Everywhere I read says Derek Chauvin case was a slam dunk. Now that he is convicted, there is even less room to argue he was following the law when he handled George Floyd. But considering the US police militarization and the way they usually handle civilians, and my lack of knowledge of police protocol, for me it is hard to see how any other police officer, with the same training as Derek Chauvin, would have done much different so it would not have risked killing the detainee.

Thus, my question: how a law abiding police officer should have handled George Floyd differently?

  • Relevant link on what is considered second degree murder in Minnesota: revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/609.19 Apr 21, 2021 at 13:33
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    "that murder could have been committed by pretty much any officer that attended the occurrence." This is a bad thing. Apr 21, 2021 at 14:57
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    @Studoku of course it's a bad thing, but: Ivella, what does it mean? Anyone walking down the street could be murdered by pretty much anyone else walking down the street. I don't understand precisely what bearing it has on your question.
    – phoog
    Apr 22, 2021 at 14:05
  • In a trivial sense, it became any sort of murder material at the time a murder was committed. Before that it can't be any sort of murder material, other than "attempted". Identifying an "exact" moment isn't really plausible, beyond whatever you make of the one prosecution witness who clearly noted a particular moment in the video where he believed Floyd died. Moreover the law doesn't care about such exacting precision. The jury determined that at the end of things, the sum total of things meant the three legally defined types of murder that were charged had all been committed. Apr 25, 2021 at 1:06
  • @phoog I have reworded it it, I hope it is clearer now.
    – lvella
    Apr 25, 2021 at 14:16

2 Answers 2


The most obvious answer is that he should have knelt on his lower back, not on his neck. And this should not be maintained for an extended period, only until appropriate restraints (e.g. handcuffs) can be applied.

The proper use of force is to put the other person in a situation where it will hurt them if and only if they resist.

For comparison, consider this amazing 2018 take-down: Toronto van attack: Witness video of takedown of person believed to be suspect - YouTube

And keep in mind that this individual hadn't simply tried to pass counterfeit money in a convenience store; he'd just been on a rampage that killed 10 people and seriously injured 16 others: New footage revealed from Yonge St. van attack of Alek Minassian’s path of destruction - YouTube

Toronto van attack - Wikipedia

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    Yikes! This is a very bad answer! Minnepolis PD previously paid out about $3M for killing another suspect by kneeling on his back. Doing so is a great way to cause positional asphyxia, so police department policies generally call for officers to get handcuffed suspects off their chests as soon as possible.
    – bdb484
    Apr 21, 2021 at 17:19
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    Since kneeling on the back can also kill, well, it seems the answer is not all that obvious. Do we know if kneeling on the lower back also won't kill the suspect? If it does, couldn't the police officer be convicted of murder in the same way?
    – lvella
    Apr 21, 2021 at 17:52
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    We can play the what-if game for a while and discuss all the ways to kill a person, but the problem here is that Derek was alerted to the victim's condition and continued to kneel on him, instead of using the opportunity to apply appropriate restraints (handcuffs)
    – PausePause
    Apr 21, 2021 at 18:44
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    @lvella Agreed. And I think this highlights the larger problem with the answer, which is that it is just a guess with no apparent connection to any law. A correct answer would need to discuss Fourth Amendment standards of reasonableness, and probably criminal-law standards for negligence/recklessness, as well.
    – bdb484
    Apr 21, 2021 at 20:09
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    I thought one of the expert witnesses in court said that in this situation (an accusation of using a fake $20 note), no force should have been used at all. George Floyd was harmlessly sitting in his car when the police arrived, and they really escalated the situation.
    – gnasher729
    Apr 22, 2021 at 12:03

To answer the question "Where, exactly, in Chauvin's interaction with George Floyd, his actions became second-degree murder material?"

The judge decided that how George Floyd was treated, had he not died, would have been assault, therefore a felony. So George Floyd died as the result of a felony. And if someone dies as the result of a felony, even if the death wasn't intended, that's second degree murder. So it's a combination of two things: Treating a suspect in a way that constitutes a felony of assault, plus the death of that suspect caused by the assault.

The prosecutor assumed that intent to kill him wouldn't be possible to prove, therefore Chauvin wasn't accused of first degree murder, but only of second agree murder.

What most likely actually killed George Floyd was that when he passed out, Chauvin put pressure on him for three more minutes, while Floyd couldn't do anything, possibly not even breathe. So you can also say that stopping an unconscious man from breathing, when it would have been Chauvin's duty to get medical attention, turned it into murder.

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    But why it was an assault? What the police could have done that wouldn't be an assault?
    – lvella
    Apr 22, 2021 at 14:04
  • "The judge assumed...therefore Chauvin wasn't accused...": Did the charges at trial result from some ruling to this effect made by the judge? Normally the charging decision rests with the prosecutor, not the judge.
    – phoog
    Apr 22, 2021 at 14:10
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    I think this answer is confusing different determinations made by the judge, prosecution, and jury, as all being decisions of solely the judge. Apr 22, 2021 at 15:14

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