A witness called by the prosecution in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin said this week that bystanders’ threats would “rise alarm” for an arresting officer, leading him to continue the detainment of a suspect, which in this case was 46-year-old George Floyd.
The cross-examination testimony of Lt. Johnny Mercil, who was in charge of use-of-force training at the time of Floyd’s arrest, caused a number of problems for the prosecution this week, including when defense attorney Eric Nelson showed Mercil images of bystanders and quoted their language toward Chauvin during the arrest.
After Mercil notably confirmed that Chauvin did not have Floyd in a “neck restraint” while he was detaining him, Nelson asked the use-of-force expert if an officer’s environment would affect how long he restrains a suspect. Mercil answered “yes.”
If bystanders were “cheering” on the officer, Nelson outlined, that’d be one thing. But “if they were saying, I’d slap the f*** out of you, or, you’re a p****, or, you’re a chump, would that reasonably tend to rise alarm to the police officer?”
“Yes, sir,” Mercil responded.
Nelson also showed an image of one male bystander being physically restrained by another bystander while hurling threats. Mercil agreed this was taking place in the image, again strengthening the defense’s argument.
Attorney Andrew Branca for Law of Self Defense, writing at Legal Insurrection, outlined the exchange between Nelson and Mercil as follows:
Would the threat of imminent physical violence from bystanders be a sufficient reason to maintain restraint on a suspect? If the crowd is shouting that they’re going to slap the “F” out of you, that you’re a “p-word,” that you’re a bum, would that be sufficient to cause the officers to be alarmed about the prospect of imminent physical violence from the bystanders?
Yes, Mercil answered, it would.
Notably, the prosecution then asked Mercil if bystanders’ repeated comments about Chauvin’s use of force, such as someone yelling, “you’re killing him,” would trigger an officer to reexamine his position.
Mercil agreed that “potentially” that might be the case.
Chauvin, 45, is currently on trial for second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in relation to Floyd’s death. The former officer can be found guilty of all, some, or none of the charges since they are all separate.
Since he has no criminal history, Chauvin is likely looking at “serving about 12 1/2 years whether he is convicted of second or third-degree murder,” according to The Associated Press. The manslaughter charge, which has the lowest burden of proof, would bring a maximum of 10 years in prison.
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