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Precedence: The importance of the Derek Chauvin Trial

On May 25,2020 in Minneapolis George Floyd, 46, was accused of attempting to pay for items in a convenient store with a counterfeit $20 bill which resulted in Minneapolis police officers to arrive on the scene. All of the involved officers were fired and are facing charges, however, due to Covid-19 restrictions the officer will be charged separately. Officers Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Keung and You That are all charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder. Derek Chauvin, the officer responsible for kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds was charged with third-degree murder, second degree murder, and second degree manslaughter.

On March 29,2021 the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd began in Minneapolis and has been broadcasted live for the public to watch.

The presiding judge is Judge Peter Cahill who has been a judge since 2007. Cahill has a reputation for being “decisive and direct.” Before becoming a judge Cahill worked in the county’s public defender’s office (Hennepin) as well as working as a prosecutor for 10 years.

The prosecution team consists of Attorney General Keith Ellison, Matthew Frank, Jerry Blackwell, and Steven Schleicher. Whilst the defense attorney is Eric Nelson.

The jury is made up of 14 individuals—there are five men and nine women. The ethnic breakdown is as follows, there are eight white, four are black, and the remaining two are mixed.

This blog will give a quick synopsis of what each witnesses said for both the prosecution and defense in order to understand the level of important that this case holds. This blog is being written before the closing arguments are made and before a verdict is delivered because the outcome of this case is sure to set a precedent for police involved killings to come.

If Derek Chauvin is convicted it sets a precedent that police officers are not above the law in terms of taking the lives of African Americans. It emphasis the fact that there are consequences for actions no matter who an individual is and regardless of their occupation. It is just a little bit of light and a victory for the African American community. On the legal side it should help to set precedence for any future cases that involve any type of choke hold performed by officers that results in death.

This trial also holds some significance as some viewers would argue that the “Blue Wall” was broken as members of Chauvin’s own department testified against him, which is not common. Law enforcement tend to stick together and ultimately back one another.

On the other hand, if Derek Chauvin is not convicted then the message is absolutely being sent that law enforcement holds the ultimate power to do as they please without consequences even when there is copious amounts of evidence stacked against them. It will undermine and quite honestly blow to smithereens what the term “excessive force” means, because if what Derek Chauvin did isn’t considered excessive force then what is? There will be outrage and hurt felt far and wide. The existing fear within the African American community will increase exponentially and our struggle to breath will continue.

The witnesses in this trial played a pivotal role and ultimately it comes down to which side, the prosecution or the defense presented their case the best.

The Witnesses for the Prosecution:

Jenna Scurry, the 911 dispatcher who took the call

Scurry talked about she was disturbed by what she saw on the camera access that she as well as other 911 dispatchers have that allows them to see what’s happening during a situation, via city surveillance. Her testimony was powerful as she discussed how when she looked up at the screen she saw a police car moving back and fourth then witnessed the involved officers take George Floyd down to the pavement in which they remained. She stated that she kept looking at the camera and away to see if anything had changed, when she saw that nothing changed she made the decision to call a supervisory sergeant to let them know what she was witnessing. Jenna Scurry can be heard in a recoding of the her call with the sergeant saying “I don't know if they had to use force or not, but 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 you or not, but they haven't said anything to me yet.”

Alisha Oyler, a Speedway employee

Oyler recorded multiple videos of the arrest. During her testimony she stated that she took the videos because “police is always messing with people…and it’s not right.”

Donald Williams II, A witness on the scene

On the scene Williams made comments to Chauvin telling him to get off of George Floyd’s neck and check his pulse. Williams is a longtime mixed martial arts fighter, enabling him to describe Chauvin’s hold on George Floyd and identified it as being a “blood choke.”Williams stated that this type of hold can lead to a loss of consciousness and that Chauvin was shifting his weight around on purpose to tighten the hold on George Floyd’s neck.

Darnella Frazer, the teenager who filmed the video

At the time of George Floyd’s death Darnella was considered a minor, however, at the time of the trial she had turned 18. Danella stated that “"When I look at George Floyd I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles because they are all Black," she said. "I have a Black father, I have Black brothers, I have Black friends. I look at them and how it could have been one of them. It's been nights I've stayed up apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life, it's not what I should have done it's what he should have done.” In Eric Nelson’s cross examination his questions were focused on the rowdiness the crowd, to which Darnella concurred, however, she said that the crowd wasn’t threatening Chauvin.

Judeah Reynolds,9, Darnella Frazer’s cousin

Judeah was there the day Derek Chauvin took the life of George Floyd and she stated that "I was sad and kind of mad and it felt like it was stopping his breathing and it was hurting him.”

Alyssa Funari

Funari recorded videos with her cell phone. She said "It was difficult because I felt like there wasn't really anything I could do," she said. "As a bystander I was powerless there, and I was failing to do anything.”

