MINNEAPOLIS — The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd, is continuing Tuesday. Click here to stream the trial live.
Prosecutors’ case against Chauvin drew toward a close Monday with tender memories from Floyd’s younger brother, along with another look at the harrowing video and testimony from a use-of-force expert who said no “reasonable” officer would have done what Chauvin did.
Seth Stoughton, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, judged Chauvin’s actions against what a reasonable police officer in the same situation would have done, and repeatedly found that Chauvin did not meet the test.
“No reasonable officer would have believed that that was an appropriate, acceptable or reasonable use of force,” Stoughton said of the way Floyd was held facedown with a knee across his neck for up to 9 minutes, 29 seconds.
There was chilling and graphic testimony last week in the trial. Pulmonologist, Dr. Martin Tobin, took the stand Thursday, to describe how he believed Chauvin’s knee made it impossible for Floyd to breathe.
Tobin walked jurors through the mechanics of what he said happened, testifying that Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck for 90% of the interaction, even after he stopped breathing.
Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck area -- and was bearing down with most of his weight -- the entire 9 1/2 minutes the Floyd lay facedown with his hands cuffed behind his back, a use-of-force expert testified Wednesday at Chauvin’s murder trial.
Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant serving as a prosecution witness, said that based on his review of video evidence, Chauvin applied pressure to Floyd’s neck or neck area from the time officers began pinning Floyd to the ground until paramedics began to move him to a stretcher.
“That particular force did not change during the entire restraint period?” prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked as he showed the jury a composite of five still images.
“Correct,” replied Stiger, who on Tuesday testified that the force used against Floyd was excessive.
Minneapolis police are taught to restrain combative suspects with a knee on their back or shoulders if necessary but are told to “stay away from the neck when possible,” department use-of-force instructor Lt. Johnny Mercil testified Tuesday.
Mercil took the stand as part of an effort by prosecutors to dismantle the argument that Chauvin was doing what he was trained to do when he put his knee on Floyd’s neck last May.
Several experienced officers, including the police chief himself, have testified that Floyd should not have been kept pinned to the pavement for close to 9 1/2 minutes by prosecutors’ reckoning as the Black man lay face-down, his hands cuffed behind his back.
Minneapolis police Chief Medaria Arradondo said Monday that Derek Chauvin’s decision to restrain Floyd with a knee to his neck for more than nine minutes “absolutely” violated department policy.
“Based on my viewing of the videos, once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting -- and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that -- (the restraint) should have stopped,” Arradondo testified.
Arradondo’s testimony came on the sixth day of the trial against Chauvin, 45, who is charged with murder and manslaughter in the May 25 death of Floyd. Chauvin, who is white, is accused of pinning his knee on the 46-year-old Black man’s neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds as Floyd lay face-down in handcuffs outside of a corner market.
Prosecutors have already called supervisory officers to build the case that Chauvin improperly restrained Floyd. A duty sergeant and a lieutenant who leads the homicide division both questioned Chauvin’s actions in pinning Floyd after officers responded to a report that Floyd had passed a counterfeit $20 bill.
“Totally unnecessary,” Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the longest-tenured officer on the force, testified Friday. He said once Floyd was handcuffed, he saw “no reason for why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt, and that’s what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force.”
In emotional testimony Thursday during the trial, Courteney Ross recalled her three-year relationship with George Floyd and acknowledged that the couple struggled with opioid addiction.
“Floyd and I, our story, it’s a classic story of how many people get addicted to opioids,” Ross said. “We both suffered from chronic pain. Mine was in my neck, and his was in his back. We both (had) prescriptions, but after … we got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction many times.”
Minneapolis police body camera footage played in court on Wednesday showed George Floyd pleading with officers as they attempted to put him in a squad car on May 25, 2020, minutes before his death.
Charles McMillian, 61, told jurors that he watched as policed detained Floyd and that he urged the 46-year-old to cooperate with police.
A Minneapolis firefighter who wept as she recalled being prevented from using her EMT training to help Floyd also took the stand for the second time on Wednesday.
Genevieve Hansen, one of several bystanders seen and heard shouting at Chauvin as he pinned Floyd facedown outside a convenience store last May, described her desperation Tuesday as she recounted how she was unable to come to Floyd’s aid or tell police what to do, such as administering chest compressions.
On the first day of the trial, prosecutors showed the jury video of Chauvin pressing his knee on the Black man’s neck for several minutes as onlookers yelled at him repeatedly to get off and Floyd gasped that he couldn’t breathe.
In opening statements, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell told the jury that the number to remember was 9 minutes, 29 seconds -- the amount of time Chauvin had Floyd pinned to the pavement with his knee last May.
The white police officer “didn’t let up, he didn’t get up” even after a handcuffed Floyd said 27 times that he couldn’t breathe and went motionless, Blackwell said.
“He put his knees upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him, until the very breath -- no ladies and gentlemen -- until the very life, was squeezed out of him,” the prosecutor said.
Underscoring the central role that video will play in the case, the prosecution played the footage for the jury during opening statements.
The video was posted to Facebook by an bystander who witnessed Floyd’s arrest after he was accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store.
“My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts,” Floyd says, and “I can’t breathe officer.”
Onlookers repeatedly shout at the officers to get off the 46-year-old Floyd.
One woman, identifying herself as a fire department employee, shouts at Chauvin to check Floyd’s pulse.
The widely seen video sparked outrage across the U.S. and led to widespread protests and scattered violence, along with a national reckoning over racial injustice and police brutality.
The key questions at trial will be whether Chauvin caused Floyd’s death and whether his actions were reasonable.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.