This blog post is going to be a rough draft of the hearings from over the past 3 days. After today I will be doing daily blogs of that day’s hearing. If I have a prior engagement that day, I will let you know, and that day will be caught up the next day.
On May 25, 2020, the name George Floyd will become known in nearly every household & his death that day will spark summer long riots. A year later on March 26, 2021, the trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin who was recorded by several angry by-standards holding Floyd down with his knee on his neck and upper back, has begun. Chauvin is being charged with:
- Murder – 2nd Degree – Without Intent – While Committing a Felony. Felony Charge
- Murder – 3rd Degree – Perpetrating Eminently Dangerous Act & Evincing Depraved Mind. Felony Charge.
- Manslaughter – 2nd Degree – Culpable Negligence Creating Unreasonable Risk. Felony Charge.
Before I continue, I must remind the readers that Derek Chauvin is innocent until proven guilty. This is a cornerstone of our justice system and one I’m proud we have. The state also must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Chauvin is guilty for what he is being charged. I do not envy the position of the jurors.
On the first day of hearings, each side made their opening statements and made clear, to me at least, what strategy they would be taking. The State, or prosecution, will be relying heavily on emotions throughout the trial. The defense will be relying more on the toxicology report that the medical examiners did not have when they performed their autopsies as well as cross-examination of witnesses & conflicting statements. The defense must make the jury believe there’s reasonable doubt and the prosecution must make the jury feel the same emotions as the by-standers that day. This trial is about if evidence or emotions will sway the jury to convict.
This is going to be a very long & emotional trial. There are nearly 400 names listed to be called as witnesses. However, if you’re willing to watch the entire hearings, like I do, you do get to enjoy the days the lawyers get sassy with each other and the judge has to step in and play parent.
On Monday, day one, 911 dispatch Jena Scurry was called to the stand by the prosecution. As with all witnesses, she was asked general questions about herself and her job. Her role in the events of May 25th came into play when she called the officers’ SGT. She testified that in her place of work there are screens & at times they will display city camera feed. On May 25th, the camera at the intersection of Chicago and 38th was put on display on one of these screens during the events taking place with Floyd. Scurry testified that her focus went back & forth between the screen & her computer. She stated when she saw the officers on Floyd for an extended period of time it made her concerned, which led her to call the officers’ SGT. However, by the time she made the call the scene had been cleared. I must wonder if this will erode the future work relations between dispatchers and police officers in these cities if the officers have to fear their dispatchers no longer having their backs.
The second witness called up by the prosecution on Monday was Alisha Oyler, a shift worker in the Speed War across the road from Cup Foods. There was not much real substance to her testimony. Her many cell phone recordings were submitted into evidence. When questioned by the prosecution the questions were centered on what she saw and what she felt that day. This witness, minus her video, was to convey strong emotions to the jury. Not much was gained from cross-examination from the defense.
The third and final witness called for Monday, please forgive me if I get witnesses out of order, is Donald Williams, a MMA fighter and witness at the event. I have a lot to say regarding this witness, but I will have to save it for another separate blog. For now, I will cover his testimony. He was called by the prosecution as not only a witness to the events that day but as an expert in his field. He testified to how Chauvin had Floyd in a blood chokehold, and that only pressure on one side of the neck had to be applied to achieve this. He also testified that he was calm & professional at the scene. When questioned by the defense he was asked about his remarks he made to two FBI agents saying he “wanted to beat the sh*t out of those officers.” When asked by the defense if he had reviewed his transcript with the FBI he said he declined. This is a tactic by lawyers when they prep their witnesses. When their witness has conflicting remarks in prior reports the lawyer prepping them will subtly suggest they decline to review the transcripts of the report. This way the witness can say on the stand they “Do not recall” the statements they made in the report, and they won’t perjure themselves. Williams did just this when the defense confronted him on his remarks to the FBI. He stated he did not recall making them, but when confronted with the transcript of the conversation he had with the FBI, he could not deny it. This is to show he was not calm at the scene. The defense again confronted Williams with his aggressive language in his own video. The defense then asked Williams if he were ever able to speak to any of his opponents when getting choked out. Williams acted confused but eventually had to say no. The defense then started to ask questions regarding blood chokeholds, and if you remember the prosecution’s opening statements, you’ll know why this is relevant. The prosecution stated they would “present expert testimony from medical professionals that will prove George Floyd’s death was from asphyxia.”
Asphyxia – “body is deprived of oxygen, causing unconsciousness or death; suffocation”
Did the prosecution just back themselves into a corner with one of the star witnesses? Like I said earlier, there are many things I want to say about this particular witness, but that is for another blog post. His testimony will continue Tuesday morning with rebuttal questions from the prosecution.
After Williams’ testimony on Tuesday morning, he is proceeded by 4 individuals who were minors on May 25, 2020. Their names were not broadcasted over the live stream and neither were their faces. One is still a minor. I will not cover their testimony because it did not provide any evidentiary material for the court. Their testimony was brought by the prosecution for their emotional strategy.
