State vs. Chauvin: Testimony continues Tuesday in Derek Chauvin trial

Testimony continues in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin. Testimony continues in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin. |  Photo: WDIO

WDIO/KSTP
Updated: March 30, 2021 05:50 PM
Created: March 30, 2021 09:37 AM

MINNEAPOLIS -  The second day of testimony continues in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin. Monday, attorneys gave their opening statements and called the first witnesses in the case. The third witness called by the state, Donald Williams, will return to the witness stand.

Donald Williams was among onlookers shouting at Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin to get off George Floyd last May. Williams took the stand Monday and 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.”

Hubbard sister-station KSTP spoke with a legal expert who says Williams background in martial arts training is key.

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. 

Before Williams testified, prosecutors led off their case by playing portions of a widely seen bystander video of Floyd's arrest that sent waves of outrage and anger around the globe.

RELATED STORY: Opening statements, witness testimony

Also taking the stand on Monday, the Minneapolis 911 dispatcher who sent Chauvin and the other officers to the scene, and a shift lead at the Speedway gas station, who captured video of the incident. 

Here are the happenings during court proceedings: 

Judge Peter Cahill heard motions to begin the proceedings on Tuesday. The judge denied a state motion to restrict the audio of four witnesses who are expected to testify. The four were all minors at the time of Floyd's death but two have now become adults.

However, Cahill said the four will remain off video as they testify but will only have audio of their testimony restricted while they say and spell their names when they're sworn in.

Following a short break, Donald Williams retakes the stand to begin Tuesday's cross-examination. Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank starts the questioning. 

Frank asked Williams if he heard any bystander threaten the safety of the officers while on scene. He said no, but did tell someone to go back into the store when things started to become more "heated." Williams said he was scared for his safety and the people around him. 

He also felt Chauvin had "no feeling, no remorse, no response" when dealing with the situation. He told the state prosecution team that he never saw Chauvin take his knee off Floyd's neck, even when an ambulance arrived at the scene. Williams says he stayed at the scene after the ambulance left, saying he was "very lost in the moment."

The witness said he called the police on the police because he believed he "witnessed a murder." 

Frank played Exhibit 20, which is the phone call made by Williams. He showed some emotion while the call was played in the court.

Williams noted he felt threatened when he called 911 by Thao, who was standing with his body camera positioned close to his face.  

The defense takes over questioning. Nelson starts his cross-examination by asking Williams about "flow wrestling" and his experience with the sport. The defense described it as a sport, and Williams corrected, saying "it's a lifestyle." Nelson also asked more questions about Williams's background in martial arts. Williams confirmed to Nelson there are multiple styles of chokeholds. 

Williams talks about his fighting background, saying he has studied several disciplines, including Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu, boxing and wrestling. 

The defense is asking extensive questioning on Williams's background in fighting, something Nelson struck a would-be juror in the jury-selection process.  Nelson and Williams discussed the difference between an air chokehold and a blood chokehold. 

"You can go unconscious in a blood choke[hold] within seconds," Williams told Nelson. 

The witness stated it's possible for someone who is rendered unconscious to come back to consciousness and fight. He said it has happened to him before when fighting in a competition. Nelson also asked about his duties in controlling a large crowd when working as a security guard and if he had ever been afraid before. He answered "yes."

Nelson asks stern questions about what Williams said in the bystander video, saying Williams called him multiple names.  Nelson asked Williams multiple times to admit he grew angry during the incident. That Williams was an angry man, to which Williams would not admit to. Williams said he was "professionally within" himself. 

Williams told the court from what he saw Chauvin doing, it was a blood chokehold in his eyes.  When asked about how he would control a crowd situation, Williams referred to his experience as a security guard and said he tries to be "humane" and deescalate a situation.  Williams said he was concerned that Floyd would lose his life.

Attorney Matthew Frank began redirecting Williams, after the defense wraps their questioning of the witness. Frank asks whether Williams saw a blood chooke applied to the one side of the neck last year, Cahill overrules. Frank asks Williams about his experience in de-escalating crowds during work as a bouncer, then turns the questioning to what he saw last year, the defense objects twice. Judge Cahill calls for a sidebar.

Nelson objected multiple times to Frank's questions, and the Judge called a sidebar. 

Judge Cahill excuses Donald Williams. The judge advises the Jury that the next four witnesses will not be shown on video because of their age. The Jury will be able to see and hear everything, but the live feed will not show the witnesses.

