LAS CRUCES, N.M. (CBS4) — The trial for Christopher Smelser continued Wednesday with witness testimony from a former police academy instructor who demonstrated how to properly perform a vascular neck restraint.
Shane Brisco took the stand in the murder trial for Smelser.
Smelser is charged with murder in the death for Antonio Valenzuela.
Valenzuela died after he was put in a chokehold that prosecutors allege ended his life.
Brisco testified the elbow should be aligned with a person’s chin when applying a VNR to avoid choking.
He told the courtroom the arm should only be squeezing the sides of the neck to block blood flow to render the person unconscious.
He also added that the VNR should only be held for 40 seconds and if it is held longer a person will not recover.
During the testimony, Brisco was disappointed to find out most of the officers who testified gave different answers as to how long a VNR should be held.
Brisco said negative feedback during the restraint, such as grunting or other noises can indicate the person is choking.
Throughout the trial other officers testified that they heard Valenzuela grunt and snore during the VNR.
Brisco himself said he heard Valenzuela make sounds when watching the body camera footage that indicated the VNR should have been readjusted.
"Do you believe the defendant acted reasonably or unreasonably, the prosecution asked Brisco.
Brisco responded, "I don’t believe it was reasonable. The evidence demonstrates he held it longer than he should."
The defense team tried to strike down Brisco’s testimony, but the state was able to keep it.
William Mora with the New Mexico State Police testified as an expert witness in use of force and defensive tactics.
"It’s pretty clear that he’s not on his side. His face is touching the ground so if his face is touching the ground then I’d say he’s face down," Mora said.
The defense argued that care was offered by officers, but Mora argued the video showed otherwise.
Retired police sergeant and homicide detective Damon Fay took the stand afterward.
Fay testified that officers had an advantage over Valenzuela that night.
Fay said, “pretty much near domination.”
He added the use of a VNR was needed at first to get Valenzuela under control, but said it was unnecessary later in the arrest as Smelser had him in the hold for close to a minute.
During Fay's testimony, Fay said a vascular neck restraint should only be used 3 to 5 seconds at a time.
He added if it's longer than that, than there is something wrong, according to Fay.
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