A use-of-force expert, who defended convicted murderer Jason Van Dyke during his trial two years ago, testified this week in the Derek Chauvin trial, saying the Minneapolis police officer was justified in using force that caused the death of George Floyd in May, 2020.
The testimony of Barry Brodd, who is also a former police officer, was in the national spotlight Tuesday, April 13, at the proceedings in Minneapolis.
He was among several witnesses who took the stand as the defense began its case.
The prosecution rested its case after 11 days and 38 witnesses and video clips that aimed to show that Chauvin used excessive force when he held his knee on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes before he died on May 25, 2020.
During his testimony Brodd said he did not view this position to be a use of force because “it doesn’t hurt.” He also said Chauvin’s actions were justified, a week after Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified that Chauvin “absolutely” violated police policy as he pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck.
On October 2, 2018, Brodd testified during the trial of Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse at 26th and California. Van Dyke was convicted of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery after he fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014.
During that trial Brodd, who served as a defense witness, said each of those shots from Van Dyke was justified. Earlier in his testimony, Brodd said he was not sure whether the second round of shots Van Dyke fired were justified but changed his mind after talking to a police officer.
“Van Dyke was still under threat by his observations,” said Brodd, who also said that the infamous police dashboard camera video of the brutal murder did not support Van Dyke’s point of view.
During his court appearance, Brodd attempted a re-enactment of the scene where McDonald was walking away from the police with a knife at 41st Street and South Pulaski Road. In one of the more colorful moments of the trial, Daniel Herbert, Van Dyke’s lead attorney, had Brodd step down from the witness stand.
Using a tape measure, Van Dyke’s attorney had Brodd stand 13 feet away from him, the distance between McDonald and Van Dyke when the first shot was fired. During the re-enactment, Brodd rushed toward the attorney and pretended to stab Herbert to demonstrate that McDonald posed an imminent threat to police.
On cross-examination, Assistant Special Prosecutor Joseph Cullen pointed out the dramatic courtroom re-enactment was not entirely accurate.
During the Chauvin trial Tuesday, April 13, Defense Attorney Eric Nelson put Brodd on the stand to prove one of three arguments that he hopes will acquit his client of multiple murder charges.
Chauvin’s attorney says Floyd died because he had illicit drugs in his system, and that his client was justified in restraining the Black man as he lay on the ground pleading for his life.
Chauvin’s attorney will also try to convince jurors that hostile crowds made it impossible for his client to render aid to Floyd as he lay dying in front of Cup Foods at 38th and Chicago Avenue.
During his testimony, Brodd said he “felt that Derek Chauvin was justified and was acting with objective reasonableness, following Minneapolis Police Department policy and current standards of law enforcement, in his interactions with Mr. Floyd,” stated the former police officer.
Brodd said he did not consider putting a handcuffed Floyd in the “prone control” position on the street to be a use of force. He even suggested that it was safer for the subject because if they get up and fall, they might hurt their face.
“It doesn’t hurt. You’ve put the suspect in a position where it’s safe for you, the officer, safe for them, the suspect, and you’re using minimal effort to keep them on the ground,” Brodd said.
During cross-examination, Brodd explained that he does not consider the prone control position to be a use of force because it does not cause pain. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher then showed Brodd a still image of Chauvin’s knee pressed into Floyd’s neck.
He asked whether that position might cause pain. Brodd said it “could,” so Schleicher asked him if that meant Chauvin’s action was a use of force.
“Shown in this picture, that could be a use of force,” Brodd said.
Brodd’s testimony came Tuesday as the defense called its first six witnesses in Chauvin’s trial, including two who discussed Floyd’s prior arrest and drug use in May 2019.
Together, the witnesses furthered the defense’s three main arguments in the case: that Floyd died due to drug and health problems, that Chauvin’s use of force was ugly but appropriate, and that a hostile crowd of bystanders distracted Chauvin.
Brodd’s testimony starkly contradicted the prosecution’s policing experts and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who said Chau- vin’s actions were “in no way, shape or form” within department policy, training, ethics or values.
Brodd said it did not matter that Floyd was already handcuffed because any person resisting should go to the ground in a prone control position.
He said that officers did not turn Floyd on his side into the recovery position because there was limited space. Brodd also said traffic was passing by the officers, and the crowd of bystanders distracted them. He described these as “relatively valid” reasons why little help was given to Floyd as he struggled to breathe.
During cross-examination, Brodd said he was not specifically aware of the Minneapolis Police Department’s definition of force, which defines force as a “restraint that causes injury or pain.” Brodd also acknowledged that putting someone in the side recovery position is simple and quick.
Brodd said at one point, Floyd was resisting officers for a “couple minutes” after he was taken to the ground. Prosecutors then played several video clips of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd.
That’s when Brodd admitted that he was not sure if Floyd was struggling with police or writhing on the ground.
“I don’t know the difference,” he said.
Another defense witness, retired paramedic Michelle Moseng, testified that she treated Floyd medically after the arrest in 2019. He told her he was addicted to opioids and had been taking multiple Percocet pills every 20 minutes that day, including as an officer walked up to the car.
She found Floyd had a blood pressure reading of 216 over 160 and recommended he be taken to the hospital.
Another defense witness, Minneapolis Park Police Officer Peter Chang testified Tuesday that he drove to the scene of Floyd’s arrest last May after he heard a dispatch call for additional help.
According to Chang’s body-camera footage played in court, upon arriving on the scene, Chang was asked to watch over Floyd’s vehicle and the two passengers who had been with him, Shawanda Hill and Morries Hall.
The three of them stood across the street from where Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck. In court, Chang testified that he heard the bystanders on the scene yelling.
“The crowd was becoming loud and aggressive, a lot of yelling across the street,” he said. “I was concerned for the officers’ safety too, so I kept an eye on the officers and the car and individuals.”
On cross examination, Chang noted to prosecutor Matthew Frank that when he arrived, he heard on the radio “code four,” which indicated the scene was safe.
Floyd was seated on the sidewalk before officers tried to put him in the police car.
Chang told jurors during that time Floyd was peaceful and not agitated. Floyd gave his date of birth and full name to officers, he said.
Chauvin’s defense team continues its case this week.