Jerry Blackwell is now up asking questions for the state. Eighteen-year-old Darnella Frazier said she sent her cousin into the store at the scene because she didn’t want her to see “a man terrified, scared, begging for his life.” They were going to the store to get snacks that day.

The teenager who shot the widely seen video of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer charged in his death testified Tuesday that she began recording because “it wasn’t right, he was suffering, he was in pain.” 

As she identified Chauvin in the courtroom, her voice sounded shaky.  

When asked by state prosecutor Jerry Blackwell if the crowd of people can be considered as an "unruly mob," she disagreed, saying "I would say everyone were reacting in multiple different ways."

She told Blackwell that no bystander ever threatened police at the scene. She felt threatened when Chauvin reached for his pepper spray. She described the scene and what things Floyd was saying as he was being restrained by police. 

Following a short recess, questioning of Frazier continued. She testified that the responding paramedic had to tell Chauvin to get off Floyd. 

After the state finished questioning, Nelson took over for the defense. He points out that she did not know what happened before she arrived in the area. She noted to the defense that when she was filming, she only saw Chauvin and Thao. She did not noticed or hear the two other officers at the scene.

Frazier said Tou said out loud, "you can breathe if you can talk."

She says recording that video changed her life. 

"When I look at Floyd, I look at... my dad, I look at my brothers... because they are all Black," she told Blackwell. She went on to say she stayed up many nights apologizing for not doing more on May 25, 2020. She added that it seemed Floyd "knew it was over for him."

She told the court that some nights in that area of south Minneapolis can be a little more dangerous in terms of crime, but said it's "not every night." 

The witness has been excused from the stand.

The next witness to take the stand is the cousin of Frazier, and was with her on the day of the incident. This witness will not be shown on video and only identified by first name in court. This witness is in the third-grade and nine years old. 

Attorney Blackwell takes care with this witness, walking them through the incident, step by step. Blackwell asks the witness to identify if Derek Chauvin is the same man in the picture from May 25, and the witness was unable to, until the defendant removed his mask.

The court has reconvened after a lunch/recess break. The next person to be questioned has been identified as Witness 6. She says she is from the area where Cup Foods is and is currently in the 12th-grade. 

She was at the scene on May 25, 2020, because she went to Cup Foods to buy an auxiliary cord for her grandfather's car. The girl was looking for somewhere to park when she saw the Minneapolis police squad car. 

"Right before I walked [into Cup Foods], I saw there were four police officers and George [Floyd] outside," she said, noting she learned his name later. She went on to describe how Floyd couldn't breathe, hearing him say his stomach hurt and that he wanted his mother. 

She says she started to record the incident on her phone because she "knew something was wrong." She adds it was difficult to watch as a bystander, feeling like she was "failing." The young woman showed emotion when reflecting on the incident.

She told the court she did not see anyone give CPR to Floyd or any medical attention. 

"The police officers didn't move and Chauvin kept his knee on [Floyd's] neck the entire time even when a paramedic checked for a pulse," she said. 

The witness says she used to go to school with Frazier, who said hello to her at the scene. However, she told state prosecutors that she did not intend to meet Frazier there at the scene. 

The state presented another angle from this witness's cellphone video to the court. The witness was asked why he was filming from a distance.

"I wasn't really sure what was happening at first. I didn't want to get too close ... there was just a lot of police officers and it kind of felt tense," she replied. 

The witness eventually moved closer with her video. She said in the video, "he's about to knock out" to police. She stated that because she said she could "see how he was going unconscious." 

She said she "kind of knew" when Floyd had died at a certain point. She told state prosecutors that Floyd appeared dead when he was put into the ambulance. 

The witness said she has yet to return to that area of south Minneapolis because she "doesn't want to be reminded." 

Defense attorney Eric Nelson cross-examines the witness, identified as Alyssa in court. Nelson asked the witness if they would disagree if he told them, you said I even saw them check his pulse multiple times before the ambulance got there. Alyssa told the court that she would not agree with that. She said she did not remember.

Nelson slid the trascript from an interview the witness gave after the incident, under the plexiglass, and asked her to read the transcript from an interview with BCA agents.
 

The next witness is also a juvenile, who says she is 17 and lives in St. Paul. She said she used to live in Minneapolis. She is friends with Alyssa, the previous witness.

She and Alyssa were going to Cup Foods to get snacks and an auxiliary cord. She told the court she and her friend were in court on Tuesday "for George Floyd."

The witness says she heard Floyd calling out for his mom. Her friend, Alyssa, borrowed her phone to record the scene. She stayed in the car while her friend did that. 

"I saw [Chauvin] digging his knee into [Floyd's] neck more," the witness said, stating that it was more pressure than needed. 

