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Jury Heard About Standards Of Use Of Force On 8th Day Of Chauvin Trial


It is the eighth day of the trial of Derek Chauvin. He is the former police officer charged with murdering George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. Today, the jury heard more about standards of use of force. NPR's Martin Kaste has been covering this trial and joins us now.

Hey, Martin.


CHANG: So the prosecution has already presented a number of witnesses testifying that Chauvin used excessive force against Floyd. What new information did they offer today?

KASTE: Yeah, even the Minneapolis chief of police took the stand saying basically that Chauvin had violated their use-of-force policies. But today, what the jury heard was information from someone from outside of Minnesota law enforcement. So far, they've all been officers with Minneapolis Police. But today they heard from Jody Stiger. He's a Los Angeles Police sergeant, a paid expert witness on use of force for the prosecution. And he spent much of the morning attacking the way Chauvin used force on that day. At one point, the prosecutor asked him about a move in which Chauvin kind of twisted Floyd's hand behind his back. This is commonly taught as a form of what police call pain compliance.


STEVE SCHLEICHER: In the principle of pain compliance, if I'm to understand your testimony, you would inflict pain for the purpose of having the subject obey your command.

JODY STIGER: Yes, comply.

SCHLEICHER: What if there's no opportunity for compliance?

STIGER: Then at that point it's just pain.

CHANG: OK. Well, has the defense been able to push back at all on this assessment of excessive force?

KASTE: Well, it's trying to. It's been leaning on Graham v. Connor. That's the 1989 Supreme Court ruling that every cop knows by name because what it says is you can't apply 20/20 hindsight when judging the reasonableness of use of force. The defense here, for example, is trying to show that Chauvin may not have been aware of some key facts in the chaos of that moment, including maybe Floyd's medical state. And to demonstrate this - here's an interesting moment - The defense attorney, Eric Nelson, asked Stiger to watch and listen to a snippet of body camera video from the scene


ERIC NELSON: I'd like you to see if you can tell me what Mr. Floyd says in this instance.


GEORGE FLOYD: (Unintelligible).

NELSON: Did you hear what he said?

STIGER: No, I couldn't make it out.

NELSON: Does it sound like he says, I ate too many drugs?

CHANG: That tape is really hard to understand, Martin. What was the purpose of playing that?

KASTE: Well, ostensibly, it's about the chaos of the moment, things the officer may not have noticed in that crosstalk. But it also got in the crucial detail that the defense got their version of what Floyd's words are into the record - I ate too many drugs. Later on, they got another witness, the lead investigator for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, James Reyerson, to say that he heard the same words. Later on, though, the prosecution called him back to the stand, played a longer version of that same clip with more context. And then Reyerson changed his mind and he said, now it sounded like Floyd said, I ain't do no drugs, as opposed to I ate too many drugs. But you can see that the defense is trying to make drug use the center of this case.

CHANG: Right. But what about Chauvin's knee on Floyd's neck and the fact that so many people have seen that video?

KASTE: That video is still the mountain that the defense is climbing here - trying to climb. They made - they tried to make some headway on that today by doing some side-by-side comparisons between that video and then different angles from body cameras of the knee, saying that if you actually looked at it from the cop's point of view, it was more like a leg on the back, as, you know, shin up to the back as opposed to a knee on the neck. You know, they're trying to just create reasonable doubt there. But ultimately, you know, the prosecution came back and said, what matters here is pressure on the back, positional asphyxia. That's what killed Floyd.

CHANG: That is NPR's Martin Kaste.

Thank you, Martin.

KASTE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Martin Kaste is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers law enforcement and privacy. He has been focused on police and use of force since before the 2014 protests in Ferguson, and that coverage led to the creation of NPR's Criminal Justice Collaborative.