MINNEAPOLIS — A mixed martial artist who witnessed the death of George Floyd last spring took the stand again Tuesday morning in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
On Monday, two other witnesses – a 911 dispatcher and a cashier working across the street – testified, and lawyers for the defense and prosecution opened the trial by laying out their case. Here’s what you missed.
Floyd, a Black man, died in police custody on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, pinned his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd cried out “I can’t breathe” more than 20 times. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
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- Judge Peter Cahill denied a state motion first thing Tuesday to keep all audio and video of four key witnesses from being made public.
- While Cahill said the witnesses, including the now-18-year-old woman who was 17 at the time and filmed the bystander video that went viral, would be allowed to be referred to by first name only, they would not speak or spell their names on camera or audio.
- Monday evening, about 200 protesters rallied outside the county building to demand justice.
- Police, sheriffs deputies and the National Guard were on high alert, although they maintained a deliberately low-key presence Monday.
Donald Williams takes stand again, becomes emotional in courtroom
Prosecutors called their third witness, Donald Williams, back to testify Tuesday morning after a technical glitch cut his testimony short Monday.
Williams told the court Monday that he was on his way to Cup Foods, where Floyd was arrested, when he encountered Floyd “pleading” for his life. Williams told the court he asked officers to stop the “blood choke,” which is a form of chokehold that renders someone unconscious.
Williams became emotional in the courtroom Tuesday and wiped away tears as he listened to the 911 call he made once officers left the scene. “He just pretty much killed this guy who was not resisting arrest,” Williams said in the call.
Williams told the court Tuesday: “I did call the police on the police because I believed I witnessed a murder.”
In a tense cross examination by lead defense attorney Eric Nelson, Williams acknowledged that he didn’t know that the officers had been dealing with Floyd for 15 minutes before he arrived at the scene. He also conceded he did not know that an ambulance had been summoned to the scene three minutes before he arrived.
Nelson told Williams that he “got angry” and was “threatening police.” Nelson listed off several profanities that Williams called the officers, according to video of the incident.
“Those terms turned more and more angry, right?” Nelson said.
“Those terms turned more to pleading for life,” Williams responded, adding, “You can’t paint me as angry.”
When prosecutor Matthew Frank spoke to Williams again, Williams said he was concerned Floyd “was in the process of losing consciousness.”
“So you were concerned about Mr. Floyd losing his life?” Frank asked.
“Correct,” Williams said.
Prosecutors call three witnesses: 911 dispatcher, cashier, MMA fighter
Prosecutors called their first three witnesses Monday: A 911 dispatcher who was on call that day, a cashier working across the street who captured videos of the incident and a mixed martial arts fighter who witnessed Floyd’s death.
► Jena Lee Scurry, a 911 dispatcher who was working the day of Floyd’s death, told the court she alerted a police department supervisor that something was awry in the Floyd’s arrest, which she was able to watch via a livestream from a city street camera. “I became concerned that something might be wrong,” she said. “It was a gut instinct of, in the incident, something’s not going right.”
► The second witness, Alisha Oyler, was working as a cashier at Speedway across the street on the day George Floyd died. She took seven videos on her phone. She told Steve Schleicher, a special assistant attorney general, that she started recording after she noticed police “messing with someone.”
► The third witness, Donald Williams, is a wrestler trained in mixed martial arts who said he has been put in chokeholds dozens of times in MMA fights. Williams was on his way to Cup Foods, where Floyd was arrested, when he encountered Floyd “pleading” for his life. Williams told the court he asked officers to stop the “blood choke,” which is a form of chokehold that renders someone unconscious. Chauvin was doing a “shimmy” to make the choke tighter, he said.
Prosecutors play disturbing video of George Floyd’s final minutes
Prosecutors opened their case Monday by showing jurors the disturbing video depicting Chauvin on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. The video, lasting 9 minutes and 29 seconds, played on several screens in the courtroom, complete with audio of Floyd gasping, “I can’t breathe” 27 times and witnesses growing angry as they urged Chauvin to get off Floyd’s neck.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said Chauvin “put his knees upon his (Floyd’s) neck and his back, grinding and crushing him until the very breath … until the very life was squeezed out of him.”
The case is not about the difficult “split-second decisions police must make,” Blackwell said. “There are 569 seconds, not a split-second among them.”
In his opening statement, lead defense attorney Eric Nelson told jurors the evidence in the case is “far greater than 9 minutes and 29 seconds.” He described a scene in which Floyd was on drugs and resisting arrest. Read more.
Contributing: Trevor Hughes