State Watch

Chauvin asks judge to block evidence of previous alleged neck restraints

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who in May knelt on the neck of George Floyd for more than eight minutes, is requesting that the judge overseeing his trial for second-degree murder and manslaughter charges block evidence that allegedly shows him using similar restraints on other suspects in the past. 

In a court filing Monday, Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, argued that Chauvin’s uses of force had been permitted and that following investigations, Chauvin had been “acquitted by MPD supervisors of applying force in a manner that was either unreasonable or unauthorized.”

“The state attempts to characterize Mr. Chauvin’s use of force as ‘unreasonable’ or ‘beyond what was needed,’ ” Nelson wrote. “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.”

According to The Washington Post, prosecutors have argued for the inclusion of evidence of past uses of force to show that Chauvin demonstrated a pattern of restraining suspects “beyond the point when such force was needed.”

Prosecutors are pushing to include four cases from 2015 to 2019, three of which happened when Chauvin was working as an off-duty police security guard. According to the Post, in February 2015, Chauvin allegedly pushed a man against a wall and used a neck restraint before placing him on the ground. 

In court filings, prosecutors argue that the 2015 case “demonstrates the common method Chauvin employs when dealing with individuals larger than himself,” adding that Chauvin repeatedly used these restraints on “suspected intoxicated people who Chauvin believes are not perfectly complying with his demands.”

Nelson’s filing comes after Hennepin County District Judge Peter A. Cahill, who is overseeing Chauvin’s case, dismissed the third-degree murder charge against the former police officer last month, although the more serious charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter remained in place. 

Cahill also ruled at the time against dismissing the aiding and abetting charges against J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — the other officers involved with Floyd’s death.

In September, Nelson unsuccessfully argued that Floyd had died of a drug overdose, and not from Chauvin kneeling on his neck. 

“Put simply, Mr. Floyd could not breathe because he had ingested a lethal dose of fentanyl and, possibly, a speedball,” Chauvin’s attorney said in the court filings. “Combined with sickle cell trait, his pre-existing heart conditions, Mr. Floyd’s use of fentanyl and methamphetamine most likely killed him.”

Floyd’s death was ruled a homicide, and a Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office autopsy report revealed he died from “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

Footage of the incident, which went viral on social media and sparked months of racial justice protests across the country, showed Chauvin applying pressure to Floyd’s neck for several minutes while Floyd called on the officer to stop, telling him multiple times that he could not breathe. Floyd became unresponsive and was pronounced dead after arriving at a local hospital. 

Earlier this month, Cahill ruled that the four former Minneapolis police officers would stand trial together. He also announced that he would allow cameras in the courtroom to livestream proceedings and that jurors for the trial would be sequestered and kept anonymous. 

The jury trial is scheduled to begin March 8.

Tags court filings Derek Chauvin George Floyd J. Alexander Kueng Jury trial Minneapolis Minnesota police use of force racial justice protests The Washington Post Thomas Lane Tou Thao Viral video

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