At another point in the process, Eric Nelson asked a paramedic if he had responded to “other” overdose calls before quickly correcting himself to say “overdose calls” – perhaps a simple mistake or an attempt to validate the idea plant Floyd’s death was a death overdose.
Law enforcement experts have alleged Drugs didn’t kill Floyd.
Nelson called them repeatedly Spectators at Floyd’s arrest a “crowd” and “unruly” suggesting that more people were in attendance than seen on camera. He drilled a fire department captain after it took 17 minutes to reach the scene as a The first ambulance called arrived much earlier. And he persistently suggested that Chauvin’s knee was not on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, as prosecutors argued – and instead suggested that it be over Floyd’s back, shoulder blades and arm.
“As a lawyer, you often have some facts that are just … bad for you. But you either want to downplay them or create a different narrative,” said Mike Brandt, a Minneapolis attorney who is closely monitoring the case.
Every good defender has to try “to take what you can get,” said Brandt. “Sometimes we say in a process you want to throw as much mud on the wall as possible and hope that some of it sticks.”
On cases ranging from drunken driver arrests to murders, Nelson, 46, is one of a dozen attorneys who take turns working with a police union legal protection fund to represent officers charged with crimes. One of his larger cases involved Amy Senser, the wife of Joe Senser, a former close end to the Minnesota Vikings, who was convicted of a death in 2011.
Nelson has joked with witnesses at times and, perhaps to connect with the jury, has made his occasional fiddling with technology or mispronunciation of words easy. He is from Minnesota and spoke to each other during a hiatus in the process Police chief Medaria Arradondoand asked if he remembered the battle song for Minneapolis Roosevelt – the high school they both attended.
Aside from the easier moments, Nelson seems to be well prepared even when facing him a vastly larger law enforcement team. He worked hard and consistently on his main message: Floyd’s Use of Illicit Drugs is more responsible for his death than anything Chauvin did. An autopsy revealed that fentanyl and methamphetamine were present in Floyd’s system.
During the second week of the trial, Nelson played a clip of a video with the officer’s body camera and asked two witnesses if they could hear Floyd say: “I ate too many drugs.” The audio was difficult to read, but Nelson got a state investigator to approve his version of the quote. The prosecution later played a longer clip, and the investigator pulled back and said he believed Floyd said, “I don’t do drugs.”
When the state brought medical experts to testify that Floyd died because his oxygen was cut off, not because of drugs, Nelson questioned the substance of their findings that the levels found in Floyd were either low or that people were significantly higher survived. However, he also frequently asked questions to include the term “illegal drugs”, pointed out that there is no legal reason for a person to have methamphetamine in their system, and asked a witness if they would agree to the Number of deaths given by people mixing meth and fentanyl has been resurrected.
“This is a typical tactic that we would say good defense attorneys use,” said David Schultz, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who is closely monitoring the process. “Not all of them are as subtle or talented as Eric Nelson.”
When the paramedics first testified on site, they were asked, among other things, why they did a “load and go” – that is, to put Floyd in her ambulance and drive a few blocks before starting treatment . This delayed potentially life-saving treatment, but it also led to another recurring Nelson issue that prosecutors rejected: officers were distracted from caring for Floyd by a threatening crowd.
The video of the scene countered the argument, showing about 15 people watching Floyd being held back, including several teenagers and girls, although some yelled at officers to leave Floyd and check him for a pulse.
Nelson has intermittently targeted the mountain of onlookers, surveillance and body camera videos offered by the police. The suggestion that it only tells part of the story and can be misleading. At one point Nelson used the term “camera perspective” to indicate that Chauvin’s knee was not where the camera appeared to be showing it.
He has also argued that Chauvin was merely following the training he received during his 19-year career, even as a number of police officers – including Arradondo – stated otherwise. Nelson showed the judges a picture from a trainer’s training materials a knee on the neck of an instructor playing a suspect and has got some witnesses to generally agree to this use of force may look bad, but still be legal.
Brandt said that anything Nelson can do now – while the state is presenting his case – is huge and will only serve as building blocks that he can use when he starts presenting his own case.
Schultz said lawyers have to be careful. He noticed how Nelson’s questioning of Donald Williams, one of the noisiest onlookers, sparked a backlash on social media. Users accused Nelson, who pushed Williams to be angry and repeated his swear words in court, to immortalize an “angry black man”.
Some jurors might have felt that too, said Schultz.
“As a lawyer, you have to sell yourself to the jury,” said Schultz. “And a lawyer who takes the risk of going too far risks being disliked by the jury, and that hurts the case too.”