The State of Minneapolis v. Derek Chauvin will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most important criminal trials in American history. Last May, millions watched in agony was George Floyd died a slow death under the weight of Chauvin's knee. Prior to May 25, Floyd was man looking for a new life and a new start in the state of Minnesota as he battled addiction. After May 25, his name would become a rallying cry for a century-long fight against state violence and racism.
Thus far, this trial has produced a number of moments that will be remembered for years to come. Minneapolis security guard Donald Williams stood his ground when members of the defense seemingly attempted to portray him as a stereotypically angry Black man. Then, there was the moment when Courteney Ross, broke down in tears when speaking about her relationship with George Floyd. Not to mention, there was a brief moment when it appeared that EMT Genevieve Hansen was going to have a back-and-forth with a defense attorney.
This trial has had its ups, its downs and it is not even halfway through. Today marks the seventh day of the Derek Chauvin trial.
What Happened Yesterday
The sixth day of the State v. Derek Chauvin trial was led by testimonies from law enforcement officials and medical professionals. Opening the day, Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld of Hennepin County Medical Center testified before the court that Floyd likely died of hypoxia. He defined hypoxia as the “cardiac arrest meaning oxygen insufficiency.”
“Based on the history that was available to me, I felt that hypoxia was one of the more likely possibilities," he said.
Later in the day, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo spoke to the court about de-escalation tactics that Chauvin may have had at his disposal on May 25. Arradondo said that officers are trained in de-escalation tactics and that people in custody "have rights" of their own. It is also important to note that Arradondo fired Chauvin and three of his colleagues following Floyd's death.
“The goal is to resolve the situation as safely as possible. So you want to always have de-escalation layered into those actions of using force,” the police chief told the court.
The final witness of the day was Minneapolis Police Commander Katie Blackwell. While on the stand, Blackwell seemingly condemned Chauvin's actions. When asked to assess Chauvin's decision to put his knee on Floyd's neck, she said it is "not what we train" officers to do.
What Happened Today
Morries Hall is best known as the man who was in the car with Floyd when police officers approached him. Last week, he invoked his fifth amendment right not to speak before the court. However, it appears that he may be compelled to testify anyway. Appearing via Zoom, Hall spoke to Judge Peter Cahill regarding his potential testimony. Hall appears apprehensive to testify because certain topics may incriminate himself or others. However, Cahill has ruled that a separate hearing will be held in order to determine if he will testify or not.
Philonise Floyd, Ben Crump, Al Sharpton
Members of the Floyd family were joined by attorney Ben Crump and civil rights activist Al Sharpton at a press conference at the Hennepin County Courthouse. During the press gathering, Philonise Floyd addressed the media for the first time in some time.
“We’re going through hard times right now and we need people on our side to help us get through this,” he said.
“We’re going to get through this. But one thing I can tell: Me and Ms. Gwen Carr, after we get the verdict and we get this conviction, we’ll be able to breathe.”
Adding to Floyd's word, attorney Ben Crump also spoke to how the ongoing trial may be taking a toll on the Floyd family.
“They have a whole host of family members having to relive them killing George Floyd over and over again as they sit in the courtroom pursuing justice,” Crump said.
“It causes them and many people to suffer P.T.S.D. The fact that it has a psychological mental affect, not just on the family, but on people who are watching television following this trial intensely."
Ker Yang opened the day by answering questions from both the prosecution and defense. Yang works as the a sergeant for the Minneapolis Police Department. He also serves as a coordinator for the department's crisis intervention program. During his testimony, Yang said that officers are trained to assess each situation as time goes along and potentially change tactics if the situation changes.
"We assess the situation to see if our technique on the de-escalation or other technique is working. If it's not working, then we adjust our technique and our strategies," Yang said.
Yang also noted that officers are trained to get citizens medical attention if needed.
"If somebody is needing attention, then we give them medical attention," he said.
After Yang took the stand, Minneapolis Police Department Lieutenant Johnny Mercil entered the courtroom. Mercil has been with the department for more than 20 years and works as a use-of-force instructor within the department. During his lengthy testimony, Mercil was asked about the types of force that officers are taught to use and how much force is appropriate for a particular situation. Regardless of the situation, the lieutenant says that it is best to use the least amount of force possible when handling a situation.
"You want to use the least amount of force necessary to meet your objectives, to control. And if those lower uses of force do not work, would not work, or are too unsafe to try, then you increase the level of force against that person," Mercil said.
"Because if you can use the least amount of — lower level of force to meet your objectives, it's safer and better for everybody involved."
Mercil explained that the force applied should be proportional to the situation at hand. He later explained that placing the knee of an officer on a handcuffed suspect is typically not authorized. Adding on, Mercil told the court that officers often place handcuffed suspects on their sides in order "to prevent a potential situation where they might be subject to positional asphyxiation."
Closing out his testimony, Mercil told the court that officers are usually instructed to "stay away" from the neck when restraining suspects.
"We tell officers to stay away from the neck when possible and if you're going to use body weight to pin, to put it on their shoulder and be mindful of position."
After a short break, Minneapolis Police Department Officer Mackenzie Scott followed Mercil. Scott works as a medical response coordinator and first aid instructor for the local police department. While speaking to the court, she explained that officers are trained to begin doing CPR if someone does not have a pulse. Furthermore, Scott says that officers are only supposed to stop if a medical professional arrives, they become physically exhausted or the person regains a pulse.
Scott was also asked if it is possible for Floyd to still be speaking if he could not breathe. She said that it would "not be complete" to say that someone who is speaking is also breathing.
"There is the possibility that somebody could be in respiratory distress and still being able to verbalize it. Just because they're speaking doesn't mean they're breathing adequately,"
Coming from the state of California, Los Angeles Police Department Lieutenant Jody Stiger took the stand. Stiger has conducted more than 2,000 use-of-force reviews in his career and is often described as a "use-of-force expert."
During his testimony, Stiger said that Chauvin's use of force on May 25 was "excessive."
"My opinion was that the force was excessive," he said.
What Was Everyone Saying
Much like yesterday, many of the witnesses who took the stand had no ties to the Floyd family. Instead, many of the witnesses who spoke today were law enforcement officers and medical professionals who have worked with or in close proximity to Chauvin. Many onlookers are seeing the number of law enforcement officials testifying against Chauvin as a key trend in this case.
Throughout the day, members of the defense have attempted to portray the crowd that surrounded the crime scene as chaotic and loud. Many who have watched the trial have pushed back against this potential defense.
What Resources Are Available
Watching the trial, taking in traumatic moments may be difficult as video is played and replayed and verbally described.
A few resources that may aid in processing the trial are below:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
The National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-6264
The Association of Black Psychologists 1-301-449-3082
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America 1-240-485-1001
The resources listed have resources including peer groups and other counseling services that may be helpful. They also offer ways to cope with stress, anxiety, depression and other conditions that are important to monitor.
The Black Information Network's trial-related content includes a nightly news special, titled "Searching for Justice for George Floyd," that airs at 7:00 pm ET Monday through Friday on all BIN 24/7 affiliates. Emmy Award-winning journalist Vanessa Tyler will anchor the daily 30-minute commercial-free recap of that day's testimony.
Additionally, BIN's Morgyn Wood will anchor live coverage of the trial on our Minneapolis affiliate BIN 93.3 FM. Tune in to Black Information Network 24/7's coverage on 31 Black Information Network affiliate stations and on the iHeartRadio app. Frequent updates and breaking news will also air on all 92 iHeartMedia Hip Hop, R&B, and Gospel music stations.
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