MINNEAPOLIS – Prosecutors’ case against former Officer Derek Chauvin drew toward a close Monday with tender memories from George Floyd’s younger brother, along with another look at the harrowing video and testimony from a use-of-force expert who said no “reasonable” officer would have done what Chauvin did.
Seth Stoughton, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, judged Chauvin's actions against what a reasonable police officer in the same situation would have done, and repeatedly found that Chauvin did not meet the test.
“No reasonable officer would have believed that that was an appropriate, acceptable or reasonable use of force,” Stoughton said of the way Floyd was held facedown with a knee across his neck for up to 9 minutes, 29 seconds.
He said, too, that the failure to roll Floyd over and render aid “as his increasing medical distress became obvious” was unreasonable.
He said it was unreasonable as well to think that Floyd might harm officers or escape after he had been handcuffed to the ground. And in yet another blow to Chauvin's defense, Stoughton said a reasonable officer would not have viewed the yelling bystanders as a threat.
The matter of what is reasonable carries great weight: Police officers are allowed certain latitude to use deadly force when someone puts the officer or other people in danger. But legal experts say a key question for the jury will be whether Chauvin’s actions were reasonable in those specific circumstances.
On cross-examination, Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson questioned Stoughton's opinion that putting Floyd on his stomach in the first place was itself unreasonable and excessive.
“Reasonable minds can disagree, agreed?” Nelson asked.