An expert witness said that “excessive” force was used by ex-officer Derek Chauvin in the arrest of unarmed black man George Floyd.
Sgt Jody Stiger, a use of force expert for the Los Angeles Police Department, said “lethal force” was used after Mr. Floyd was handcuffed.
Mr. Chauvin, 45, was filmed kneeling on top of Mr. Floyd for more than nine minutes during Mr. Floyd’s arrest last May.
He is on trial for murder and has denied the charges against him.
The images of Mr. Chauvin, who is white, with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, have sparked global protests against racism.
The trial is in its second week and is expected to last at least a month. The defense is due to start arguing its case next week.
Prosecutors continued to claim that Mr. Chauvin used excessive force, while the defense team sought to draw attention to Mr. Floyd’s alleged drug use, saying he could be heard saying ” I ate a lot of drugs “in the camera video.
As police officers are rarely convicted or charged at all for deaths in custody, the verdict of this trial is seen as an indication of how the U.S. legal system will handle such cases in the future.
What did the expert say?
Sgt Stiger, who reviews use of force investigations for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), testified for the prosecution for two days.
On Tuesday, he was one of four police officers to condemn Mr. Chauvin’s handling of the arrest, which was triggered by Mr. Floyd’s alleged use of a counterfeit $ 20 bill.
On Wednesday, he argued that “lethal force” was used by officers who pinned Mr. Floyd to the ground.
He added that “no force” was needed after Mr. Floyd was handcuffed and that continued pressure on Mr. Floyd could have caused “positional asphyxiation, which could result in death”.
“He was lying on his stomach. He was handcuffed. He didn’t try to resist,” said Sgt Stiger. “He wasn’t trying to assault the officers, kick, punch or anything of that nature.”
Being handcuffed behind the back makes it difficult for a suspect to breathe, he said.
“When you add body weight to that, it only increases the risk of death,” he continued.
He said officers were trained to be able to make arrests while facing a hostile crowd and that he did not see onlookers “as a threat”.
He was also asked about “pain compliance,” that is, times when officers can reduce the amount of pain inflicted on a suspect in return for compliance.
“What if there is no possibility of compliance?” Prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked, arguing that Mr. Chauvin appeared to bend one of Mr. Floyd’s cuffed hands in an attempt to cause him pain and make him obey the officer’s orders.
“At this point it’s just pain.” Mr. Stiger responded.
Also on Wednesday, state forensic investigators said Mr Floyd’s blood was found in the back of the police patrol car used that day. Experts also told the court that the pills found at the scene had tested positive for illegal drugs.
Two packets of Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, were also found in the vehicle Mr. Floyd was driving.
What did the defense support?
Mr. Stiger acknowledged defense attorney Eric Nelson’s view that an officer’s actions should be viewed from an officer’s perspective on the scene, not retrospectively.
Mr. Stiger agreed with Mr. Nelson that all use of force policies have criteria – that is, the context of the situation, security and experience must be taken into account when l ‘examination of potential violations.
He also agreed that it would have been reasonable for Mr. Chauvin to arrive at the scene with a heightened sense of awareness, as dispatchers had described Mr. Floyd as being over six feet (2m) and possibly under. influence.
When Mr. Nelson pointed to still images taken by cameras of the officers’ body to claim that Mr. Chauvin’s knee was on Mr. Floyd’s shoulder blade, Mr. Stiger disagreed, saying the pressure was still on. applied to the neck area. Mr Stiger also said that Mr Chauvin did not appear to move his knee from Mr Floyd’s neck during the entire period he was on top of him.
The defense team also claimed that Mr. Floyd could be heard saying “I ate too many drugs” in body camera footage of the incident.
Mr Stiger said he couldn’t hear the phrase in the clip, although another witness, Special Agent James Reyerson of the State Bureau of Criminal Arrest, initially agreed that it sounded like this way.
He then retracted that statement, saying he believed Mr. Floyd had in fact said “I don’t do drugs”.
A dramatic reversal in court
Analysis by Gary O’Donoghue, BBC correspondent, Minneapolis
In a dramatic reversal, the chief investigator in the case of Derek Chauvin retracted his opinion that George Floyd had told the police at the scene that he had “eaten too many drugs”.
Defense attorney previously extracted James Reyerson’s receipt from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension after he was twice viewed camera footage of the police body. He agreed after the second time he was shown the video that Mr. Floyd said those words while being held up on the field.
It is a central part of the defense that George Floyd died from the fentanyl and methamphetamine found in his body and for no more than nine minutes that Derek Chauvin knelt on top of him.
It also emerged during cross-examination that it was the defense attorneys who spotted the existence of a pill in the back of one of the vehicles in the scene – more than six months after it happened. -even.
The prosecution took testimony from a series of current and former police officers who told the court that the force used against Mr. Floyd was excessive.