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Three Minneapolis police department officers took the stand Tuesday on the seventh day of testimony in Derek Chauvin's murder trial in the death of George Floyd. In addition to the officers, who are experts in use of force, crisis intervention training and emergency medical response, was Sgt. Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department. He testified as an outside expert on police training and use of force. Stiger will return to the witness stand Wednesday morning.
LAPD sergeant returns to witness stand to testify about use of force
Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, has returned to the witness stand. He is a use-of-force expert for the prosecution.
Stiger testified Tuesday that he has trained thousands of police officers in use-of-force tactics. He said he had reviewed the case and had come to a conclusion about Derek Chauvin's actions during the arrest of George Floyd last May.
"My opinion was that the force was excessive," he said.
Stiger was the last witness to testify Tuesday before the judge abruptly adjourned an hour earlier than usual.
Seventh day of witness testimony ends abruptly
The seventh day of witness testimony in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial ended abruptly Tuesday following several law enforcement witnesses testifying about police use-of-force and medical assistance policies.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill ended court abruptly Tuesday afternoon after privately speaking with both prosecution and defense attorneys. The interruption came as prosecutor Steve Schleicher was questioning Sgt. Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department, an expert on police training and use of force. Stiger will return to the stand Wednesday.
Several law enforcement officers with the Minneapolis Police Department also testified on police training, use-of-force tactics and de-escalation and providing medical assistance earlier Tuesday.
Witness testimony will continue Wednesday around 9:15 a.m. local time.
A crowd of onlookers does not excuse a police officer from rendering aid, police department's medical support coordinator says
Officer Nicole Mackenzie, the Minneapolis Police Department's medical support coordinator, told prosecutor Steve Schleicher that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can be started while waiting for paramedics to arrive — a point the prosecution has sought to drive home to suggest Derek Chauvin had a duty to provide medical treatment to George Floyd until paramedics arrived.
The prosecution has called witnesses to the stand, including Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who said that Chauvin had violated a range of departmental policies, including by not rendering aid to Floyd before the ambulance was at the scene. Floyd did not receive medical attention May 25 until two paramedics arrived.
As police officers were arresting Floyd, bystander videos captured him repeatedly telling them he couldn't breathe. One officer can be heard telling Floyd that it takes "a lot of oxygen" to talk.
Mackenzie, who trains Minneapolis police officers in medical treatment, contradicted that statement Tuesday.
"There is a possibility somebody could be in respiratory distress and still be able to verbalize it," she said. "Just because they're speaking doesn't mean they're breathing adequately."
In his questioning of Mackenzie, Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, continued a line of questions that he has asked many other expert witnesses and bystanders to Floyd's arrest, suggesting that the onlookers at the scene — many of whom shouted at Chauvin to get off Floyd — influenced Chauvin's actions that day and potentially hampered his ability to render aid.
Mackenzie told Nelson that it is "incredibly difficult" to focus on a patient at a chaotic scene and that it’s more difficult to assess a patient.
"Does it make it more likely that you might miss signs if a patient is experiencing something?" Nelson asked. Mackenzie said it was possible.
Schleicher quickly followed up and asked if a crowd of onlookers excuses a police officer from rendering aid.
"Only if they were physically getting themselves involved," she said.
Los Angeles police sergeant testifies as use-of-force expert witness
The 26th witness in the Derek Chauvin murder trial is Sgt. Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department. He will testify as an outside expert on police training and use of force.
Stiger is an aide to the inspector general within the Los Angeles Police Department, which is an oversight entity. He said Tuesday afternoon he is the only sworn police officer that works for that unit.
He said he has also trained thousands of officers as part of a course he developed that went over de-escalation, firearms manipulation, basic control tactics and arrest-control techniques.
Minneapolis police medical support coordinator testifies
The medical support coordinator with the Minneapolis Police Department was the third witness called to the stand Tuesday afternoon.
Officer Nicole Mackenzie said as the medical support coordinator with the department she provided first aid and medical training to recruits and officers. She added Chauvin has attended the training she conducts.
Minneapolis police use-of-force trainer testifies under cross-examination
Under cross-examination, Derek Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, entered a photo into evidence that Lt. Johnny Mercil agreed appeared to show Chauvin's knee on George Floyd's shoulder blade while the ambulance was on the scene.
Nelson asked Mercil, a use of force trainer with the Minneapolis Police Department, whether unconscious people can suddenly regain consciousness and fight and whether a restraint requires pressure on both sides of the neck for the person to go unconscious.
Mercil responded yes to both questions. Mercil also testified that it generally takes less than 10 seconds for someone to go unconscious because of a neck restraint.
With these questions, Nelson seems to be laying the groundwork that Floyd did not die from Chauvin's knee on his neck, as the prosecution has argued.
On Monday, Nelson played a few seconds of bystander video side-by-side with footage from an officer's body camera and asked Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo whether Chauvin's knee was on Floyd's neck.
