NEW: Expert says Derek Chauvin did not take actions of ‘reasonable officer’

What you need to know about Derek Chauvin

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.

»Watch Court TV’s live coverage of Derek Chauvin’s trial here

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.

“On this particular point, no,” the witness said.

ExplorePHOTOS: Second week of Derek Chauvin trial in George Floyd death

Prosecutors are expected to rest their case Tuesday, after which the defense will begin presenting its side. During 11 days of testimony, prosecution experts, including the Minneapolis police chief and medical professionals, said the now-fired white officer violated his training and used excessive force and that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen because of the way his breathing was constricted.

Earlier in the day Monday, Philonise Floyd, 39, took the witness stand and lovingly recalled how his older brother used to make the best banana mayonnaise sandwiches, how George drilled him in catching a football, and the way George used to mark his height on the wall as a boy because he wanted to grow taller.

He shed tears as he was shown a picture of his late mother and a young George, saying, “I miss both of them.”

Credit: AJC

His testimony at Chauvin’s murder trial was part of an effort by prosecutors to humanize George Floyd in front of the jury and make the 46-year-old Black man more than a crime statistic. Minnesota is a rarity in allowing “spark of life” testimony during the trial stage.

Philonise Floyd described growing up in a poor area of Houston with George and their other siblings.

He said Floyd played football and deliberately threw the ball at different angles so Philonise would have to practice diving for it. “I always thought my brother couldn’t throw. But he never intended to throw the ball to me,” he said, smiling.

Earlier Monday, Judge Peter Cahill rejected a defense request to immediately sequester the jury, the morning after the killing of a Black man during a traffic stop triggered unrest in a suburb just outside Minneapolis.

Cahill said he will not sequester the jury until next Monday, when he anticipates closing arguments will begin. He also denied a defense request to question jurors about what they might have seen about unrest following Sunday’s police shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center.

In the wake of the shooting, hundreds of protesters broke into about 20 businesses at a shopping center, jumped on police cars and hurled rocks and other objects at officers in Brooklyn Center, about 10 miles from the heavily fortified Minneapolis courthouse. Police in riot gear fired gas and flash-bang grenades.

The Brooklyn Center police chief later called the shooting accidental, saying the officer who fired meant to draw a Taser, not a handgun.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher argued against sequestering the Chauvin jury, saying: “I don’t think that would be an effective remedy.” He also opposed questioning the jurors.

“World events happen,” Schleicher said. “And we can’t have every single world event that might affect somebody’s attitude or emotional state or anything be the grounds to come back and re-voir dire all the jurors.”

The judge previously told the jury to avoid the news during the trial.

The ruling came as the trial entered its third week, with the prosecution close to wrapping up its case and giving way to the start of the defense. Prosecutors built their case on searing witness accounts, experts condemning Chauvin’s use of a neck restraint, and medical authorities attributing Floyd’s death to a lack of oxygen.

When testimony resumed Monday morning, Dr. Jonathan Rich, a cardiology expert from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, echoed earlier witnesses in saying Floyd died of low oxygen levels from the way he was held down by police.

He rejected defense theories that Floyd died of a drug overdose or a heart condition. Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system and had high blood pressure and narrowing of the heart arteries, according to previous testimony.

“It was the truly the prone restraint and positional restraints that led to his asphyxiation,” Rich said.

In fact, the expert said, “Every indicator is that Mr. Floyd had actually an exceptionally strong heart.”

Rich said he had reviewed Floyd’s autopsy report. He said that some narrowing of the arteries is extremely common, and that Floyd had a mildly thickened or mildly enlarged heart but that would be normal in someone with high blood pressure.

Corroborating other experts’ testimony, Rich said Floyd was “restrained in a life-threatening manner,” noting among other things that he was facedown on the ground, a knee was on his neck, his hands were cuffed behind his back and being pushed upward, and a knee was on the lower half of his body.

Rich said that as one officer noted on video that Floyd was passing out, police probably still could have saved his life if they had repositioned him so that his lungs could expand again. And once an officer noted that Floyd’s pulse had stopped, police still had a significant opportunity to save his life by administering CPR, he said.

On cross-examination, Nelson tried to shift blame onto Floyd for struggling with police when they tried to put him in their car. The defense attorney asked Rich if Floyd would have survived if he had “simply gotten in the back seat of the squad car.”

But Rich quickly reiterated the death was caused by the officers’ actions: “Had he not been restrained in the way in which he was, I think he would have survived that day. I think he would have gone home, or wherever he was going to go.”

Nelson responded: “So, in other words, if he had gotten in the squad car, he’d be alive.”

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