Chauvin needlessly subjected Floyd to painful technique, murder trial told
An expert police witness has told the Derek Chauvin murder trial in Minneapolis that the former officer subjected George Floyd to a technique designed to inflict pain, for an extended period.
Sgt Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles specialist on the use of force, said yesterday that footage showed Chauvin applying a “pain compliance” procedure by pulling the 46-year-old’s wrist into the handcuffs, which can be heard clicking tighter.
Stiger said the technique, which also involves squeezing the knuckles together, is normally used to inflict pain in order to persuade a person to comply with commands – but at that point Floyd was not resisting and was lying prone on the ground. The procedure was also used for much longer than was necessary, Stiger told the jury. The prosecutor asked Stiger about the effect of the procedure if there was no opportunity to comply. “At that point it’s just pain,” he said.
Chauvin, 45, who is white, denies second– and third–degree murder, and manslaughter, over the death of Floyd, who is black, last May, which prompted protests for racial justice across the US and overseas.
The officer and three others who assisted in the arrest of Floyd were fired and Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge. He denies all the charges.
The prosecution continued to build its case that the level of force used by Chauvin was illegitimate. Colleagues, trainers and even the Minneapolis police chief, Medaria Arradondo, have testified there was no justification for Chauvin to keep his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and that it endangered his life. Most have said there was no reason to put it there in the first place, although the defence muddied the waters about Minneapolis police training on the use of neck restraints before they were barred following Floyd’s death.
On the eighth day of testimony, Stiger told the court footage showed Chauvin had one knee on Floyd’s neck and the other on his back throughout the time he was pinned on the ground. The witness said this meant all his weight was pushing down on to Floyd. “The pressure that was being caused by the body weight would cause positional asphyxia, which could cause death,” said Stiger.
The officer said Chauvin was justified in using force to try to get Floyd to sit in the squad car. But once he was lying on his stomach on the ground, he had ended his resistance. Earlier, Stiger questioned the use of any force, given the low-level offence Floyd was accused of: using an allegedly forged $20 bill in a store.
Chauvin’s defence lawyer, Eric Nelson, said that under a supreme court ruling the standard by which the accused officer should be judged is “objective reasonableness”.
Nelson put it to Stiger that Chauvin’s actions were governed by being told by the police dispatcher that the incident involved a large, intoxicated man resisting arrest. Stiger agreed that created “a heightened degree of expectation”, because force was already being used by fellow officers.
Nelson said it was reasonable for Chauvin to be sceptical about Floyd’s claims not to be able to breathe, given the force he was using to resist being put in the squad car. Stiger agreed Floyd’s pleas might have been an attempt “to bargain” with the officers.
The defence claims Chauvin’s actions were affected by the “chaos” of a crowd of hostile bystanders. Nelson suggested he faced “multiple threats” and that the one posed by the crowd distracted Chauvin from focusing on Floyd’s condition.
Stiger said he heard name-calling and foul language but did not see the bystanders as a threat. “They were only filming. Most of it was their concern for Mr Floyd,” he said.
The three other officers are due to be tried together this year on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. The trial continues.