“A video camera, when properly authenticated, is an eyewitness. He can testify,” said Michael Primeau, an audio and video forensics expert at Michigan-based Primeau Forensics.
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Floyd, a black man who was handcuffed, died on May 25 after Derek Chauvin, a white officer, used his knee to pin Floyd to the ground. Chauvin, who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck even after Floyd stopped moving, was charged with second degree murder, third degree murder and manslaughter.
The other three officers, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao, were charged with aiding and abetting both second degree murder and manslaughter. All four officers were fired.
The widely seen video recorded by a viewer shows Chauvin’s actions and Floyd’s anguish as he gasps from the air. It also shows Thao, who was facing passers-by. Some surveillance videos that were released show pieces of what happened before Floyd ended up on the field, but a full video image of what happened from start to finish did not emerge. Body camera videos are not expected to be made public before a trial or until cases are otherwise resolved.
Police spokesman John Elder said he was told the four officers had their body cameras, which is the department’s policy. Minneapolis police officers are required to activate their body cameras long before they arrive at the scene under rules put in place after the 2017 fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an Australian woman who called 911 to report hearing a possible sexual assault behind her home. The two officers who answered his call did not activate their body cameras until one of them shot him.
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In Floyd, Bruce Gordon, a spokesman for the State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, confirmed that the body camera video captured parts of the incident. He said there is no police car video that shows what happened.
John Stiles, a spokesman for Attorney General Keith Ellison, the lead prosecutor in the case, said prosecutors are reviewing all available evidence. He said he could not comment further.
Mel Reeves, a longtime community activist in Minneapolis, said he doesn’t think the body’s camera video will matter because the viewer video should be enough to convict the officers.
“We saw what we saw,” Reeves said. We no longer need proof. We saw a man murdered. ? If the system under which we live — if this so-called democracy — cannot find a way to punish the people who caused the death of a human being, we will have to pack our bags and try something else.
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But body camera videos are expected to provide a more complete picture, especially in the cases of Kueng and Lane, whose actions are not seen in the viewer video because they are obscured by a police car.
“From the mere viewer video, you see Chauvin, which is obviously very damning, but you don’t see what the other two are doing, or hear what they say,” said Mike Brandt, a Minneapolis-area defense attorney who is not involved in the case. “E think that all the cameras in the body are going to be the key to the exact explanation of what was said and what was done.”
Lane’s lawyer, Earl Gray, said he saw the video from his client’s body camera and, in his view, “it pretty much exonerates him.” Without going into details about what he is showing, Gray said that the recorded audio and video is favorable to his client and reaffirms what is described in the criminal complaint: that Lane raised concern and suggested to roll Floyd on his side.
Chauvin and Kueng’s lawyers said they did not make statements or answer questions about the case. A lawyer for Thao did not respond to messages seeking comment.
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According to the criminal complaints, the officers arrested Floyd on suspicion of having passed a false $20 bill at a nearby store. At one point, they struggled to get him into a police car, Chauvin pulled him out and Floyd “went to the ground face down and still handcuffed.
Brandt said body camera video will be key to showing what happened in the squad car. If Floyd were agitated or acting, the defence could argue that Floyd was acting erratically and that the officers’ actions were reasonable. But even if that’s the case, he says, this argument is problematic because once Floyd is submitted, prosecutors can point to the viewer video and argue that there was no longer a threat and that Chauvin crossed the line.
Andrew M. Stroth, a chicago civil rights lawyer, said the video evidence, regardless of the source, is critical in any case because it tells a story objectively and plays a role in getting the officers charged in the first place. Minneapolis police initially said Floyd “seemed to be suffering from medical distress” after he resisted arrest and was handcuffed, but police realized it was wrong after seeing the video, which sparked widespread protests in Minneapolis and beyond.
But for the video (of the viewer), there is no way that all these officers were charged so quickly,” Stroth said.
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Primeau, forensic experts, warned that the video must be properly analyzed and sometimes supported by other evidence. For example, he said, additional information about the use of force on Floyd’s neck will be imperative to determine whether Chauvin’s act was fatal, and autopsy reports will have to support those allegations.
“Your moral point of view means that” was deadly, he said. “Your bias means that, but we don’t know how much force was used – there’s no numerical value on the screen that says, ”Is 20 pounds of pressure on his neck for eight minutes and that’s what it was (that killed him).’
The county autopsy shows that Floyd’s heart stopped while he was being held; an autopsy commissioned by the family shows that he died of asphyxiation due to compression of the neck and back.
© 2020 The Canadian Press