyd’s system.


After all, as even Langenfeld himself confirmed today, the means by which fentanyl kills its victims is by suppression of respiration. That’s just another form of asphyxiation. And we have actual toxicology results to support the fentanyl levels. There’s literally zero evidence of how much pressure the 140-pound Chauvin might have been applying, or not, to the neck of the 230-pound Floyd.


A common theme running through Dr. Landenberg’s testimony is this: “Based on the information I had at the time …”. Indeed, that’s how he closed out his direct testimony. That is, of course, just another way of saying “I had only limited information about what was going on with this patient and what had led up to his present circumstances, and my expert opinion must therefore be considered profoundly constrained by that limited information.”


On cross-examination by (of course) Nelson, who explicitly asked if a fentanyl, methamphetamine, or a combination of the two could cause the hypoxia observed by Dr. Landenberg. The answer was, of course, “yes.”


Nelson also confirmed that the paramedics had never informed Landenberg about the possibility that Floyd’s condition was the result of a drug overdose, probably for the reasons already discussed (although I’m naturally speculating there).


Touching upon the state’s apparent line of argument that Floyd’s long history of opioid abuse meant he was somehow immune to fatal overdose, Nelson explicitly asked Landenberg if a history of abuse meant fentanyl can’t kill someone. The answer was, of course, “no.”


Nelson also managed to get into testimony the following question, exploring further alternative explanations for Floyd’s cardiac arrest: “Would someone with a >75% occlusion of a coronary artery be at substantial risk of cardiac arrest?”


The state objected to the question, and Judge Cahill called a sidebar (he prudently doesn’t allow arguing over objections in the hearing of the jury). When Nelson returned to question Landenberg he proceeded with a different line of questioning, suggesting that Cahill had sustained the state’s objection on the occluded coronary artery question.


Why might Cahill have agreed to not allow that question? I’m engaging in informed speculation here, but it might be because Landenberg was present as a personal knowledge witness, and not as an expert witness. That means he can testify about what he knows personally about the events in which he was involved, but he doesn’t have the privilege of an expert witness to opine about hypotheticals—if he does, he’s engaged in speculation, and knowledge witnesses aren’t allowed to speculate.


And that was pretty much it for cross of Langenfeld.


Re-direct by Blackwell was pretty weak, as has been the trend in my observation of this trial. He touched back on an earlier, weak, line of argument he’d made previously, that fentanyl makes people sleepy, and Floyd was patently not sleepy while he was violently resisting lawful arrest, and that must mean that Floyd could not have been on high levels of fentanyl.


I just don’t get the investment in this line of argument, frankly. We have the definitive tox results on fentanyl levels, and they were three-times fatal dose. We also have the chemical analysis results of the pills found both in the Mercedes SUV and the squad car, the latter covered in Floyd’s saliva and DNA, and they were a combination of fentanyl and methamphetamine—and the methamphetamine component is obviously a powerful stimulant that would explain away the lack of sleepiness.


And that was all she wrote for the testimony of Dr. Langenfeld. Here’s the direct, cross, and brief re-direct of the good doctor:




Next up was the state’s likely star witness, MPD Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.


The first thing it’s important to know about Chief Arradondo is something that’s true of every police chief everywhere—being a police chief is a profoundly different job and state of being that is being a patrol officer. And it’s not merely that the Chief is chief executive officer in a system in which the patrol officer is the factory worker, with profoundly different job responsibilities and perspectives on their day to day work life.


More important than all of that is that a police chief, and indeed for the most part all police officers of Lieutenant rank or higher, are effectively political officers working within a political environment—and none more so than the Chief. In the case of Chief Arradondo, for example, he was appointed to his position of Chief by the Mayor of Minneapolis, Mayor Frey. This is obviously a political appointment by a political official, who is effectively Chief Arradondo’s boss, and that makes the Chief’s job a political job, not a “cop” job.


So when we hear Chief Arradondo testify, that’s the filter through which we should understand his testimony—a political filter—and that we should interpret the weight and context of his testimony appropriately.

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