NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A judge has ruled that prosecutors in the first-degree murder trial of a Nashville police officer next month can call a law enforcement expert witness who earlier this year testified that Derek Chauvin used excessive force against George Floyd in the moments prior to the Black man’s death.
The ruling Friday by Judge Monte Watkins also lets the defense team of 27-year-old white Officer Andrew Delke use a former Nashville district attorney as an expert witness in the July 2018 fatal shooting of 25-year-old Daniel Hambrick, who is Black.
The judge’s approval of Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant who testified as a use-of-force expert during the Chauvin trial, and former Nashville District Attorney Torry Johnson, helps set up some of the final parameters before the trial begins on July 12. It will be preceded by jury selection the week before.
Defense attorney David Raybin opposed Stiger’s inclusion, arguing that prosecutors missed a deadline to add the witness and were now trying to inject the landmark Chauvin case into Delke’s trial. Prosecutors said they wouldn’t mention that case, but Raybin wondered how it would not come up during questioning.
Johnson, the former prosecutor, testified in a pretrial hearing that he believes Delke had probable cause to pursue Hambrick, both in his police cruiser and later on foot when Hambrick got out of a car.
Delke fatally shot Hambrick while he was fleeing from the officer on foot and carrying a gun.
Delke’s attorneys have argued the officer acted in line with his training and Tennessee law in responding to “an armed suspect who ignored repeated orders to drop his gun.” Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk has argued Delke had other alternatives, adding that the officer could have stopped, sought cover and called for help.
Friday’s order solidifies some other rules for the trial. Defense attorneys can’t bring up the former arrests and convictions of Hambrick, who had a felony record. The defense can’t show the jury a photo of Daniel Hambrick with money and several handguns, or other photos used to “counter” the 8 x 10 photo of Hambrick that prosecutors can display.
Delke didn’t know who Hambrick was when he chased him and shot him three times, an arrest affidavit states.
The ruling does not address the defense’s hope to keep the jury from seeing any video evidence of the shooting.
Raybin asked the judge to exclude all video evidence because of additional footage that the defense argued could have shown a key, unseen blip in the chase, but was not retained in the investigation. Prosecutors countered that it’s unlikely that the additional, unreviewed video would show anything new.
In the surveillance footage available, there is a blip of a blind spot in the angles seen, a point the defense has focused on. The defense has said the weapon became pointed at Delke during the chase, but prosecutors have cast doubt about that.