Below are 3 excellent summary reports by the Associated Press (AP) writers STEVE KARNOWSKI and AMY FORLITI, and one report by USA Today of the first two days of the George Floyd murder trial with links to the reports at the end of each report:
AP Headline: Witness in George Floyd case: ‘I witnessed a murder’
by: STEVE KARNOWSKI and AMY FORLITI, Associated Press
Posted: Mar 29, 2021 / 09:57 PM MDT / Updated: Mar 30, 2021 / 08:10 AM MDT
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A man who was among onlookers shouting at a Minneapolis police officer to get off George Floyd last May was to continue testifying Tuesday, a day after he described seeing Floyd struggle for air and his eyes rolling back into his head, saying he saw Floyd “slowly fade away … like a fish in a bag.”
Donald Williams, a former wrestler who said he was trained in mixed martial arts including chokeholds, testified Monday that he thought Derek Chauvin used a shimmying motion several times to increase the pressure on Floyd. He said he yelled to the officer that he was cutting off Floyd’s blood supply.
Williams recalled that Floyd’s voice grew thicker as his breathing became more labored, and he eventually stopped moving.
“From there on he was lifeless,” Williams said. “He didn’t move, he didn’t speak, he didn’t have no life in him no more on his body movements.”
Williams was among the first prosecution witnesses as trial opened for Chauvin, 45, who is charged with murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.
Prosecutors led off their case by playing part of the bystander video that captured Floyd’s arrest on May 25. Chauvin and three other officers were fired soon after the video touched off outrage and protest, sometimes violent, that spread from Minneapolis around the world.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell showed the jurors the footage at the earliest opportunity, during opening statements, after telling them that the number to remember was 9 minutes, 29 seconds — the amount of time Chauvin had Floyd pinned to the pavement last May.
The white officer “didn’t let up” even after a handcuffed Floyd said 27 times that he couldn’t breathe and went limp, Blackwell said.
“He put his knees upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him, until the very breath — no, ladies and gentlemen — until the very life was squeezed out of him,” the prosecutor said.
Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson countered by arguing: “Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over his 19-year career.”
Floyd was fighting efforts to put him in a squad car as the crowd of onlookers around Chauvin and his fellow officers grew and became increasingly hostile, Nelson said.
The defense attorney also disputed that Chauvin was to blame for Floyd’s death.
Floyd, 46, had none of the telltale signs of asphyxiation and he had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, Nelson said. He said Floyd’s drug use, combined with his heart disease, high blood pressure and the adrenaline flowing through his body, caused a heart rhythm disturbance that killed him.
“There is no political or social cause in this courtroom,” Nelson said. “But the evidence is far greater than 9 minutes and 29 seconds.”
Blackwell, however, rejected the argument that Floyd’s drug use or any underlying health conditions were to blame, saying it was the officer’s knee that killed him.
Minneapolis police dispatcher Jena Scurry testified that she saw part of Floyd’s arrest unfolding via a city surveillance camera and was so disturbed that she called a duty sergeant. Scurry said she grew concerned because the officers hadn’t moved after several minutes.
“You can call me a snitch if you want to,” Scurry said in her call to the sergeant, which was played in court. She said she wouldn’t normally call the sergeant about the use of force because it was beyond the scope of her duties, but “my instincts were telling me that something is wrong.”
The video played during opening statements was posted to Facebook by a bystander who witnessed Floyd being arrested after he was accused of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. Jurors watched intently as the video played on multiple screens, with one drawing a sharp breath as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin sat quietly and took notes, looking up at the video periodically.
“My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts,” Floyd says in the video, and: “I can’t breathe, officer.” Onlookers repeatedly shout at the officer to get off Floyd, saying he is not moving, breathing or resisting. One woman, identifying herself as a city Fire Department employee, shouts at Chauvin to check Floyd’s pulse.
The prosecutor said the case was “not about split-second decision-making” by a police officer but excessive force against someone who was handcuffed and not resisting.
Blackwell said the Fire Department employee wanted to help but was warned off by Chauvin, who pointed Mace at her.
“She wanted to check on his pulse, check on Mr. Floyd’s well-being,” the prosecutor said. “She did her best to intervene. … She couldn’t help.”
The timeline differs from the initial account submitted last May by prosecutors, who said Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds. The time 8:46 soon became a rallying cry in the case. But it was revised during the investigation.
Fourteen jurors or alternates are hearing the case — eight of them white, six of them Black or multiracial, according to the court. Only 12 will deliberate; the judge has not said which two will be alternates.
