The prosecution is expected to call more witnesses Thursday in the U.S. trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd in an incident that sparked massive protests last year.
Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Jody Stiger, an expert on the use of force by police who testified as a prosecution witness, said Wednesday that Chauvin should not have pinned his knee against the back of Floyd’s neck for nine-and-a-half-minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and in a prone position.
Stiger testified that Floyd did not present an immediate threat or resist arrest as Chauvin bore down on Floyd with most of his weight while Floyd gasped he could not breathe.
“My opinion was that no force was reasonable in that position,” Stiger said. “The pressure ...caused by the body weight could cause positional asphyxia and could cause death.”
Chauvin, who is white, was a 19-year police veteran until he was fired. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and manslaughter charges in the case being heard by a racially diverse 12-member jury. Chauvin’s lawyer contends that Floyd, an African American, died from underlying health issues and that Chauvin followed his police training in the way in which the 46-year-old Floyd was arrested.
Floyd’s May 25, 2020, arrest sparked widespread protests in the United States and around the world against police brutality and systemic racism.
It was the second day of testimony for Stiger, who told the jurors on Tuesday that after reviewing video of Floyd’s arrest, he believed Chauvin’s use of force was “excessive.”
Stiger said officers were justified in using force initially as Floyd resisted their efforts to put him into a police car, but that once Floyd was on the ground and stopped resisting, the officers “should have slowed down or stopped their force as well.”
In other testimony Wednesday, state forensic scientist Breahna Giles said pills found in the car Floyd was driving contained methamphetamine and fentanyl.
Susan Meith, a forensic chemist, testified that remnants of a pill found in the back of the police car contained the same substances.
The Hennepin County medical examiner's office said that Floyd died of "cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." A summary report listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use under "other significant conditions" but not under "cause of death."
The first week of the trial was dominated by emotional testimony from eyewitnesses who watched as Chauvin pinned Floyd to the ground even as Floyd repeatedly gasped that he could not breathe.
Shortly before the trial started, the city of Minneapolis paid $27 million in damages to Floyd’s relatives.