US EXPLAINER: Use-of-force experts evaluate Floyd arrest
Opinion: One of the most important trials America has ever seen is about to start
Elie Honig writes that while there is no way to predict what the jury in the Derek Chauvin trial will decide, this uncertainty is even more pronounced in a case involving the police and race.We have a jury in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with the May 2020 killing of George Floyd. Now we stand on the precipice of one of the most important trials this country has ever seen.
Jurors on Wednesday saw Minneapolis police officers’ body camera footage showing how an initial confrontation over an alleged misdemeanor last year spiraled intobegging for his life underneath the knee of a police officer as two other officers held him down.
Police departments nationwide have been trying for years to train officers to avoid violence. In 2016, the Minneapolis Police Department rewrote its use of force policy to emphasize the “sanctity of life,” and began training officers in de-escalation — calming people down to prevent violence.
First responders' testimony offers somber picture of a lifeless George Floyd when medics arrived
Paramedics' testimony on Thursday during the trial of Derek Chauvin painted a somber picture of an unresponsive George Floyd shortly after they arrived at the scene, where the former police officer was recorded kneeling on Floyd's neck last May.Their testimony provided jurors with a detailed and disturbing medical account of the events that transpired after Floyd's arrest as medics worked to resuscitate him. These recollections marked a shift in the trial that had thus far been dominated largely by emotional eyewitness testimony and gripping bystander video footage for the past three days.
WHY WAS FLOYD ARRESTED?
A cashier at Cup Foods told his manager that he believed Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 bill to pay for a pack of cigarettes. Police were called and the cashier, 19-year-old Christopher Martin, watched Floyd's arrest outside the store with
But did the officers have to arrest Floyd in the first place?
Duty sergeant: Officers could have ended Floyd restraint
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minneapolis police supervisory sergeant who was on duty the night George Floyd died testified that he believes the officers who restrained Floyd could have ended it after he stopped resisting. David Pleoger testified Thursday at the trial of since-fired officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death. He noted that officers are trained to roll people on their side to help with their breathing after they have been restrained in the prone position.
The charge of trying to use a counterfeit bill would have been a simple misdemeanor under Minnesota law, and in many cases that can be handled with a ticket, said Mylan Masson, who once headed police training at Hennepin Technical College and served on the Minnesota Police Officers Standards and Training Board for more than 20 years.
Masson said officers should have been asking whether Floyd knew the bill was counterfeit and whether he had others in his possession.
After officers handcuffed Floyd, they attempted to place him in the back of a squad car.
Masson questioned why they decided to arrest him at all, noting that “he didn’t seem to be a harm to other people.”
WHY DIDN'T OFFICERS DEFUSE THE SITUATION?
Floyd said over and over that he was claustrophobic as he struggled to avoid being forced into the squad car. One officer can be heard cursing Floyd onas he braced himself against the vehicle and arched his body. At one point, Floyd threw his upper body out of the car, and officers tried to push him back in.
Derek Chauvin trial: A week of emotional and potentially devastating testimony surrounding George Floyd's death
Pain, trauma and regret spilled out from a Minneapolis courtroom during a first week of critical testimony in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who knelt on the neck of George Floyd. © Pool Minneapolis Police Lt. Richard Zimmerman said Chauvin's actions after Floyd was handcuffed and in a prone position were "uncalled for" and "totally unnecessary." The week concluded with potentially devastating testimony from the police department's most senior officer, who called Chauvin's actions on the day of Floyd's death "totally unnecessary.
Masson said putting someone in the back of a squad car with air conditioning can sometimes calm them down, especially on a hot day. But that was clearly not the case with Floyd.
Once in the backseat, he twisted and writhed, and the officers eventually pulled him out and held him to the ground. Floyd thanked officers as they removed him from the squad car.
The police tactic of de-escalation focuses on defusing tense situations to avoid violence.
“The trajectory of the event could have been slowed down,” said Geoffrey Alpert, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina. “There was no rush, no split-second decision. There was no reason to push things.”
Alpert and Masson both questioned why the officers didn't try to put Floyd into a larger vehicle such as an ambulance or van, given that he said he was claustrophobic.
WHY DOES IT MATTER AT TRIAL?
Derek Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death. Prosecutors say the since-fired police officer knelt on Floyd's neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds, as he pleaded that he couldn't breathe. The most serious charge against Chauvin carries up to 40 years in prison.
Minneapolis officers line up to reject Chauvin's actions
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The parade of Minneapolis police officers rejecting a former officer’s actions in restraining George Floyd continued at his murder trial, including a use-of-force instructor who said officers were coached to “stay away from the neck when possible.” Lt. Johnny Mercil on Tuesday became the latest member of the Minneapolis force to take the stand as part of an effort by prosecutors to dismantle the argument that Derek Chauvin was doing what he was trained to do when he put his knee on George Floyd’s neck last May.
Prosecutors contend that Floyd's death was caused by Chauvin's knee. But the defense has argued that Chauvin did what he was trained to do, and instead blame Floyd’s illegal drug use, heart disease, high blood pressure and the adrenaline flowing through his body.
Alex Piquero, chairman of the University of Miami's sociology department, said it is important for prosecutors to show that Chauvin, along with the other officers, made a series of decisions that led to Floyd's death.
He said police officers are often working with limited information and have to make decisions quickly. But he said it's clear that regardless of what happened before Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck, it was wrong.
“This is not the way you want to handle someone who is supposedly trying to pass a counterfeit bill," he said.
Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at:
Key takeaways from 2nd week of Derek Chauvin trial in the death of George Floyd .
The second week of Derek Chauvin's high-profile trial wrapped up on Friday with testimony from the medical examiner who conducted George Floyd's autopsy. Officials said the former Minneapolis officer violated police policies in how he arrested and detained the 46-year-old Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.