MMA Fighter Who Saw George Floyds’ Death Becomes Impromptu Expert Witness
The first day of the Derek Chauvin trial was filled with basic descriptions of the scene in front of the Cup Foods store on 38th Street and Chicago in Minneapolis, but ended with an eyewitness, who because of his expertise in wrestling and mixed martial arts, turned out to be, for all intents and purposes, an expert witness for the prosecution.
Donald Williams, a Minneapolis resident, who was a high school and college wrestler who later became a professional MMA fighter, testified that Chauvin used on George Floyd what is called a “blood choke” whose purpose is to cut off oxygen and render an opponent unconscious and can lead to death.
While on the stand, Williams said Chauvin was “shimmying to actually get the final choke in while he was on top, to get the kill choke.”
Williams had driven to the corner grocery after a fishing trip earlier that day. He said he noticed police activity there, but decided not to avoid the scene. When he got there, other people were there as Floyd was being restrained. On video of the incident presented earlier in the day, Williams’ voice could be heard pleading with the officers to let Floyd up and telling officer Tou Thao to check Floyd’s pulse.
He said that he told Chauvin what type of hold he had on Floyd and their eyes met and the officer acknowledge him, but continued the procedure.
“When I said it was a blood choke, it’s the only time he looked up,” Williams said. “You see Floyd fade away like the fish in the bag. He vocalized that he can’t breathe and ‘I’m sorry.’ His eyes rolled back in his head.”
Two other witnesses also took the stand on Monday. Jena Scurry, a 911 dispatcher, testified that she started to worry when she saw on a monitor that officers were kneeling on Floyd to hold him to the ground.
“My instincts were telling me that something was wrong,” she said. “I don’t know if they had to use force or not. They got something out of the back of the squad, and all of them sat on this man. So I don’t know if they needed to or not, but they haven’t said anything to me yet.” She said she called the sergeant to report what was happening.
But the defense attempted to show jurors that she was not an expert on use of force techniques.
Also, Alisha Oyler, who worked at the gas station across the street from the store testified that she stood several dozen feet away, taking cellphone video. She testified that she took the footage because “police is always messing with people.” But she could not specifically recollect every detail of what happened.
Testimony wrapped up late Monday and is expected to continue with more questioning of Wiliams by the prosecution and then cross-examination from the defense.
Derek Chauvin Defense Opens By Arguing Trauma From Arrest Did Not Kill George Floyd
The defense began the Derek Chauvin trial, maintaining that George Floyd’s cause of death was not because of being pinned to the ground by the neck, but because of other medical conditions and drugs in his system.
Attorney Eric Nelson pointed out to jurors that Floyd had other conditions including heart disease, that there were no bruises or contusions that would show evidence of asphyxiation, that Floyd attempted to hide drugs in his mouth to conceal them from police, and that bystander noise and a perceived threat prevented officers from administering proper care to Floyd.
“A significant battle in this trial is going to be: What was Mr. Floyd’s actual case of death,” said Nelson. He also noted that officers did call for emergency help and alerted them to arrive as soon as possible. Also, he said an entire conversation between the officers behind the squad car was taking place that bystanders were not aware of.
“When you review the actual evidence, and when you hear the law and apply reason and common sense, there will only be one just verdict, and that is to find Mr. Chauvin not guilty,” Nelson said.
Prosecutors Open With Video of George Floyd’s Arrest and Death At Police Hands
11: 47 a.m.
The disturbing nine-minute video of George Floyd’s final moments was shown to jurors at the murder trial of Derek Chauvin as the first exhibit of evidence against the former Minneapolis officer.
The footage is just one of several pieces of video evidence that prosecutors said they will show, including other cellphone footage from other bystanders. A long list of witnesses will be called by the prosecution, among them two minors who were standing in front of the grocery where the incident took place, the vocal young man heard on the video shouting at Chauvin that Floyd was losing his life, and the first responder who kept asking officers to check Floyd’s pulse.
Prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell explained to jurors that Chauvin refused to get off of Floyd for the entire time he pleaded for him to, which constituted a homicide. He also said that although Floyd struggled with an opioid addiction, that his death was not characteristic of an opioid overdose.
“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,” Blackwell said in his one-hour opening statement.
Opening Statements To Start in Trial of Derek Chauvin; Prosecutors, Defense Begin Their Strategies
March 29, 2021
The most anticipated trial of the past decade gets underway Monday (March 29) in Minneapolis with opening arguments as former police officer Derek Chauvin faces a jury who will determine if he goes to jail for the death of George Floyd. Jury selection was completed last week with 12 jurors seated to hear the trial, with two alternates chosen as well.
The trial is expected to be a heavily-watched proceeding because of the international response to Floyd’s death last May 25. The 46-year-old man had been suspected by a store clerk of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. But Chauvin, in an attempt to subdue him, knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes as he gasped that he could not breathe. He later died at a nearby hospital. A medical examiner determined that he asphyxiated.
Chauvin and the other officers who responded Tou Thau, J. Alexander Keung and Thomas Lane were fired and later arrested in connection with Floyd’s death. Chauvin was charged with second- and third-degree murder, along with second-degree manslaughter. The remaining officers are scheduled go on trial in August.
Defense attorneys are expected to argue that Floyd’s death was caused by drugs found in his system during the medical examination rather than the pressure of Chauvin’s knee on his neck. But prosecutors are expected to use video footage showing the amount of time the incident took place, providing what they say is evidence of Chauvin’s negligence.
Appearing on NBC’s “Today” show, Monday morning, Floyd’s brother Philonise, along with family attorney Benjamin Crump, said the case should be open and shut.
“We know that this case, to us, is a slam dunk because we know the video is the proof. That’s all you need. The guy was kneeling on my brother’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 second,” said Floyd. “A guy who was sworn in to protect, he killed my brother in broad daylight. That was a modern-day lynching.”
Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill will preside over the trial, which is expected to last three weeks.
Come back to BET.com each day for continued coverage of the trial as it progresses in Minneapolis.
Screen grab from video, defense attorney Eric Nelson, left, defendant Derek Chauvin, right, and Nelson’s assistant Amy Voss, back, (Court TV, via AP, Pool)