After the day’s proceedings, a few hundred protesters gathered outside the courthouse. Speakers called for justice for Floyd and others whose lives were lost in encounters with police. One speaker, Jaylani Hussein, shouted: “Police officers are not above the law!” …
Links to AP Reports are here:
DONALD WILLIAMS TESTIMONY
“[Donald Williams] … testified Tuesday that he called 911 after paramedics took Floyd away, “because I believed I witnessed a murder.”
Donald Williams, a former wrestler who said he was trained in mixed martial arts, including chokeholds, returned to the witness stand a day after describing seeing Floyd struggle for air and his eyes roll back into his head. He said he watched Floyd “slowly fade away … like a fish in a bag.”
Prosecutor Matthew Frank played back Williams’ 911 call, on which he is heard identifying officer Derek Chauvin by his badge number and telling the dispatcher that Chauvin had been keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck despite warnings that Floyd’s life was in danger. She offers to switch him to a sergeant.
As he is being switched, Williams can he heard yelling at the officers, “Y’all is murderers, bro!”
On Monday, Williams said he thought Chauvin used a shimmying motion several times to increase the pressure on Floyd. He said he yelled to the officer that he was cutting off Floyd’s blood supply. Williams recalled that Floyd’s voice grew thicker as his breathing became more labored, and he eventually stopped moving.
During cross-examination Tuesday, Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson sought to show that Chauvin and his fellow officers found themselves in an increasingly tense and distracting situation, with the crowd of onlookers getting agitated over Floyd’s treatment.”
Nelson pointed out that Williams seemed to grow increasingly angry at police on the scene, swearing at and taunting Chauvin with “tough guy,” “bum” and other names, then calling Chauvin expletives, which the defense attorney repeated in court.
Williams initially admitted he was getting angrier, but then backtracked and said he was controlled and professional and was pleading for Floyd’s life but wasn’t being heard.
Williams said he was stepping on and off the curb, and at one point, Officer Tou Thao, who was controlling the crowd, put his hand on Williams’ chest. Williams admitted under questioning that he told Thao he would beat the officers if Thao touched him again.
Williams was among the first witnesses as Chauvin, 45, went on trial on charges of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death. The death of the Black man after he was held down by the white officer touched off sometimes-violent protests around the world and a reckoning over racism and police brutality.
Prosecutors led off their case by playing part of the harrowing bystander video of Floyd’s arrest. Chauvin and three other officers were fired soon after the footage became public.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell showed the jurors the video after telling them that the number to remember was 9 minutes, 29 seconds — the amount of time Chauvin had Floyd pinned to the pavement “until the very life was squeezed out of him.”
Nelson countered by arguing: “Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over his 19-year career.”
The defense attorney also disputed that Chauvin was to blame for Floyd’s death, as prosecutors contend.
Floyd, 46, had none of the telltale signs of asphyxiation and had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, Nelson said. He said Floyd’s drug use, combined with his heart disease, high blood pressure and the adrenaline flowing through his body, caused a heart rhythm disturbance that killed him.”
The link to the full AP Report is here:
OTHER WITNESS TESTIMONY
“Onlookers grew increasingly angry as they begged Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin to take his knee off George Floyd’s neck, but Chauvin would not let up, and another officer forced back members of the crowd who tried to intervene, witnesses testified Tuesday at Chauvin’s murder trial.
Witness after witness described how Chauvin was unmoved by their pleas, with the teenager who shot the harrowing video of the arrest that set off nationwide protests testifying that the officer gave the crowd a “cold” and “heartless” stare.
“He didn’t care. It seemed as if he didn’t care what we were saying,” said 18-year-old Darnella Frazier, one of several witnesses who testified through tears.
Frazier said Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd while fellow Officer Tou Thao held the crowd of about 15 back, even when one of the onlookers identified herself as a firefighter and pleaded repeatedly to check Floyd’s pulse.
“They definitely put their hands on the Mace, and we all pulled back,” Frazier told the jury.
The prosecution asked multiple witnesses to describe their horror at what they saw, buttressing the testimony with multiple videos, some of which had never been seen before. Many testified about feelings of helplessness as Floyd gasped for air, pleaded for his life and finally fell limp and silent, his eyes rolling back in his head.
The testimony was apparently aimed at showing that Chauvin had multiple opportunities to think about what he doing and change course.
But Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson also sought to bring out evidence of anger in the crowd, in an apparent attempt to show that Chauvin and his fellow officers found themselves in an increasingly tense and distracting situation, with the onlookers becoming more and more agitated.
witnesses also testified that no bystanders actually interfered with police.