Arradondo agreed it appeared to show Chauvin's knee on Floyd's shoulder blade. But moments later, prosecutor Steve Schleicher got Arradondo to note that the clip played by Nelson depicted only the few seconds before Floyd was moved onto a stretcher and after paramedics had arrived.
Minneapolis Police Department use-of-force instructor said Chauvin's knee restraint not part of training
A use-of-force instructor with the Minneapolis Police Department testified Tuesday that Chauvin’s use of his knee on George Floyd’s neck has never been a trained neck restraint in the department and would not be appropriate for a suspect that was “under control and handcuffed.”
Lt. Johnny Mercil said Tuesday morning while viewing an image of Chauvin restraining Floyd with his knee on Floyd’s neck that such an action is not and has never been taught as a neck restraint under department training.
He said, depending on the circumstances, such a tactic may not always be “unauthorized” but would not be an appropriate use of force in the case where a person was “under control and handcuffed.”
The lieutenant testified that in order to get a subject under control, officers are trained to "use the lowest level of force possible" in order to meet their objectives.
Prosecutors showed an image from the police department's defense and control response training guide showing an “unconscious neck restraint,” meaning the kind of neck restraint that would render a person unconscious, would be allowed when a subject was displaying “active aggression” and not fall under tactics used for “active resistance” or "passive resistance.”
Mercil also testified officers are shown how to do an unconscious neck restraint with their arms but not using their legs during training.
The prosecution showed documents Chauvin had received training on the department’s use-of-force policies. Mercil developed the curriculum and was one of the trainers providing the use-of-force training Chauvin would have taken.
"Intent is critical for proving the highest charge," legal expert says.
Prosecutors have called several witnesses to the stand from the Minneapolis Police Department, some of whom have helped establish what departmental policies and procedures Derek Chauvin was trained in.
Former Miami federal prosecutor David Weinstein explained the significance of their testimony:
Chauvin is on trial on charges of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Minneapolis Police Department use-of-force instructor testifies
The second witness on the stand Tuesday is Lt. Johnny Mercil, who is currently on medical leave from the Minneapolis Police Department. Mercil was a use-of-force instructor and has been with the department since 1996.
Minneapolis Police Department crisis intervention training coordinator testifies
The first witness called by prosecutors Tuesday is Sgt. Ker Yang, a crisis intervention training coordinator with the Minneapolis Police Department.
Yang, 49, is a 24-year veteran of the force. Through his testimony, prosecutors appear to be trying to convey that Derek Chauvin had been trained in how to recognize people in various crises and safely respond.
Defense attorney for friend of George Floyd argues he could face prosecution if made to testify
A friend of George Floyd who was with him on the day of his fatal arrest appeared virtually in court Tuesday as his lawyer said he does not want to testify in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial and would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Morries Hall was in the passenger seat of the car on the day of Floyd’s fatal encounter with police following a report of a counterfeit $20 bill. He appeared in court via a video feed as he is currently in jail on unrelated allegations. He was dressed in civilian clothing. The jury was not in the room for the hearing on the motion.
Adrienne Cousins, a Hennepin County public defender, said Tuesday morning that any questions regarding his interaction and proximity to Floyd on May 25, the day of his death, were potentially self-incriminating and could open Hall to prosecution, including potentially third-degree murder, in a separate trial.
Hall has been subpoenaed in the case by both the prosecution and defense and previously filed notice that he planned to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify in the case.
The judge called Chauvin’s defense to lay out the questions they intend to ask Hall, which included events leading up to Floyd and Hall’s arrival at Cup Foods, their interactions in the store including questions about the alleged counterfeit bill, whether Hall provided Floyd with controlled substances, Floyd’s behavior in the car, among other things.
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill said the majority of those questions would fall within the right against self-incrimination but left open the possibility of Hall only being asked to describe Floyd’s behavior and condition in the car ahead of his arrest.
The judge did not decide Tuesday on whether Hall would be forced to testify and asked the defense to draft what questions they would ask under those narrow guidelines, which he would then review.
Derek Chauvin 'absolutely' violated policy, Minneapolis police chief testifies
Chief Medaria Arradondo, the first Black person to be Minneapolis police chief, described George Floyd's death as "tragic" and said it "was not due to a lack of training."
"Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting, and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that, that should have stopped," Arradondo responded.
During his testimony, Arradondo explained departmental policy on when force and de-escalation tactics are necessary. He said Chauvin failed to follow policies on de-escalation, use of force and the duty to render aid to people who need it when he knelt on Floyd's neck for more than 9 minutes. Floyd, who was Black, was recorded in a widely seen bystander video repeatedly telling Chauvin, who is white, that he could not breathe.
"We have a duty of care, and so when someone's in our custody, regardless of if they are a suspect, we have an obligation to make sure that we provide for their care," Arradondo said.