Derek Chauvin is on trial for George Floyd's death

By Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 5:55 PM ET, Tue April 6, 2021
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4:49 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Here's what happened today in the Derek Chauvin trial

From CNN's Eric Levenson and Aaron Cooper

Pool
Pool

Four witnesses testified in court today during the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, who has been charged in the death of George Floyd.

Here's what they said today in court:

Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use-of-force instructor with the department's training unit, said Chauvin's kneeling on Floyd's neck is not a trained neck restraint tactic. While neck restraints may be allowed on suspects actively resisting, they are not to be done with the knee and they would not be authorized on a suspect who is handcuffed and under control, he said. Officers are taught to only use force that is proportional to the threat. He also testified that handcuffed suspects can have difficulty breathing on their stomachs. He said officers are trained to move suspects into a side recovery position — "the sooner the better."

However, Mercil said in cross-examination that Chauvin's position might be considered "using body weight to control," a tactic in which officers place a knee on a prone suspect's shoulder blades to handcuff them. He acknowledged that some screen grabs of police body-camera footage show Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's shoulders.

"However, I will add that we tell officers to stay away from the neck when possible, and if you're going to use body weight to pin, to put it on their shoulder and be mindful of position," he said.

Minneapolis Police Sgt. Ker Yang, the crisis intervention training coordinator for the department's training unit, testified about the importance of recognizing when someone is in crisis and de-escalating the situation. Officers are trained in a critical decision-making model to address people in crisis that calls on them to continually assess and reassess what is needed in the situation, he said. Chauvin took a 40-hour course on crisis intervention training in 2016 in which actors portrayed people in crisis and officers had to de-escalate the situation, Yang testified.

In cross-examination, Yang said that the crisis intervention model can potentially apply to the suspect as well as nearby observers. The training advises officers to appear confident, stay calm, maintain space, speak slowly and softly and avoid staring or eye contact, he said.

Minneapolis Police Officer Nicole Mackenzie, a medical response coordinator and CPR instructor, testified that officers are required to render first aid and request emergency services when someone needs medical help. The department teaches officers to determine the level of responsiveness for a person needing help. If the person is unresponsive, then the officer is required to check their airway, breathing and circulation, and if the person has no pulse, the officer should start CPR immediately. She also said it's not accurate to say if someone can talk then they can breathe. In cross-examination, she said that a hostile crowd could make it difficult to focus on a patient.

Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Jody Stiger, a use-of-force expert, testified that the force used by Chauvin on Floyd was excessive. "My opinion was that the force was excessive," he told the court. Stiger reviewed materials from the incident after Floyd's death and has conducted approximately 2,500 use-of-force reviews during his career.

4:27 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Court has adjourned for the day

Court is adjourned until tomorrow morning when testimony is expected to resume in the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin.

4:55 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Use-of-force expert testifies that Chauvin's force against George Floyd was excessive

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Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Jody Stiger, a use-of-force expert, testified today that the force used by former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin on George Floyd was excessive.

Stiger reviewed materials from the incident after Floyd's death.

"My opinion was that the force was excessive," he said.

Stiger testified he has conducted 2,500 use-of-force reviews and has found the use of force was reasonable in some and not in others. In this case he reviewed documents and videos and determined that while the use of force with Floyd started as reasonable, it should have ceased when he stopped resisting.  

“Initially, when Mr. Floyd was being placed in the back seat of the vehicle he was actively resisting the officers. So, at that point, officers were justified to use force to try to have him comply with their commands,” Stiger said. “However, once he was placed in the prone position on the ground, he slowly ceased his resistance. At that point, the officers, ex-officers I should say, they should have slowed down or stopped their force as well.”

The initial actions to put Floyd in the vehicle were reasonable, but other things could have been done, Stiger told the court.  

The Los Angeles police sergeant was hired as an expert witness to provide testimony at trial. Prosecutors paid Stiger a flat fee of $10,000 and an additional $2,950 for the trial.

His testimony will continue Wednesday morning.

