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Chauvin trial: Prosecutors focus on police training, defense focuses on placement of knee

George Floyd Officer Trial
Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 17:38:23-04

MINNEAPOLIS — The jury hearing the case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, heard a lot Tuesday about the extensive training officers, and Chauvin specifically, received.

This included how to defuse tense situation, how to restrain suspects, when use of force is called for and how to make critical decisions when dealing with people in crisis.

A sergeant who specifically focuses on use-of-force training said officers are not trained to use their legs or knees on someone's neck. In fact, Sergeant Johnny Mercil said they are told to avoid neck pressure when possible because of the risks involved.

"If you can use a lower level of force to meet your objectives, it's safer and better for everybody," Mercil said under questioning.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson focused his cross examination questions on identifying whether Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck or shoulder blade, as well as the effects fentanyl may have on a person. He showed a few of the witnesses images from the police officer body camera footage and asked them to identify where on Floyd's body Chauvin's knee was.

Floyd died May 25, 2020 outside a Cup Foods store in Minneapolis. Cops had been called after Floyd allegedly tried to use a counterfeit bill. Officers struggled with Floyd before he was handcuffed and brought the ground, held down by officers.

Bystanders recorded the situation and shared the video on social media. The video from bystanders showed Chauvin on top of Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes as he repeated he couldn't breath and called out for help.

Other witnesses called on Tuesday included a medical support officer who trained the department's officers on medical aid, the use of NARCAN, and basic life-saving measures, as well as a sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department with experience in overseeing use-of-force cases.

Below is a live blog of Tuesday's proceedings.

Court TV will be the only network with cameras in the courtroom and will provide live, gavel-to-gavel coverage.
Find Court TV's full coverage of MN v. Derek Chauvin here.

The entire trial will be on live TV as well as available online at CourtTV.com, and the Court TV app for Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android and Apple devices.

In addition to in-depth reporting and expert analysis from veteran legal journalists — most of whom are lawyers — Court TV’s extensive coverage will include new virtual recreations, and insights and discussions from attorneys, investigators and forensic experts.

UPDATE, 3:30 p.m. ET: Prosecutors called a sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department to serve as an expert witness.

Sergeant Jody Stiger has worked with LAPD since 1993. During his long career, he was part of a board that oversaw use-of-force cases for the department.

WATCH coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial HERE.

UPDATE, 12:30 p.m. ET: Prosecutors called medical support officer Nicole Mackenzie after a lunch break. Mackenzie worked in human resources before joining the police department six years ago.

She helps train on medical support, including using NARCAN in overdose situations, and she is trained as an emergency medical responder.

Prosecutors had Mackenzie identify the CPR certification card that belonged to former officer Derek Chauvin.

They then had her walk through medical training officers receive, and when to start medical aid. She talked about officers learning how to take a pulse.

"If you don't have a pulse, you immediately start CPR," Mackenzie said. She added that officers should not stop performing CPR until someone comes to replace them, or when the subject becomes responsive, or if they physically cannot do it anymore.

She was also asked if she or the department teaches that if someone can talk, they can breath. Mackenzie said no, and that that statement is not correct, since just because someone can talk it doesn't mean they can breath well.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson asked Mackenzie to talk about how fentanyl can affect a person, and she described the "wide variety" of behaviors they might exhibit, including "super-human strength" and being "insensitive to pain."

Court TV will be the only network with cameras in the courtroom and will provide live, gavel-to-gavel coverage.
Find Court TV's full coverage of MN v. Derek Chauvin here.

UPDATE, 11:30 a.m. ET: Prosecutors called Minneapolis Police Department Sergeant Johnny Mercil.

Mercil is in charge of the department's use of force training. During questioning, prosecutors asked about the department's policies and training about use of force; when it's used, for how long, techniques and when should it stop.

"If you can use a lower level of force to meet your objectives, it's safer and better for everybody," Mercil said under questioning. He also detailed "proportional force," the amount of force in proportion to the situation.

Mercil was asked about the department training officers on neck restraints. A neck restraint is restricting blood flow on the sides of the neck in order to gain control of a subject. Mercil said there are two types of neck restraint: conscious and unconscious, which is applying pressure to the point they lose consciousness.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson asked about things an officer needs to take into account before using force, and how long it might take to render someone unconscious.

Under cross examination from Nelson, Mercil admitted there are circumstances when a subject may need to be held in a prone position until aid arrives.

"Have you ever said or taught that if someone can talk they can breath?" Nelson asked.

"It's been said, yes," Mercil responded.

George Floyd called out while Chauvin and the other officers were holding him down on May 25, 2020, saying that he couldn't breath. At one point, officers tell Floyd that he could breath because he was able to talk.

Nelson also showed Mercil images from the body camera footage from the scene, asking the sergeant to identify if former officer Derek Chauvin's knee was on Floyd's neck or back.

WATCH coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial HERE.

UPDATE, 10:30 a.m. ET: Prosecutors called another member of the Minneapolis Police Department to the stand. Sergeant Kerr Yang is the crisis intervention training program coordinator.

He walked through the training offered to officers about intervention and de-escalation.

Under questioning, he said de-escalation techniques are to be used when it is "safe and feasible." He said listening and "touch" is important for gathering information about whether de-escalation is needed and if it is working.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson asked if the training also includes identifying signs of aggression in crowds, Yang agreed it does. Things they are trained to watch for include "raised voice, rapid breathing, agitation," and gestures, Yang said.

Court TV will be the only network with cameras in the courtroom and will provide live, gavel-to-gavel coverage.
Find Court TV's full coverage of MN v. Derek Chauvin here.

Original story below:

State-called witness testimony in the trial of Derek Chauvin on Monday transitioned from emotional eyewitness testimony to technical police testimony.

Several police professionals, including Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, took the stand on Monday, painting a damning picture of Chauvin’s actions during the arrest of George Floyd that proceeded Floyd’s death.

During his testimony on Monday, Arradondo said that Chauvin “absolutely do not agree” that the former police officer followed department policies on de-escalation during Floyd’s arrest.

"Absolutely that violates our policy," he said. "Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting, and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that, that should have stopped."

On cross-examination, Arradondo told defense lawyers that at some points, it appeared that Chauvin’s knee had moved from Floyd’s neck to his shoulder blade. He later added that it did not appear that Floyd was “actively resisting” during that time.

Jurors also heard from an emergency room physician who was on duty when Floyd was declared dead. Dr. Bradford Langenfeld said he concluded that Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen. He was also asked if Floyd’s fentanyl use could have played a role in his death.

“I didn’t have any reason to believe that that was the case here,” Langenfeld said.

Finally, jurors briefly heard from Katie Blackwell, an inspector with the 5th precinct in the Minneapolis police department. She was formerly the head of the department’s officer training. Prosecutors will likely continue questioning her when the trial resumes at 10:30 a.m. ET.

WATCH coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial HERE.

Court TV will be the only network with cameras in the courtroom and will provide live, gavel-to-gavel coverage.
The entire trial will be on live TV as well as available online at CourtTV.com, and the Court TV app for Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android and Apple devices.

In addition to in-depth reporting and expert analysis from veteran legal journalists — most of whom are lawyers — Court TV’s extensive coverage will include new virtual recreations, and insights and discussions from attorneys, investigators and forensic experts.

Find Court TV's full coverage of MN v. Derek Chauvin here.