Chauvin trial: Ex-cop did not use deadly force on Floyd, expert testifies
Tuesday's proceedings have ended for the day
MPR News is streaming live coverage of the trial. Some images or material discussed during the trial will be disturbing to many viewers. Watch morning proceedings here. Watch the afternoon’s proceedings here.
3 things to know:
Defense calls first witnesses, including a friend who said George Floyd was alert and happy when she ran into him at Cup Foods but fell asleep after they got back into the car.
Jurors watched video of a 2019 arrest of Floyd, as well as separate body camera footage from another officer who responded to his fatal 2020 arrest.
A use-of-force expert who testified for the defense said Chauvin was “justified” in his actions against Floyd.
Updated 4:55 p.m.
A use-of-force expert told jurors in Derek Chauvin's murder trial Tuesday that the former Minneapolis officer acted with "objective reasonableness" in interacting with George Floyd last May.
Barry Brodd, a retired officer from the Santa Rosa Police Department who has trained police, testified for the defense that he’s concluded Chauvin was "justified" in his actions.
Citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision that outlines when police officers can use force, Brodd said an officer doesn’t need to wait to be attacked, just feel an imminent threat.
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Asked by defense attorney Eric Nelson whether Chauvin used deadly force on Floyd, Brodd said he did not. He used an example of someone who was shocked with a Taser by an officer who then hits their head and dies, which Brodd said qualifies as an accidental death.
Brodd also testified that he didn’t believe placing someone in a “prone position” to be a use of force. He said that the officers in Floyd’s case would have been justified in applying even more force due to Floyd’s resistance.
Brodd also told the court that as a crowd grows and becomes louder, officers are trained to consider where the biggest threat could come from. Brodd said Chauvin taking out his pepper spray showed he thought the crowd was a bigger threat at that point than Floyd. Throughout the trial, Nelson has sought to show that officers faced a hostile crowd.
Summing up his conclusion, Brodd said he "felt that officer Chauvin’s interactions with Mr. Floyd were following his training, following current practices in policing and were objectively reasonable."
The defense has repeatedly pressed these points with witnesses before the jurors.
‘Struggling to breathe is not active resistance, is it?’
Brodd admitted to prosecutor Steve Schleicher that the prone position could be considered a use of force if it inflicted pain on Floyd.
“Using your face to lift your body off the pavement, that could cause pain?” Schleicher asked Brodd, who agreed that it could.
“The only struggling you saw Mr. Floyd doing after he was restrained is he was struggling to breathe, is that right?” Schleicher asked Brodd.
“I don’t know. Was he struggling or was he struggling to catch a breath? I can’t tell,” Brodd said.
“In any event, struggling to breathe is not active resistance, is it?” Schleicher asked Brodd.
“To me, no. To the officer it may be,” Brodd responded.
Brodd also testified under cross examination that the dangers of positional asphyxia for people in the prone position are well-known, especially for people who have used drugs.
Chauvin, who was fired from the force after Floyd's death, faces murder and manslaughter charges.
Bystander video showed Chauvin with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the man lay handcuffed and face down on the pavement, pleading that he couldn’t breathe. He was arrested after allegedly trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes.
The other three officers who were at the scene, who have also been fired, are scheduled to be tried in August.
Brodd also testified for the defense in the trial of Jason Van Dyke, the former Chicago police officer convicted of murder in the fatal shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald.
Defense plays video of Floyd in custody in 2019
The defense began its case Tuesday morning with the first two witnesses testifying about an encounter with Floyd on May 6, 2019. During that incident, Floyd was taken out of a car by police and handcuffed at gunpoint.
Before each witness took the stand, Judge Peter Cahill told jurors the evidence was only for the limited purpose of showing what effect, if any, the ingestion of opioids had on Floyd and was not to be viewed as evidence of Floyd’s character.
In the police body camera footage, then-officer Scott Creighton has his gun drawn as he approaches Floyd sitting in the front passenger seat. Floyd tells the officer twice, "don't shoot me." Creighton responds, “I’m not going to shoot you!”
Creighton, now retired, told jurors Floyd was not complying with his commands to put his hands on the dashboard.
Under cross-examination from prosecutor Erin Eldridge, Creighton said Floyd eventually put his hands up and they were able to cuff him. He was asked if George Floyd ever fell down during that time. Creighton said no. '“Mr. Floyd didn’t drop dead while you were interacting with him, correct?” asked Eldridge. “No,” responded Creighton.
In later testimony, a woman who was in the car with Floyd when a police officer pointed a gun at him said that Floyd had been sleeping and was startled.
Shawanda Hill said that earlier the evening of May 25, she ran into Floyd in Cup Foods in south Minneapolis and he offered to give her a ride home. At the time, she said, Floyd was alert and talkative. But when he got in the car, she said Floyd dozed off.
Hill didn’t say Floyd was taking drugs. Nelson, Chauvin's attorney, has posited that Floyd’s sudden transformation from alertness to sleepiness is due to an ingestion of a combination of methamphetamine and fentanyl.
His defense is based in part on the contention that the fentanyl and methamphetamine found in his system and his weakened heart, not Chauvin’s use of force, are to blame for Floyd’s death.
Cahill told jurors he expects the defense’s case to wrap up before the end of the week. Closing arguments are expected to start next Monday; the case will then go to the jury for deliberations.
MPR News reporters Nina Moini and Dan Gunderson contributed to this story.
Who’s who: A look at the key players in the trial.
Need to know: Key questions about the trial, answered.
What we know about the jurors: The 12 jurors and two alternates picked to review the case include a chemist, a youth volunteer, a cardiac nurse and an IT professional.
Chauvin's lawyer is outnumbered, but has help: No fewer than four attorneys have appeared for the prosecution so far, compared to a single attorney to defend Derek Chauvin.
Legion of Chauvin prosecutors, each with own role: Viewers may be struck by the array of prosecutors taking turns presenting their case. The choice of who does what is no accident.
MPR News on its coverage: Nancy Lebens, the newsroom’s deputy managing editor, answered audience questions about our reporting plans.
George Floyd and his legacy
Remembering George Floyd, the man: Before he became a symbol in the fight for racial justice, friends say George Floyd was a “gentle giant” who sought a fresh start.
Making George Floyd Square: Here’s how the site of George Floyd’s killing — 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis — is being reshaped.
Rescuing the plywood — and memorializing a movement: Two Black women are leading the effort to preserve the murals painted on storefront boards in the Twin Cities.
Calls for change: Here’s what some activists tell MPR News about their experiences with race in Minnesota, why they march and what they hope for the future.
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