3:56 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

An LAPD police officer is now testifying

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Los Angeles Police Sgt. Jody Stiger is the next witness at the Derek Chauvin trial. He is a use-of-force expert.

It is the seventh day of testimony at the Chauvin trial.

3:07 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Medical response coordinator says "it would be incomplete" to say someone can breathe if they can talk

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Minneapolis Police Officer Nicole MacKenzie, a medical response coordinator at the department, testified that it "would be incomplete" to say that if someone can talk that means they can breathe.

"There is the possibility that somebody could be in respiratory distress and still being able to verbalize it. Just because they're speaking doesn't mean they're breathing adequately," she said. 

3:02 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Police medical response coordinator testifies about CPR training that Chauvin received

The prosecuting attorney is questioning Minneapolis Police Officer Nicole Mackenzie.

She is a medical response coordinator who provides the first aid education and training that officers at the department receive. CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is included in that training, she said.

The prosecution showed Mackenzie two sets of heartsaver CPR cards issued to former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin from March 2012 through March 2014 and another one from January 2014 through January 2016.

Mackenzie said that at minimum, every year in their training they are "touching on CPR."

She said that officers are trained to "immediately start CPR" if they do not have a pulse on a person. 

Mackenzie noted that the police department's policy requires that trained officers conduct CPR while they are waiting for an ambulance.

They are supposed to stop CPR, she said, when they've been relieved "by somebody with a higher level of training" or if they've been doing it for a long time and are "absolutely physically exhausted from doing CPR." 

2:46 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

The court is back in session

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The court is back in session after a lunch break.

Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use-of-force instructor who trained former police officer Derek Chauvin, wrapped his testimony before the break.

Minneapolis Police Officer Nicole Mackenzie just took the stand.

2:23 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Floyd's brother: "After we get the verdict and we get this conviction, we'll be able to breathe"

From CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian

Rev. Al Sharpton leads a group prayer on Tuesday.
Rev. Al Sharpton leads a group prayer on Tuesday. WCCO

In a news conference held outside the Minneapolis courthouse where the Derek Chauvin trial is taking place, George Floyd family attorney Ben Crump introduced the Floyd family and Rev. Al Sharpton who got together to pray.

Sharpton came to Minneapolis to visit the family after last week’s emotional witness testimony in the death of Floyd, Crump said.

 “They have a whole host of family members having to relive them killing George Floyd over and over again as they sit in the courtroom pursuing justice,” Crump said. “It causes them and many people to suffer P.T.S.D. The fact that it has a psychological mental affect, not just on the family, but on people who are watching television following this trial intensely,” Crump continued.

Crump explained that because Floyd’s family is religious, they pray together and seek leadership from Sharpton, whom they turn to for prayer and guidance “on a regular daily basis.”

Taking the podium Sharpton said that he regularly prays with Floyd’s family in person in Minneapolis and Houston and sometimes on speaker phone, since the reverend delivered the eulogy at Floyd’s funeral last June.

“But after such a tumultuous week of them having to watch that tape over and over, and then listening to the police chief yesterday, I said, no, let’s run out there and have prayer in person,” he added.

Sharpton then proceeded to lead a group of people consisting of Floyd’s family members, Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother, and David Paterson, former New York Governor, in group prayer.

 “We’re going through hard times right now and we need people on our side to help us get through this,” George’s brother, Philonise said. “We’re going to get through this. But one thing I can tell: Me and Ms. Gwen Carr, after we get the verdict and we get this conviction, we’ll be able to breathe.”

 

1:12 p.m. ET, April 6, 2021

Police lieutenant: Officers told "to stay away from the neck" when trying to control a suspect

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Pool

During cross-examination, Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use-of-force trainer, repeated his earlier answer that former police officer Derek Chauvin's use of his knee on George Floyd's neck was not a proper neck restraint.

Asked by defense attorney Eric Nelson if Chauvin's technique could be part of another training, Mercil said, "perhaps," adding that it might be considered "using body weight to control." 

He continued: "However, I will add that we don't — we tell officers to stay away from the neck when possible and if you're going to use body weight to pin, to put it on their shoulder and be mindful of position."