A retired Los Angeles police captain who testified that officers didn't use excessive force when they beat Rodney King in 1991 is expected to be called as a defense expert witness in the killing of George Floyd.
Attorney Earl Gray, who is representing former Minneapolis officer Thomas Lane, filed notice Thursday that he plans to call Greg Meyer as a use-of-force expert witness at his client's Aug. 23 trial.
Meyer is also an expert on police training, intervention, detention and arrests, said Gray's filing, which included Meyer's 37-page resume.
Gray did not return a message seeking comment. Meyer declined to comment when reached by phone Thursday at his Los Angeles-area home.
Meyer worked for L.A. police from 1976 to 2006 and testified at a 1994 federal civil trial in the King case that came after the state's criminal trial against four officers charged with beating King.
Meyer has been critical of bans on "neck restraint holds" and "upper-body control" holds, also known as "chokeholds."
Floyd died May 25 after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes while former colleagues J. Alexander Kueng and Lane pinned the rest of Floyd's body stomach-down in the street. Former officer Tou Thao controlled an angry crowd nearby. All four were fired.
Meyer raised questions about the efficacy of neck restraint bans during a 2014 appearance on a National Public Radio show on Eric Garner, who was killed after a New York City police officer put him in a chokehold.
"Now you have a big gap in the use-of-force process," Meyer said about such bans. "What are you going to fill that with? Well, it got filled [in L.A.] with the night stick."
In 1991 Los Angeles police officers were trying to stop King, who was unarmed, for speeding when he fled. They used stun guns and beat him with batons following a high-speed chase. Bystander video of the King incident seen around the world stirred concerns about race and policing. King was Black.
In 1992, jurors in the state's case acquitted the officers, leading to several days of riots in L.A. and other cities. The officers were tried in federal court in 1993 on charges that they violated King's civil rights. Two were convicted and received prison time; two were acquitted.
Meyer testified in a third trial that occurred in 1994 — a federal civil trial to determine whether the city and, independently, the officers — owed King financial compensation. It was there that he testified that the officers did not use excessive force because of police policy.
Jurors awarded King $3.8 million from the city but decided that the officers did not owe punitive damages.
"The jury learned … that the roots of the King beating were to be found in poor policy which encouraged Los Angeles police officers who encountered resisting suspects to hit them with metal pipes ('police batons,' if one prefers to minimize the impact)," Meyer wrote in a 1994 opinion piece.
In a different opinion piece published that year in the L.A. Times, Meyer blamed the City Council and board of police commissioners for taking "so-called chokeholds" out of "routine use," priming officers to use their batons instead.
"How could the jury hold the officers personally accountable for the results of such a poor policy process?" Meyer wrote.
Meyer implored the public to demand "more rational" policies from their police and urged police to "adopt a more humane use of force on a scale."
"If we can put a man on the moon and return him safely to Earth, why can't we put a man on the ground and take him safely to jail?" Meyer wrote.
Meyer has served as an expert witness in several cases.
The use of outside experts by both defense attorneys and prosecutors is common practice in trials, and retired officers from other agencies are regularly called to assess use of force, training and policies in officer-involved shooting cases.
Kueng's attorney, Thomas Plunkett, also filed notice Thursday that he planned to call retired Missouri police officer Steve Ijames as an expert witness. Ijames testified for the defense in the 2020 trial of Washington County Sheriff's Deputy Brian Krook.
Krook shot 23-year-old Benjamin Evans, who was intoxicated, suicidal and armed with a gun, in 2018 without warning while a colleague continued negotiations with Evans in Lake Elmo.
Ijames testified that had Krook warned Evans, it would have sounded like a threat instead. Krook was acquitted of second-degree manslaughter.
Lane, Kueng and Thao are each charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter and will be tried together. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the case scheduled to begin March 8.
Staff librarian John Wareham contributed to this report.
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