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Takeaways from Day 7 of the Derek Chauvin Trial

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Witnesses called by the prosecution in the Derek Chauvin trial provided a deeper look at police policies on the use of force on Tuesday and gave the former Minneapolis police officer’s defense team some potential openings.

Mr. Chauvin’s defense, led by attorney Eric J. Nelson, tried to bolster its argument that the crowd that formed on the sidewalk during George Floyd’s arrest might have made it more difficult for Mr. Chauvin to render medical aid or to move his knee, which he held on Mr. Floyd for more than nine minutes.

While the first week of the trial brought emotional testimony from bystanders, Tuesday’s proceedings seemed to cement the trial into the second phase: focusing on whether Mr. Chauvin, who is accused of murder in Mr. Floyd’s death, violated police policy, or whether his actions lined up with his training. Here are the highlights from Tuesday.

  • Mr. Nelson found some testimony from prosecution witnesses that could support his arguments. Officer Nicole Mackenzie, the medical support coordinator for the Minneapolis Police Department, agreed with Mr. Nelson’s assertion that a crowd of vocal bystanders can make it difficult for an officer to render medical aid during an arrest. Lt. Johnny Mercil, a veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department and use-of-force instructor, also said that hostile bystanders could raise alarm with officers. Mr. Nelson has suggested throughout the trial that the crowd outside the Cup Foods convenience store, which yelled at Mr. Chauvin as he knelt on Mr. Floyd for nine and a half minutes, might have hindered the former officer from helping Mr. Floyd once he became unresponsive.

  • Mr. Nelson hit on a similar theme during the questioning of Sgt. Ker Yang, a crisis intervention coordinator with the Minneapolis Police Department. He asked whether an officer can “look bad” even when applying force that is lawful, and asked whether officers are tasked with weighing possible threats, such as a crowd of bystanders, when applying force. “You’re taking in a lot of information and processing it all kind of simultaneously through this critical decision-making model,” Mr. Nelson said. Sergeant Yang agreed.

  • Los Angeles Police Sgt. Jody Stiger, a use-of-force expert, told prosecutors that Mr. Floyd kicked at officers as a possible attempt to break free from their grasp. Still, Sergeant Stiger said that kick was the only such attempt by Mr. Floyd. He also said that, based on his review of body camera footage, Mr. Floyd seemed to comply with officers shortly after they placed him facedown on the pavement, with his hands cuffed behind his back.

  • When reviewing a picture of Mr. Chauvin pinning George Floyd to the ground, Lieutenant Mercil told prosecutors that Mr. Chauvin’s position was not consistent with the Minneapolis Police Department’s training on use of force. In addition, Lieutenant Mercil said that officers are trained to “use the lowest level of force possible” when controlling a subject. Mr. Chauvin kept Mr. Floyd pinned for several minutes even after he became unresponsive. Still, Mr. Nelson made some potential headway with the testimony of Lieutenant Mercil. Asked about neck restraints, Lieutenant Mercil said it generally takes less than 10 seconds for a person to become unconscious because of a neck restraint. The question could allow Mr. Nelson to argue that Mr. Chauvin’s knee did not qualify as a neck restraint, because it took several minutes for Mr. Floyd to lose consciousness.

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