My colleague Victoria Bekiempis has more background on the Graham v. Connor supreme court ruling and how its being used by the defense in an attempt to sow doubt about the reasonable use of force:
The Graham v. Connor case has come up as Nelson tries to establish that Stiger’s understanding of proper use-of-force is based on experience that might not apply to Minneapolis.
“Based on my training experience, every agency that I’ve seen bases their use of force policy on Graham v. Connor, so it’s pretty standard,” Stiger has said during cross examination.
In 1989, the US Supreme Court decided in Graham v. Connor that “objective reasonableness” is the Fourth Amendment standard that should be applied in weighing claims whether police used excessive force. (The US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protects persons from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.)
The justices said that in determining whether use-of-force is reasonable, an analysis “requires a careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion on the arrestee’s Fourth Amendment interests against the countervailing governmental interests at stake,” according to the US Justice Department’s Office of Justice Program.
However, the court didn’t give a “precise or mechanical application” for this assessment and “noting there is no precise or mechanical application possible for this test of reasonableness, the Court requires careful attention to the facts and circumstance of each case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.”
So, in short: by wading into the vagueness of Graham v. Connor, Nelson wants to emphasize that Chauvin’s behavior can’t be assessed in an over-arching way. He wants jurors to think that standards are up to interpretation.
This is despite Stiger’s clear and straightforward testimony that Chauvin’s restraint was unreasonable and lethal.