When Frazier was asked by a prosecutor whether she saw violence anywhere on the scene, she replied: “Yes, from the cops. From Chauvin, and from officer Thao.”
… [P]rosecutors played cellphone video recorded by yet another bystander, 18-year-old Alyssa Funari, that showed onlookers shouting and screaming at Chauvin after Floyd stopped moving.
The video, which had not been released before, also showed the woman who said she was a Minneapolis firefighter calmly walk up to Thao and offer to help, before he ordered her to get back on the curb.
“I felt like there wasn’t really anything I could do as a bystander,” a tearful Funari said, adding that she felt she was failing Floyd. “Technically I could’ve did something, but I couldn’t really do anything physically … because the highest power was there at the time,” she said, explaining that an officer held the crowd back.
Frazier testified that she looks at her father and other Black men in her life and thinks of “how that could have been one of them.”
“I stay up at night apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more … not saving his life,” she said, adding of Chauvin: “It’s not what I should have done; it’s what he should have done.” “
USA TODAY REPORT ON GENEVIEVE HANSEN TESTIMONY
USA Today published the following report, with the link, on the testimony of Genevieve Hanson:
Genevieve Hansen, 27, a Minneapolis firefighter with state and national EMT certifications testified … Hansen said the vast majority of the calls she’s assigned are medical calls. She said she had been working as a firefighter for a little over a year and was off-duty on a walk last Memorial Day when she saw flashing lights and heard a bystander yelling.
“I was concerned to see a handcuffed man who was not moving with officers with their whole body weight on his back and a crowd that was stressed out,” said Hansen, who appeared in court in her dress uniform, with a tie and badge on. She said about 90 percent of the calls she’s assigned are medical calls.
Hansen said that as she approached the scene, she recognized Chauvin from a call the day before. She said she didn’t know Chauvin or interact with him on the call. Chauvin “seemed very comfortable with his weight on Mr. Floyd” and had his hand in his pocket, Hansen said.
Hansen said she was immediately concerned about Floyd because “he wasn’t moving” and “his face looked puffy and swollen.” She also noticed he was in an altered state, no longer responding to painful stimuli – the knee on his neck with body weight behind it.
She said she immediately identified herself because she thought Floyd “needed medical attention,” and she might be able to help. Hansen said she would have checked for a pulse, called 911, begun chest compressions and had someone bring over an external defibrillator from the gas station to help restart his heart.
She is heard on video begging officers to check Floyd’s pulse. “I could have given medical assistance, and that’s exactly what I should have done,” she said. “(But) the officers didn’t let me into the scene.”
“Were you frustrated?” prosecutor Matthew Frank asked.
“Yes,” Hansen said as she teared up, touched a tissue to her eyes and took a drink of water. “I was desperate to help.”
Hansen said she began recording the scene “because memories of witnesses are never going to be as good as a video.”
In a 911 call Hansen made following the incident, she said, “I literally watched police officers not take a pulse and not do anything to save a man,” according to a recording played for the jury.
The link to the full USA Today report is is here:
Reporters: Grace Hauck, N’dea Yancey-Bragg, Kevin McCoy, Tami Abdollah, Eric Ferkenhoff
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
As a prosecutor for much of my 42 year career as an attorney, for the last 2 days I have been riveted watching the trial of Derek Chauvin charged with the murder of African American George Floyd.
What just blows my mind is how the “stars lined up” for the prosecution. More than one cell phone video taken by bystanders within a few feet of the incident, across the street video from a city surveillance camera that caught it all on camera, a professional Mixed Marshal Arts (MMA) fighter who witnessed the incident and could explain the difference between the kinds of chock holds, an off duty Fire Fighter and EMT taking a walk, witnessing the incident, offered to help and told no by the officers and who caught it on cell phone, and minors under 18 who testified under oath what they saw.
It would be a major mistake to assume that a conviction of the police officer is all but certain. Far from it. When it comes to prosecuting police officers, jurors are essentially asked to review the evidence from the standpoint of the police officers, not the witnesses to the event. The jury must decide if the officer’s use of force or deadly force was justified to protect themselves or others or for that matter if the force was reasonable given all the facts and circumstances.
Stay tune for the autopsy report as to the cause of death and the testimony that George Floyd had drugs in his system, Derek Chauvin acted as he was trained and that he was in fear for his life. A conviction required by a unanimous verdict and a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.
A verdict must be unanimous for a conviction or acquittal and if only one juror feels that the police officer acted reasonably, a mistrial is declared.