Chauvin trial: Day 8 testimony continues with use-of-force expert and lead investigator

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MINNEAPOLIS (NewsNation Now) — The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin charged in the death of George Floyd resumed Wednesday with testimony from police officials, including an expert on use-of-force and a special agent investigating the arrest.

You can watch the trial here.  It resumes Wednesday at 9:15 a.m. CDT.

In this image from video, witness Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant testifies as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Tuesday, April 6, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

Los Angeles Police Sgt. Jody Stiger, a prosecution witness with expert knowledge of use-of-force, returned to the stand on the eighth day of trial, testifying on pain compliance technique and reasonable force. Stiger testified that using pain compliance techniques during a restraint period when there is no threat to officers is “just pain” and that “no force should have been used” once George Floyd was in prone position.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher showed jurors a composite image of five photos taken from various videos of the arrest. Stiger went through each photo, saying it appeared Chauvin’s left knee was on Floyd’s neck or neck area in each one.

“That particular force did not change during the entire restraint period?” Schleicher asked.

“Correct,” Stiger replied.

Stiger also said Chauvin squeezed Floyd’s fingers and pulled one of his wrists toward his handcuffs, a technique that uses pain to get someone to comply, but did not appear to let up while Floyd was restrained.

“Then at that point it’s just pain,” Stiger said.

Stiger said that based on his review of video evidence, Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck from the time officers put Floyd on the ground until paramedics arrived — about 9 1/2 minutes, by prosecutors’ reckoning.

His assessment came a day after Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson sought to point out moments in the video footage when, he said, Chauvin’s knee did not appear to be on Floyd’s neck.

Nelson also has suggested that bystanders who were yelling at Chauvin to get off Floyd distracted the officers, who perceived the onlookers as an increasingly hostile crowd.

But Stiger told Schleicher, “I did not perceive them as being a threat,” even though some onlookers were name-calling and using foul language. He added that most of the yelling was due to “their concern for Mr. Floyd.”

“My opinion was that no force was reasonable in that position,” Stiger testified. “The pressure … caused by the body weight could cause positional asphyxia and could cause death.”

During cross-examination, Nelson noted that dispatchers had described Floyd as between 6 feet and 6-foot-6 and possibly under the influence. Stiger agreed it was reasonable for Chauvin to come to the scene with a heightened sense of awareness.

Stiger also agreed with Nelson that an officer’s actions must be viewed from the point of view of a reasonable officer on the scene, not in hindsight.

Stiger began his testimony Tuesday. Stiger said officers were justified in using force while Floyd was resisting their efforts to put him in a squad car. But once he was on the ground and stopped resisting, “at that point, the officers … should have slowed down or stopped their force as well.”

Stiger said that after reviewing video of the arrest, “my opinion was that the force was excessive.”

Nelson has argued that Chauvin “did exactly what he had been trained to do over his 19-year career” and that it was Floyd’s use of illegal drugs and his underlying health conditions — not the officer’s knee — that killed him.

The second witness called by the prosecution Wednesday James Reyerson, senior special agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, is part of a newly formed use-of-force investigation group.

Reyerson was the lead agent investigating the use-of-force in the Floyd arrest.

On Tuesday, prosecutors presented a series of witnesses in a bid to show that the former Minneapolis police officer disregarded his training when he knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.

Lieutenant Johnny Mercil, who teaches the proper use of force for the department, told jurors the neck restraint applied by Chauvin during the deadly arrest of Floyd was unauthorized. Officers are trained to use the least amount of force necessary to subdue a suspect, he said.

Two department trainers in crisis intervention and first aid also took the stand to describe what they characterized as extensive and continuing training that Minneapolis police officers receive.

Before the jury was brought into the courtroom in the morning, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill heard arguments on a request by a friend of Floyd to quash a prosecution subpoena for him to testify.

Morries Hall was in the car with Floyd when police arrived. Hall has said he would invoke his constitutional right against self-incrimination if he had to appear on the witness stand.

Cahill decided that most questions Nelson wanted to ask could incriminate Hall. Even so, the judge said Hall should be able to testify on Floyd’s condition in the car and whether he fell asleep suddenly after possibly taking opioid pills. Cahill gave Nelson until Thursday to draft potential questions.

Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges for Floyd’s arrest, which happened on suspicion that Floyd used a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes on May 25, 2020.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report. Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Brendan O’Brien of Reuters. Reporting by Amy Forliti, Steve Karnowski and Tammy Webber of AP.

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