Following the 4 minors, the prosecution called Genevieve Hansen, a Minneapolis Fire Fighter of 2 years. She was a witness at the scene on May 25, 2020. In her testimony she states when she saw the commotion, she circled the area to get an idea of what was happening and came back to the scene with Floyd on the ground. In video already submitted to the court, you can hear Hansen raising her voice with several other by-standards. She testified she identified herself as a fire fighter and repeatedly asked to check Floyd’s pulse. She would later testify to the defense she did not have any identification on her proving she was in fact a Fire Fighter. She stated to the prosecutor she felt “helpless.” The defense started asking Hansen about the normal response times for EMS and Fire. Hansen had made the statement that from the time she was there it was taking too long for EMS to arrive. EMS was responding slow, but how would she know from her perspective of only observing Floyd’s condition for 3 minutes. She testified 3 minutes is the normal respond time. Here’s the breakdown of the medical calls by the officers on scene:
Code 2 – Mouth Injury – called at 8:20:11
Code 3 – Priority – called at 8:21:35
Hansen arrives at scene of Floyd and Chauvin – 8:26:26
EMS arrived – 8:28:36
Load and Go – 8:29:20
The defense continued his questioning despite her snarky remark that she didn’t believe him on the times. When questioned by the defense about her statements made to the FBI agents, she said she “Did not recall.” Remember those words? The defense even asked her in open court if she would like to review the transcripts now to help refresh her memory and she said, “I don’t want to.” You must wonder why. In her statements to the two FBI agents, Hansen stated Floyd appeared “Small and frail.” She also stated she saw urine leak from Floyd and that Chauvin had his hand in his pocket. All these things we know to be false. Making her confirm in court that she made these statements to the FBI discredits her reliability as a good witness. She had to concede she did in fact tell the FBI agents Floyd was small & frail, she then proceeded to add further remarks when no question was given & she was immediately shut down by the judge. However, she decided to argue with the judge which resulted in a verbal tongue lashing from the very annoyed judge.
Tuesday was full of lawyer sass & smart remarks. This trial is far from completion. I know I’m rushing this blog post but I’m trying to cram 3 days into 1 post.
Wednesday was a calmer day. I think the judge had reined in his children after too much lawyer sass over the past two days. Tuesday the defense has scored some good hits, but today the prosecution did. The first witness called was Genevieve Hansen. The questions were from the prosecution and were short. The next witness called by the prosecution was Christopher Martin, 19, who was a clerk in Cup Foods who sold Floyd the pack of cigarettes and took the fake $20. He was a very level-headed young man and provided details of the store. He also provided details leading up to the event of when the police were called. There should be some discussion on that particular store’s policy on what’s done when fake money is passed to clerks. It should also be discussed why the manager sent his employees out to confront an individual who is showing signs of being high & just committed a crime. Once again, the defense was able to catch the witness off guard with conflicting statements they made to the FBI but connivingly do not recall now. Martin had told the FBI that Floyd was having trouble saying certain words like “baseball.” Martin testified that Floyd looked like he was high, and indeed, from the video footage from inside the store you can see Floyd swaying, dancing, stretching, and acting erratic.
The next two witnesses the prosecution called up were Christopher Belfrey, 45, and Charles McMillian, 61. Belfrey provided additional cell phone footage from the initial contact but did not stay to watch what unfolded with Floyd and Chauvin. Charles McMillian was a very emotional witness who, in my opinion, probably was not in a good emotional state to view such rough material. McMillian began to break down on the stand while watching Floyd struggle in the police car and call out for his mother. McMillian while crying stated he had recently lost his mother. Some people are just not meant to watch such raw material, but the prosecution got what they wanted from this witness and that was an emotional testimony. The defense at least knows what battles to pick and which ones to avoid. He knew not to cross-examine McMillian after such an emotional testimony and he didn’t.
The final witness was LT. James Rugel, who heads the bodycam footage and city cam footage program. That’s the simplest way I can explain it. This witness was called up for the simple purpose of entering in all the bodycam footage and the city cam footage. When this was completed, and the jury was dismissed for the day. Afterward, the defense motioned for the complete body cam footage to be entered into evidence and the program to view the city cam footage saved from that day. The defense also motioned for the Park Ranger bodycam footage to be added to evidence and for the Park Ranger to be added to the list of witnesses. This should really get the ears perked up. Why was the Park Ranger bodycam footage not included by the prosecution? Why did the prosecution objection to its addition to evidence? The Park Ranger had the clearest view of Chauvin’s knee. The Park Ranger can also testify to the claim that Chauvin refused to get off Floyd when EMS arrived. Things are getting interesting.
The author of the article is @thewaryfox on Twitter. It has been edited by Anissa Walker for spelling and grammatical errors. No entry in the article has been removed. For more information, you can follow her on Twitter. There is also an ongoing documentary of this incident which can be found here.