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Derek Chauvin, Officer Who Killed George Floyd, Asks to Exclude Previous Incidents of Excessive Force From Evidence

Nicole Rojas
Nov 18, 2020 - 1:00

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The former Minneapolis police officer who killed George Floyd after digging his knee into Floyd’s neck asked the judge in his case to prohibit prosecutors from including evidence of past usage of neck and body restraints. 

In a memorandum filed on Nov. 16 in Hennepin County Court, prosecutors said they wanted to include evidence of eight past incidents in which Derek Chauvin used similar restraints to show a pattern of excessive force. In four of the incidents, which occurred between 2014 and 2019, Chauvin restrained suspects “beyond the point when such force was needed,” The Washington Post reported.

Prosecutors also want to include a video of a 2017 arrest where Chauvin reportedly dug his knee into the back of a 14-year-old boy, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The former officer ignored the boy’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe for several minutes. 

Body camera footage shows Chauvin and another police officer responding to an alleged domestic assault on Sept. 4, 2017. A mother claimed she was assaulted by her son and daughter, who were minors. Officers found the boy lying on the floor and ordered him to get up, telling him he was under arrest. 

After the boy refused, Chauvin grabbed him and bashed him in the head with his flashlight. Chauvin then grabbed the teen by the throat and struck him again with the flashlight. Prosecutors said the video shows Chauvin applying a neck restraint on the boy, who went unconscious, and then placed his knee to the boy’s back for nearly 17 minutes until paramedics arrived. 

Assistant State Attorney General Matthew Frank wrote in court documents that the body camera footage shows “when faced with a suspect who does not immediately comply with his demands, Chauvin intentionally uses a level of unreasonable force to accomplish subdued and restraint.” 

However, Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, argued that his client’s “use of force” in those incidents was legal and cleared by his supervisors. 

“The state attempts to characterize Mr. Chauvin’s use of force as ‘unreasonable’ or ‘beyond what was needed,’” Nelson wrote to Hennepin County District Judge Peter A. Cahill, who is overseeing the case. “And in every single one, it was determined by a supervisor that Mr. Chauvin’s use of force was reasonable in the circumstances and authorized by law and MPD policy.” 

The prosecution memorandum follows up an earlier filing that discusses the 2017 arrest but is based on written reports by Chauvin and other officers on the scene. Frank argues in the latest filing that body camera footage from the incident contradicts those reports, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. 

Judge Cahill has not ruled on the latest prosecution filing or additional motions involving evidence of past actions by Chauvin and his co-defendants: Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. Prosecutors previously asked to include evidence of one incident involving Kueng and nine involving Thao. 

The Minneapolis Police Department banned the use of chokeholds and neck restraints in June following the death of Floyd on Memorial Day. 

Prosecutors Request Judge Reconsiders Trial Coverage

Prosecutors also filed a motion on Nov. 16 requesting the judge to reconsider his Nov. 4 order allowing the upcoming trial to be recorded and live-streamed. In his order, Cahill cited international interest in the case, limited courthouse space and the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons to allow coverage. 

Cahill wrote that the “only way to vindicate the defendants’ constitutional rights to a public trial and the media’s and public’s constitutional rights of access to criminal trials is to allow audio and video coverage of the trial.”

The Minneapolis Star Tribune noted that the judge’s order was historic and without precedent in a Minnesota state court. 

The trial involving all four police officers is scheduled to begin on March 8. 

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About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored the Americas, Asia, Australia and Europe.

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