Kaylynn Gilbert

During her testimony said she had a gut feeling something was wrong.She stated that she witnessed Chauvin digging into George Floyd’s neck more and he was putting more pressure than needed.”

Genevieve Hansen, an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter

She attempted to render aid to George Floyd but was not allowed to by the involved officers. Hansen stated “There is a man being killed, and I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities, and this human was not provided that right.” She also went on to say that “Chauvin appeared very comfortable with the majority of his weight balanced on top of Mr. Floyd while pinning him to the pavement with his knee.”

Christopher Martin, 19, Cup Foods Clerk

Christopher Martin is the clerk who sold George Floyd the pack of cigarettes and suspected that the $20 bill was fake. He tried to get Floyd back into the store twice, and then his manager called the police. Martin said he felt disbelief and guilt because “if he would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided.” Martin testified that when he received the bill he “noticed it had a blue pigment to it, kind of like a $100 bill would have, so he found it kind odd and assumed it was fake.”He then went on to say that the store’s policy required him to pay for the fake money if he accepted it. In other words he would have to come out of pocket to replace the fake $20 bill. At first Martin was going to put it on his tab but then he stated that he second guessed himself.

Christopher Belfrey

Belfrey was with his fiancé picking up something from Cup Food the day of George Floyd’s murder. He parked behind George Floyd’s SUV and began recording when he noticed officer Thomas Lane point a gun at George Floyd and pull him out of his car. Belfrey then proceeded to move his car across the street and continue recording while the officers had George Floyd on the ground questioning him. He stated that he was startled when the officer pulled a gun and that’s what prompted him to start recording.

Charles McMillian, The first witness on the scene after the involved officers escorted George Floyd from across the street

Charles told George Floyd to cooperate because once in handcuffs you can’t win. McMillian broke down in tears as he testified stating that he felt helpless. After Floyd was taken away in the ambulance McMillian said he confronted Chauvin and said “Five days ago I told you at the end of the day go home to your family safe, and that the next person go home to their family safe, but today I gotta look at you as a maggot.’”

Lt. James Rugel, head of the Minneapolis Police Department’s Business Technology Unit

Courteney Ross, George Floyd’s girlfriend

Ross spoke about how she met George Floyd, their struggle with opioid addiction, them suffering with chronic pain and how presumptions started their addictions which led to getting drugs illegally. She said that the pills Floyd usually took he got from other people who had prescriptions to ensure that they were safe, however, she said before Floyd’s death they took a stimulating pill. Courteney testified that “Both Floyd and I, our story is a classic story is of how we both get addicted to opioids... We got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction many times.”

Seth Bravinder, A Hennepin EMS paramedic

Bravinder testified that "there were multiple officers on top of the patient, we assumed — I assumed — there was potentially some struggle still because they were still on top of him.” Him and his partner loaded Floyd into the ambulance and began doing their jobs working on him. He stated that “full cardiac arrest is not a good sign for successful resuscitation. Basically, just because your heart isn't doing anything at that moment, it's not pumping blood. It's not a good sign for a good outcome.”

Derek Smith, Bravinder’s partner

Stated that he checked George Floyd’s pulse and took note that there was no pulse and that his pupils were dilated. He then said “I looked to my partner, I told him 'I think he's dead, and I want to move this out of here and begin care in the back making note of the irritated bystanders.” Despite this they continued to work in the back of the ambulance while instructing officer Lane to deliver chest compressions on the route to the hospital. Unfortanely, George Floyd never regained a pulse, per Smith. Smith also said "He's a human…I was trying to give him a second chance at life.”

Captain Jeremy Norton, Minneapolis Fire Captain

Captain Norton testified that he encountered an “an agitated to distraught off-duty firefighter(Genevieve Hansen) and some other bystanders.” Norton approached the ambulance where he stated that he saw “an unresponsive body on a cot.” Cpt. Norton proceeded to call his supervisor to let them know what happened. He said “I was worried that a man had been killed in police custody…and then I also wanted to notify my supervisor that there was an off-duty firefighter that was a witness at the scene.”

David Pleoger, Retired Minneapolis Police Sergeant

Pleagor was Chauvin and the other involved officers supervisor. The most powerful statement that Pleoger made was that “When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint.”

Jon Edwards, Third Precent Sergeant

Edwards was responsible for securing the scene after George Floyd was taken to the hospital. During this time Officers Kueng and Lane were still at the scene which prompted Edwards to tell them to turn on their body cams and step out of their squad cars.

Richard Zimmerman, Police Lt

Zimmerman stated that it was “totally unnecessary” for Chauvin to put his knee on George Floyd as he was handcuffed. He said, “"First of all pulling him down to the ground face down and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for. I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger.”

Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld

Dr. Bradford is the emergency room physician who examined George Floyd and declared him dead upon arrival. His efforts lasted 30 minutes to save George Floyd. His testimony stated that Floyd never had a heartbeat "sufficient to sustain life.”

Chief Medaria Arradondo

Chief Arradondo went on record less than a month after George Floyd died calling what happened murder. He made it clear that the responsibility of Floyd’s death was on Chauvin as he stated “"Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting — and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that — that should have stopped.” Other important quotes from his testimony include "There's an initial reasonableness of trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds, but once there was no longer any resistance, and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back… It's not part of our training and is certainly not part of our ethics or values.”

Inspector Katie Blackwell

Inspector Blackwell is the fifth precinct inspector for the MPD and was in charge of training for the department at the time George Floyd was killed. When shown a screenshot of Chauvin on Floyd’s neck and asked what tactic was being used she said "I don't know what kind of improvised position this is.” It is important to not that she has known Chauvin for 20 years.

Sgt. Ker Yang, a Minneapolis Police Department crisis trainer

He testified that “when it is safe and feasible, we shall de-escalate.”

Lt. Johnny Mercil, Use of Force trainer with MPD

Derek Chauvin was a participant in his training. His most powerful statement was “You want to use the least amount of force necessary to meet your objective to control, if those lower uses of force do not work or are too unsafe to try you can increase your level of force against that person.”

Officer Nicole Mackenzie, medical support coordinator for MPD

Officer Mackenzie teaches CPR and other classes to police officers. She stated that just because you can talk doesn’t mean you’re necessarily able to breathe. She said that “Somebody could be in respiratory distress and still be able to verbalize it…Just because they're speaking doesn't mean they're breathing adequately.”

Sgt. Jody Stiger, LAPD officer

A use of force expert and police officer of 28 years. He testified that “Initially when Mr. Floyd was being placed in the backseat of the vehicle, the officers were justified in trying to have him comply and sit in the backseat of the vehicle…However, once he was placed in the prone position on the ground, he slowly ceased his resistance and the officers—or ex-officers I should say—should have slowed down or stopped their force.” He also stated that Chauvin’s body worn camera showed him using "his right hand and appeared to use a pain compliance on Mr. Floyd's hand…squeezing fingers or bringing knuckles together, which can cause pain or pulling the hand into the cuff, which can cause pain as well.”

Special Agent James Reyerson of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension

Special Agent Reyerson testified that he took photos of Chauvin, processed videos and other evidence which includes the squad and Mr. Floyd’s vehicle, and items found inside of the car which were a pill, some dollar bills, and a pipe.

McKenzie Anderson, Forensic Scientist

Anderson is employed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and she examined both George Floyd’s car and the squad car. She is responsible for finding a pill in the backseat of the squad car in which it tested positive for George Floyd’s DNA.

Breahna Giles, Chemical Forensic Scientist

Her testimony stated that the pills that were found in the vehicle that Mr. Floyd was in contained methamphetamine and fentanyl.

Susan Neith, Forensic Scientist

She also tested the two pills found in the Mercedes and the Squad car.

Dr. Martin Tobin, Pulmonology and Critical Care Physician

He testified that George Floyd died from a “low level of oxygen that caused damage to his brain that we see, and it also caused a pulseless electrical activity (Arrhythmia) that caused his heart to stop.” Dr. Tobin pointed out the moment that George Floyd died in recorded videos he stated “At the beginning you can see he's conscious, you can see slight flickering and then it disappears, so one second he's alive and one second he's no longer," Tobin said. " ... That's the moment the life goes out of his body.”

Daniel Isenchmid, Forensic Toxicologist

He stated that both fentanyl and norfentanyl (metabolized fentanyl) in George Floyd’s blood, and that it is rare that overdosed victims have norfentanyl in their blood.

Dr. Bill Smock, Legal Forensic Medicine Specialist and Former Emergency Room Doctor

He testified that George Floyd died from a lack of oxygen and not an overdose (fentanyl). He said that what George Floyd was experiencing was “not a fentanyl overdose…that is someone begging to breathe.” Dr. Smock also stated that CPR was needed “way before it was. As soon as Mr. Floyd was unconscious, he should have been rolled over. ... When they can't find a pulse, CPR should have been started.”

Dr. Lindsey Thomas. Medical Examiner

She testified that the primary cause of George Floyd’s death was due to low oxygen. Dr. Thomas said "What I observed from all of these videos is this was not a sudden death…It’s not like snow shoveling when someone clutches their chest and falls over. There was nothing sudden about his death.” She made a powerful statement in saying “There's no evidence to suggest he would have died that night except for the interactions with law enforcement.”

Dr. Andrew Baker, Chief Hennepin County Medical Examiner

Dr. Baker performed Floyd’s autopsy and ruled that the manner of death was homiocide due to “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement sub-dual, restraint, and neck compression.”

