Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, speaks as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, right, listens during Chauvin's trial on April 13, 2021, in Minneapolis.

The Associated Press

Former Officer Derek Chauvin was justified in pinning George Floyd to the ground because he kept struggling, a use-of-force expert testified for the defence Tuesday, contradicting a parade of authorities from both inside and outside the Minneapolis Police Department.

Taking the stand at Mr. Chauvin’s murder trial, Barry Brodd, a former Santa Rosa, California, officer, stoutly defended Mr. Chauvin’s actions, even as a prosecutor pounded away at the witness, banging the lectern at one point during cross-examination and growing incredulous when Mr. Brodd suggested Mr. Floyd was struggling because he wasn’t “resting comfortably” on the pavement.

“It’s easy to sit and judge ... an officer’s conduct,” Mr. Brodd testified. “It’s more of a challenge to, again, put yourself in the officer’s shoes to try to make an evaluation through what they’re feeling, what they’re sensing, the fear they have, and then make a determination.”

Story continues below advertisement

He said he doesn’t believe Mr. Chauvin and the other officers used deadly force when they held Floyd down on his stomach, his hands cuffed behind his back and Chauvin’s knee on his neck or neck area for what prosecutors say was 9 1/2 minutes.

Mr. Brodd likened it instead to a situation in which officers use a taser on someone fighting with officers, and the suspect falls, hits his head and dies: “That isn’t an incident of deadly force. That’s an incident of an accidental death.”

Several top Minneapolis police officials, including the police chief, have testified that Mr. Chauvin used excessive force and violated his training. And medical experts called by prosecutors have said that Mr. Floyd died from a lack of oxygen because of the way he was restrained.

But Mr. Brodd said: “I felt that Officer Chauvin’s interactions with Mr. Floyd were following his training, following current practices in policing and were objectively reasonable.”

The question of what is reasonable is important: Police officers are allowed certain latitude to use deadly force when someone puts the officer or other people in danger. Legal experts say a key issue for the jury will be whether Mr. Chauvin’s actions were reasonable in those specific circumstances.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher used his cross-examination to once again painstakingly go through video clips of a pinned-down Mr. Floyd gasping that he couldn’t breathe and then going limp.

The prosecutor hammered away at Mr. Brodd, saying that a reasonable officer in Mr. Chauvin’s position would have known Mr. Floyd stopped resisting, that another officer told him he couldn’t find a pulse, and that others said Mr. Floyd had passed out and was no longer breathing.

Story continues below advertisement

“And the defendant’s position is, and was, and remains, as we see here at this moment, in this time, in this clip – on top of Mr. Floyd on the street. Isn’t that right?” Mr. Schleicher asked, as he banged his hand on the lectern repeatedly.

“Yes,” Mr. Brodd replied.

At one point, Mr. Brodd argued that Mr. Floyd kept on struggling instead of just “resting comfortably” on the ground.

“Did you say ‘resting comfortably’?” an incredulous Mr. Schleicher asked.

Mr. Brodd: “Or laying comfortably.”

Mr. Schleicher: “Resting comfortably on the pavement?”

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Brodd: “Yes.”

The prosecutor went on to say that Mr. Floyd was moving, but it was because he was struggling to breathe by shoving his shoulder into the pavement.

Under questioning by the defence, Mr. Brodd also testified that bystanders yelling at police to get off Mr. Floyd complicated the situation for Mr. Chauvin and the others by causing them to wonder whether the crowd was becoming a threat, too.

Mr. Brodd also appeared to endorse what prosecution witnesses have said is a common misconception: that if someone can talk, he or she can breathe.

“I certainly don’t have medical degrees, but I was always trained and feel it’s a reasonable assumption that if somebody’s, ‘I’m choking, I’m choking,’ well, you’re not choking because you can breathe,” he said.

Mr. Chauvin, a 45-year-old white man, is on trial on charges of murder and manslaughter in Mr. Floyd’s death last May after his arrest of suspicion of passing a counterfeit US$20 at a neighbourhood market.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson has argued that the 19-year Minneapolis police veteran did what he was trained to do and that Mr. Floyd died because of his illegal drug use and underlying health problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease. Fentanyl and methamphetamine were discovered in his system.

The defence began presenting its case on Tuesday after the prosecution rested following 11 days of testimony and a mountain of video evidence.

Mr. Nelson started by bringing up a 2019 arrest in which Mr. Floyd suffered from dangerously high blood pressure and confessed to heavy use of opioids. And he suggested that the 46-year-old Black man may have suffered in May, 2019 from “excited delirium” – what a witness described as a potentially lethal state of agitation and even superhuman strength that can be triggered by drugs, heart disease or mental problems.

Mr. Nelson also elicited testimony from another witness that Mr. Floyd panicked and cried over and over, “Please, please, don’t kill me!” when officers first approached his SUV at gunpoint on the day of his death.

Nicole Mackenzie, a Minneapolis police training officer, was called by Mr. Nelson to expound on excited delirium. While Mr. Floyd was pinned to the ground, a relatively new officer at the scene had mentioned that Floyd might be suffering from such a condition.

Ms. Mackenzie testified that the signs of excited delirium can include incoherent speech, extraordinary strength and sweating, and that officers are trained to call paramedics, because a person in that state can rapidly go into cardiac arrest.

Story continues below advertisement

An expert in forensic medicine previously dismissed Mr. Nelson’s excited-delirium suggestion during the prosecution’s case, saying Mr. Floyd met none of the 10 criteria developed by the American College of Emergency Physicians.

The defence’s first witnesses testified about a May 6, 2019, incident in which Mr. Floyd was pulled from a car and arrested by Minneapolis police.

A now-retired paramedic who responded to that call, Michelle Moseng, testified that Mr. Floyd told her he had been taking multiple opioids about every 20 minutes.

“I asked him why and he said it was because he was addicted,” said Ms. Moseng, who described Mr. Floyd’s behaviour as “elevated and agitated” before the judge struck that remark from the record.

Ms. Moseng said she recommended taking Mr. Floyd to the hospital based on his high blood pressure, which she measured at 216 over 160.

On cross-examination, prosecutor Erin Eldridge got Moseng to testify that Mr. Floyd’s respiratory output, pulse, heart rate, EKG and heart rhythms were normal. Ms. Eldridge said Mr.Floyd was taken to the hospital and released two hours later.

Story continues below advertisement

The prosecution’s expert witnesses rejected the notion that drugs or underlying health problems caused Mr. Floyd’s death, with a cardiology expert on Monday saying that Mr. Floyd appeared to have “an exceptionally strong heart.”

Another defence witness Tuesday was Shawanda Hill, who was in the SUV with Mr. Floyd before his ill-fated encounter with Mr. Chauvin.

When he saw an officer at the window with a gun, Mr. Floyd “instantly grabbed the wheel and he was like, ‘Please, please, don’t kill me. Please, please, don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me. What did I do? Just tell me what I did,”’ Ms. Hill testified.

Also testifying was Minneapolis Park Police Officer Peter Chang, who helped at the scene that day. He said he saw a “crowd” growing across the street that “was becoming more loud and aggressive, a lot of yelling across the street.”

“Did that cause you any concern?” Mr. Nelson asked.

“Concern for the officers’ safety, yes,” Mr. Chang replied.

Mr. Nelson hasn’t said whether Mr. Chauvin will take the stand. Testifying could open him up to devastating cross-examination but could also give the jury the opportunity to see any remorse or sympathy he might feel.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies