Issues Regarding Motions in Limine in Chauvin Criminal Case

As discussed in a prior post, on February 8 Defendant Derek Chauvin submitted to the District Court his motions in limine seeking to limit at trial 37 items of certain evidence, anticipated questioning by opposing counsel or anticipated arguments of opposing counsel.[1] On March 4, the State filed its opposition to five of these requests in their entirety and partial objections to four others. Below is a brief account of those issues.[2]

In addition, on March 4, the State filed a motion to amend its previous motion in limine and to compel discovery. It also is summarized below.

Chauvin’s Total Objections to Five Requests

Request 18: Preclude witness police officers from testifying as to their opinion on how they would have handled the arrest of Mr. Floyd differently. According to the prosecution, “Police witnesses may testify how an officer should have handled Floyd’s arrest in light of Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) policies and training.”

Request 21: Preclude “speculative testimony from Genevieve Hanson that she believes if she had intervened she could have saved Mr. Floyd.” According to the prosecution, Ms. Hanson was an “off-duty firefighter . . . on the scene while Floyd was pinned to the ground, and who repeatedly asked the Defendants to check Floyd’s pulse and to begin chest compression . . . [and who] believes that if she [had] intervened , she could have saved Mr. Floyd . . . [and who may have personal knowledge of police officer training [to testify about its relevance to the conduct of the defendants].

Request 22: Preclude testimony of Donald Williams as to his training, experience and/or expertise in mixed martial arts, boxing or other training. According to the prosecution, Williams was present at the scene and exclaimed that Chauvin was placing Floyd in a ‘blood choke” and pleaded with Chauvin to stop that hold and that Williams’ personal experience as a fighter, wrestler and Mixed Martial Arts performer have given him personal experience as to how this kind of hold “can cut off circulation and affect a person’s breathing.”

Request 23: Preclude “any member of the Minneapolis Fire Department and paramedics from testifying as to cause and manner of Mr. Floyd’s death.” According to the prosecution, such witnesses “may testify as to their observations and first-hand assessments of Floyd’s condition, . . including their observations, made in the course of treating Floyd, as to the possible causes of Floyd’s condition.”

 Request 32: Preclude “the entirety of the proffered testimony of Dr. Sarah Vinson (psychiatric evaluation of George Floyd) on the grounds that the evaluation is speculative, based upon multiple levels of inadmissible hearsay, fails to meet scientific standards, offers no assistance to the jury, or so favors one party.” According to the prosecution, Dr. Vinson did not perform a ‘psychiatric evaluation of George Floyd.’  Instead, her expert testimony “describes the typical signs and symptoms of anxiety, fear responses to traumatic events, and panic attacks, including during police encounters,” and Floyd’s “sweating, shaking, an increased rate of breathing, thick saliva, and a sensation of shortness of breath . . . was consistent with an adrenaline-based fear response . . .[and] a panic attack and Trauma and Sensor Related Disorders.”

Chauvin’s Partial Objections to Four Requests

 Request 14: Direct State to “instruct State witnesses that they are not to assert a personal belief or opinion as the Defendant’s guilt or innocence, or whether or not the defendant is the type of person who could commit such an offense.” According to the prosecution, although there is a general rule against such testimony, it is allowed i for fact witnesses to express factual, rather than legal conclusions while expert witnesses are allowed to testify about the cause and manner of death. In addition, if the defendant offers evidence of a pertinent character trait of the defendant, the prosecution may attempt to rebut such testimony.

Request 19: Preclude “testimony about any police policy . . . that was not in effect at the  time of Mr. Floyd’s arrest or any subsequent changes in policy.” The prosecution agrees with this request, except for “policies or procedures on which Chauvin may have been trained , but that may not have been in effect at the time of Floyd’s arrest.”

Request 31: Preclude “the State from playing, publishing or otherwise relying upon the statements of co-defendants Thao and Lane on the grounds that  [Chauvin] would not be permitted to cross-examine these co-defendants.”  According to the prosecution, this Request is too broad if it applied to non-testimonial statements by co-defendants  “made during their encounter with Floyd that were captured by the body-worn cameras.” It is also too broad if it precluded the prosecution from using these statements if these co-defendants do testify at Chauvin’s trial.

Request 36: Preclude “any evidence of or reference to citizen complaints filed against Mr. Chauvin in his capacity as a police officer or investigated by the [MPD] whether sustained or deemed unfounded.” According to the prosecution, this request should not deny the prosecution from offering evidence . . . that this Court has already admitted into evidence [Chauvin’s “incidents” on 8/22/15 and 6/25/17].”

Prosecution’s Motion To Amend Its Motion in Limine[3]

Prosecution seeks to prohibit Dr. David Fowler, a defense expert witness, from “testifying regarding the opinion of any other non-testifying experts he consulted in preparation of the Forensic Panel Report  or testifying that other experts agree with Dr. Fowler’s opinion, analysis, or conclusion.”

Prosecution also seeks an order “compelling Defendant to disclose the specific opinions of non-testifying experts whose data, analysis, opinion, or conclusions contribution to the opinions, analysis, or conclusions contained in the Forensic Panel Report” and to conduct a hearing outside the presence of the jury, for Dr. Fowler [to] identify which opinions in that report are his work alone.”

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[1] Motions in Limine Before Derek Chauvin Criminal Trial, dwkcommentareis.com (Feb. 18,2021).

[2] Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant’s Motions in Limine, State v. Chauvin, Hennepin County District Court, File no. 27-CR-20-12646 (Mar. 4, 2021). This document may be downloaded from the District Court’s website.

[3] State’s Amended Motion in Limine 2 and Motion To Compel Discovery and a Hearing, State v. Chauvin, Hennepin County District Court, File no. 27-CR-20-12646 (Mar. 4, 2021). This document may be downloaded from the District Court’s website.

 

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dwkcommentaries

As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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