Dr. Jonathan Rich, Cardiologist

Dr. Rich testified that George Floyd died as a result of “cardiopulmonary arrest caused by low oxygen levels and those low oxygen levels were induced by the prone restraint and positional asphyxia that he was subjected to.” He stated that “repositioning George Floyd would have very likely saved his life.” Dr. Rich said that he believed that “Mr. Floyd’s death was absolutely preventable.”

Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s younger brother

His testimony include what it was like growing up with his brother George Floyd, and he described his brother as a mama’s boy and said they regularly spoke on the phone despite not having seen each other in some years. Philonise said that “He [George Floyd] was one of those people in the community when they had church outside, people would attend church just because he was there. Nobody would go out there until they seen him. He was a person everybody loved around the community, he just knew how to make people feel better.”

Seth Stoughton, Law School professor and former Tallahassee Police Officer

Stoughton testified as a use of force expert. He stated that any reasonable officer would have believed that this was an appropriate, acceptable or reasonable use of force. He stated “Looking at the threat analysis here, it's clear from the number of officers here and the fact that he's handcuffed and has been searched, he doesn't present a threat …Given the range of other alternatives available to the officers, it's just not appropriate to prone someone who is at that point cooperative."

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Witnesses for the defense:

Scott Creighton

Creighton is a retired Minneapolis police officer who worked in narcotics. He testified in regards to a traffic stop in May of 2019 during which he pointed his gun at George Floyd because Floyd wouldn’t show him both of his hands. Videos are shown that show parts of the stop deriving from Creighton’s body cam. Creighton testified that "The passenger was unresponsive and noncompliant to my commands, I then had to physically reach in and I wanted to see his hands…In my mind his behavior was very nervous, anxious.”

Michelle Moseng, a retired paramedic with Hennepin EMS

Moseng was called to help Floyd when he was detained in May of 2019. She testified that his blood pressure was extremely high and she wanted to him to visit the hospital because she feared he could have a stroke. Her testimony included that "he had a history of hypertension and hadn't been taking his medication." However, she mentioned that Floyd was “alert, obeying commands, and his respiration and pulse rates were normal, but he had taken about 7 percocets” Moseng said that George Floyd said he had taken so many because he was addicted.

Shawanda Hill, a passenger in the car with George Floyd

Hill testified that when her and George Floyd encountered one another he seemed fine and normal but when he offered to give her a ride home he fell asleep and when the store employees approached his car to ask him about the $20 bill they couldn’t get him to stay awake, he would wake up momentarily then fall back asleep. She said that George Floyd said he was tired from work. Hill testified that Floyd woke up the second time because she told him the police were there about the $20 bill as it wasn’t real. She proceeded to tell George Floyd “'Baby, that's the police. Roll down the window.' ... The man had a gun at the window. [Floyd] instantly grabbed the wheel, and he said, 'Please, please don't shoot me.”

Peter Chang, Minneapolis Park Police Officer

When Chang got to the scene he said that George Floyd was handcuffed and seated on the sidewalk. When he arrived he was asked to run Floyd’s information then he went to the squad car where officers Keung and Lane were in a struggle with George Floyd. He said that the crowd was “very aggressive towards the officers,” thus he was asked to watch George Floyd’s car.

Nicole Mackenzie, Medical Support Coordinator for the MPD

She was also a witness for prosecution. She spoke about ‘excited delirium’ which leads to psychotic behavior, agitation, incoherent speech, superhuman strength and hyperthermia.

Barry Brodd, Use of Force Expert and Retired Police Officer

Brodd said that he believed Chauvin’s actions were reasonable. He said “I felt that Derek Chauvin was justified and acting with objective reasonableness following Minneapolis Police Department policy and current standards of law enforcement in his interactions with Mr. Floyd.” He said “ it's important for anyone "to try to see it as the officer on the scene ... then try to put yourself in the officer's shoes. It's easy to sit in an office and judge an officer's conduct.”

Dr. David Fowler, Former Chief Medical Examiner

The most important and critical statement that Dr. Fowler made was exposure to vehicle exhaust from a police squad care close by.

This statement was protested by the prosecution and led to the prosecution bringing back Dr. Tobin to testify again. However, the judge stated that if Dr. Tobin even alluded to or mentioned a carbon monoxide test that he would declare a mistrial, luckily a mistrial was not declared and the closing arguments are set to be given on Monday.

George Floyd deserves Justice, a settlement isn’t enough, all of the other performative actions that have been taken since his death aren’t enough. Justice is barely enough, because George Floyd should still be alive, but for now it will suffice.

We need police involved killings of African Americans to stop, we don’t want anymore trials, hurt, and pain. We want it to end and for the cases that have already occurred we want accountability, transparency, and as much justice as we can get.

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