She told the state she saw Thao push a witness back onto the sidewalk, despite not seeing any bystander get physical at the scene. 

The witness tells the court she had "a gut feeling" that Floyd may die when paramedics arrived. 

The witness is dismissed without questions from the defense. The court takes another quick break before the state calls its next witness to the stand.

The state is asking for a new witness to take the stand, identified as Genevieve Hanson, who also provided bystander video of the incident. Frank has asked the court to show footage that she provided. The video mostly shows Thao standing in the viewpoint of Chauvin and Floyd. 

This witness is the firefighter who identified herself as so at the scene. "I'm a Minneapolis first responder," she's heard telling the officers in the video. The court also played a recording of a 911 call Hanson made reporting the officer's actions.

She says she has been a Minneapolis firefighter for about two years. She went into detail about her EMT training to the state prosecution team. She lives in the area of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.

"There's a range of things that I can do ... a lot of time is to assist the medics or we get there before and ... we can start any basic wound managing or up to, you know, starting compressions," she said. 

Hansen also discussed what she would do if she had to use CPR in her work.

She explains that the title of her work doesn't state the multiple things she can do. Hansen said the majority of her calls are medical-related. 

Hansen said she worked the day before the incident and decided to go for a walk on her day off. She told the court that she saw flashing lights and she approached the area and noticed that the fire department was responding. She noticed someone from across the street screaming "they're killing him," and she approached the woman and asked her what was going on. Hansen says she started to ask others what was happening as well.

She later noticed a man, handcuffed, with police surrounding him while he was lying on the ground.

Hansen said she recognized Chauvin from a previous call but didn't know him personally. She clarified, saying she may have seen him from a call that happened "a day before." 

"Three grown men putting all their weight on [Floyd] ... it's too much," she said. She stated that seeing the position of the officers was "concerning." 

She was concerned for Floyd's medical needs, stating his "face was smashed into the pavement." She also was concerned about some fluid seen coming from the area around Floyd. 

"And in a lot of cases, we see a patient release their bladder when they die. I can't tell you exactly where the fluid was coming from, but that's where my mind went," she told Frank. 

Hansen interacted with Thao, as he told her, "if you really are a Minneapolis firefighter, you would know better than to get involved," even though she was offering medical assistance to Floyd.

"Had they let me into the scene, I already decided his level of consciousness...  I would have called for medical assistance," Hansen said. She said the officers prevented her from doing that at the scene. Hansen also told the officers to start chest compressions if they weren't going to let her.

She says without a doubt, Floyd needed medical assistance. Hansen described her decision-making in recording a video on her phone. 

"Memories of witnesses are never going to be as good as a video," she explained. 

She noted she felt helpless that night of the incident. 

"There was a man being killed. Had I had access to a call similar to that, I would've been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities and this human was denied that right," Hansen stated. 

The defense is now cross-examining Hansen. 

His questioning is positioned around her fire department duties, not medical services. Hansen explains the difference between being an EMT and a paramedic.

Nelson asked if Hansen has ever been told she was doing her job wrong and if anyone has yelled at her while doing her job, to which she said no, and added "I'm very confident in the training that I've been given."

Hansen believes the response time the fire department arrived on the scene was "abnormal."  She noted that Fire Station 17 is "a couple blocks away" from where the incident happened. 

Nelson also discussed with Hansen NARCAN. He asked if people who come out of out an overdose can be combative, to which she said yes, but noted that isn't always the case.

When asked about her "loud and frustrated" demeanor, she said to Nelson "I don't know if you have ever seen anyone die in front of you but that's what it feels like."

Judge Cahill stepped in and advised Hansen to only answer questions from the attorneys and to not argue. He asked the jury to leave the room, and the judge instructed Hansen to not argue with the court. The witness has been sent home for the day, and will be back again on Wednesday morning. 

The court also addressed an issue with a woman seen taking pictures on the secured floor in the courthouse. A deputy took the woman's phone.  The woman said she is Darnella Frazier's media representative. The judge explained that this was not allowed, and asked her to delete the pictures. He advised her to let others know that pictures are not allowed. The court returned the phone to her.

Court is adjourned for the day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related Stories

Credits

WDIO/KSTP

Copyright 2021 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

Judge postpones trial for 3 ex-cops charged in Floyd’s death

Superior Mayor announces summer plans

New owner needed for lighthouse in Duluth

Life House celebrates 30 years of service

Cirrus plane involved in mid-air crash

Get creative for the annual Bookmark Design Contest