MINNEAPOLIS — Former Officer Derek Chauvin was justified in pinning George Floyd to the ground because he kept struggling, a use-of-force expert testified for the defense Tuesday, contradicting a parade of authorities from both inside and outside the Minneapolis Police Department.
Taking the stand at Chauvin’s murder trial, Barry Brodd, a former Santa Rosa, California, officer, defended Chauvin’s actions, even as a prosecutor pounded away at the witness during a podium-banging cross-examination, KTLA reported.
“It’s easy to sit and judge … an officer’s conduct,” Brodd said at one point. “It’s more of a challenge to, again, put yourself in the officer’s shoes to try to make an evaluation through what they’re feeling, what they’re sensing, the fear they have, and then make a determination.”
He said he doesn’t believe Chauvin and the other officers used deadly force against Floyd.
Brodd likened it instead to a situation in which officers use a Taser on someone fighting with officers, and the suspect falls, hits his head and dies: “That isn’t an incident of deadly force. That’s an incident of an accidental death.”
Brodd disagreed with prior use of force experts brought to the witness stand by the prosecution team.
“I felt that Officer Chauvin’s interactions with Mr. Floyd were following his training, following current practices in policing and were objectively reasonable.”
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher used his cross-examination to once again painstakingly go through video clips of Floyd pinned beneath Chauvin, gasping he couldn’t breathe and then going still. Schleicher pressed the witness on whether Chauvin’s actions were reasonable, according to KTLA.
Brodd argued that Floyd kept on struggling, and he suggested that if Floyd was being compliant, he would have had both hands in the small of his back, “and just be resting comfortably.”
“Did you say ‘resting comfortably’?” an incredulous Schleicher asked.
Brodd: “Or laying comfortably.”
Schleicher: “Resting comfortably on the pavement?”
Schleicher went on to say that Floyd was moving, but it was because he was struggling to breathe by shoving his shoulder into the pavement.
The prosecutor hammered away at Brodd, saying a reasonable officer in Chauvin’s position with his knee on Floyd’s neck would have known that Floyd stopped resisting, that another officer told him he couldn’t find a pulse, and that others had said Floyd had passed out and was no longer breathing.
“And the defendant’s position is, and was, and remains, as we see here at this moment, in this time, in this clip — on top of Mr. Floyd on the street. Isn’t that right?” Schleicher asked, as he banged his hand on the podium repeatedly.
“Yes,” Brodd replied.
Under questioning by the defense, Brodd also testified that bystanders yelling at the officers to get off Floyd complicated the situation for Chauvin and the others by causing them to wonder whether the crowd was becoming a threat, too.
Brodd also appeared to endorse what prosecution witnesses have said is a common misconception: that if someone can talk, he or she can breathe.
“I certainly don’t have medical degrees, but I was always trained and feel it’s a reasonable assumption that if somebody’s, ‘I’m choking, I’m choking,’ well, you’re not choking because you can breathe,” he said.
Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson has argued that the 19-year Minneapolis police veteran did what he was trained to do and and that Floyd died because of his illegal drug use and underlying health problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease. Fentanyl and methamphetamine were discovered in his system.
The defense began presenting its case on Tuesday after the prosecution rested following 11 days of testimony and a mountain of video evidence.
Nelson began by bringing up a 2019 arrest in which Floyd suffered from dangerously high blood pressure and confessed to heavy use of opioids. And he suggested that the 46-year-old black man may have suffered last May from “excited delirium” — what a witness described as a potentially lethal state of agitation and even superhuman strength that can be triggered by drugs, heart disease or mental problems.
Nelson also elicited testimony from another witness that Floyd panicked and cried over and over, “Please, please, don’t kill me!” when officers first approached his SUV at gunpoint on the day of his death.
Nicole Mackenzie, a Minneapolis police training officer, was called by Nelson to expound on excited delirium. While Floyd was pinned to the ground, a relatively new officer at the scene had mentioned that Floyd might be suffering from such a condition, KTLA reported.
Mackenzie testified that the signs of excited delirium can cause incoherent speech, extraordinary strength and sweating and that officers are also trained to call paramedics, because a person in that state can rapidly go into cardiac arrest.
The defense’s first witnesses testified about a May 6, 2019, incident in which Floyd was pulled from a car and arrested by Minneapolis police.
A now-retired paramedic who responded to that call, Michelle Moseng, testified that Floyd told her he had been taking multiple opioids about every 20 minutes.
“I asked him why and he said it was because he was addicted,” said Moseng, who described Floyd’s behavior as “elevated and agitated” before the judge struck that remark from the record.
Moseng said she recommended taking Floyd to the hospital based on his high blood pressure, which she measured at 216 over 160.
Nelson hasn’t said whether Chauvin will take the stand. Testifying could open him up to devastating cross-examination but could also give the jury the opportunity to hear about his thought process.