Prosecutors in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial presented a series of witnesses on Tuesday in an attempt to show that the former Minneapolis police officer ignored his training when he knelt on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
Lieutenant Johnny Mercil, who teaches the proper use of force to the department, told jurors that the head protection used by Chauvin during the deadly arrest of Floyd was unauthorized. Officers are being trained to use the least force required to subdue a suspect, he said.
During the arrest in May 2020, the handcuffed 46-year-old black man fell limp and stopped breathing, an incident captured on videos taken by spectators watched by millions of people around the world.
The incident sparked protests in cities across the United States and around the world against racism and police brutality.
Chauvin, who is white, has pleaded guilty to murder and manslaughter and accused him of following the training he had received during his 19 years in the force.
During Tuesday’s testimony, one of the prosecutors, Mercil, showed a photograph of Chauvin using his knee to secure Floyd’s neck to the ground and was asked if the officer was using an authorized head protection under the circumstances.
“I would say no,” Mercil testified.
Chauvin and three other officers tried to arrest Floyd on suspicion of using a fake $ 20 bill to buy cigarettes at a grocery store. They were fired the day after the incident.
Mercil testified that officers like Chauvin are trained to use a proportionate amount of force and how to properly use head restraints, handcuffs and straps.
“If you can use the least force to reach your goals, it’s safer and better,” Mercil testified. “It’s very important to be careful.”
At cross-examination, Mercil agreed with Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, on the question of whether officers must protect themselves when arresting troubled subjects in developing situations.
Nelson also questioned Mercil about safety precautions that officials must take when using neck protection and body weight to restrain individuals.
“We tell them to stay away from the neck whenever possible,” Mercil told jurors.
Los Angeles expert testifies
Mercil’s testimony came a day after the Minneapolis police chief testified that Chauvin violated departmental rules and its code of ethics when he arrested Floyd.
Prosecutors also called for the position of Jody Stiger, a sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department who is an expert on violence.
Stiger said that reviews and standards for the use of force take into account the severity of the crime to which officials respond and the threats and risks they may experience when apprehending a suspect.
Stiger testified that he had examined the use of force that Chauvin used on Floyd and thought it was “excessive”.
Earlier in the day, two departmental trainers in crisis interventions and first aid took the position to describe what they characterized as comprehensive and continuing education that the Minneapolis police officers receive.
Sergeant Ker Yang, a crisis intervention training coordinator, testified that Chauvin completed 40 hours of training to deal with suspects who went through a crisis. He added that the police are trained in using neutrality, respect and trust in crisis situations.
“The ultimate goal for someone in crisis is to see if the person needs help,” Yang testified.
Before the jury was brought into the courtroom that morning, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill heard arguments at the request of a friend of Floyd’s to dismiss a lawsuit for him to testify.
Morries Hall was in the car with Floyd when police arrived and set the scene for the attempt to arrest Floyd. Hall has said he would invoke his constitutional right to self-incrimination if he had to appear in the witness stand.
Nelson told Cahill that he planned to ask Hall if he gave Floyd any controlled substances and why Hall left Minnesota immediately after the incident. Floyd’s girlfriend testified last week that she and Floyd struggled with opioid addiction and that she believed that Hall sometimes illegally sold pills to Floyd.
Cahill decided that most of the questions Nelson wanted to ask could criminalize Hall. Despite this, the judge said that Hall should be able to testify about Floyd’s condition in the car and whether he suddenly fell asleep after taking opioid pills. Cahill gave Nelson until Thursday to work out potential issues.
The county doctor has decided that Floyd’s death is a murder in the hands of the police and noted that Floyd had also taken fentanyl and methamphetamine before his death.
Chauvin’s lawyers claim that Floyd’s death was an overdose, although prosecutors have said medical evidence would contradict that.
Hall participated in the hearing via a video link from a county jail where he is being held on unrelated charges of domestic violence, according to court and county jail records.