A police use-of-force expert called by the defense Tuesday testified that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was "justified" in pinning down George Floyd by pressing his knee on Floyd's neck last year, and that the tactic should not be considered as use of deadly force.
The witness, Barry Brodd, told the jury at Chauvin's murder trial in Minneapolis that the officer, fired after 19 years on the city police force after Floyd's death, was "acting with reasonable use of force" when he restrained Floyd, 46, for more than nine minutes.
The incident last May triggered widespread protests in the U.S. and overseas against police abuse of minorities.
The prosecution rested its case Tuesday, and defense lawyer Eric Nelson began his attempt to undercut considerable evidence that Chauvin violated his police training as he arrested Floyd on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store.
Brodd, a key witness for Chauvin who has testified in other high-profile cases for police accused of abusing criminal suspects, said, "It's easy to sit and judge, in an office, on an officer's conduct. It's more of a challenge to, again, put yourself in an officer's shoes."
Asked by Nelson whether he thought Chauvin's restraint of Floyd amounted to deadly force, Brodd replied, "It was not."
Brodd called the former officer's actions "objectively reasonable."
On cross-examination, prosecutor Steven Schleicher attempted to chip away at Brodd's conclusions.
The prosecutor won an acknowledgment from Brodd that when Floyd repeatedly gasped, "I can't breathe," while lying prone on the street, it was the responsibility of Chauvin to have "situational awareness" of Floyd's dire condition and back off his restraint of Floyd, who had been handcuffed.
The prosecution presented 11 days of evidence and testimony that the 45-year-old Chauvin, who is white, violated normal police practices in the way he arrested Floyd, a Black man, and medical evidence that Chauvin asphyxiated the suspect by his actions.
Nelson is contending that Floyd died because of underlying health conditions related to his drug use, not because of the way Chauvin arrested him.
It is not known whether Chauvin will take the witness stand in his own defense. But the case is moving rapidly and closing arguments could be held next week. The racially diverse 12-member jury could then start its deliberations on Chauvin's guilt or innocence.
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges. If convicted, he could face years in prison. Three other police officers who played various roles in Floyd's arrest last May 25 are awaiting trial, although charges against them would likely be dropped if Chauvin is acquitted.
Minnesota state prosecutors rested their case after presenting an array of evidence against Chauvin, including a video of the policeman pressing his knee on Floyd's neck and testimony from police experts on the proper use of force in arrests and medical personnel on how Floyd died.
One of the last prosecution witnesses, Seth Stoughton, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, testified Monday that Chauvin's actions went beyond the bounds of what a reasonable police officer would have done in arresting Floyd.
"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.
He said that the failure to roll Floyd over and render aid "as his increasing medical distress became obvious" was not appropriate under the circumstances.
Stoughton said it was unreasonable to think that Floyd might harm officers or escape after he had been handcuffed, as he was sprawled out on the ground.