Chauvin trial: Witnesses give emotional testimonies


Photo courtesy of NBC News.

American former police Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for the murder of George Floyd. This trial made many Americans revisit Floyd’s final moments of his life.

Alex Hopper, News Editor

Ten months after the death of George Floyd, the murder trial of Derek Chauvin forces America to re-confront the shocking video that sparked national outrage last year.

On May 25, 2020, former police officer Chauvin knelt on the neck of George Floyd during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill.  

Bystanders tried to answer Floyd’s calls for help as he struggled to breathe. 

The principal video evidence posted to social media relayed a chain of national protests that demanded Chauvin’s arrest as well as institutional change within America’s police departments. 

Chauvin now faces 3 separate charges – second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. All of the which he has pleaded “not-guilty” to. 

Defense attorney Eric Nelson’s opening statements in the trial argued that the video footage the world watched did not fully capture the complexity of the moment. 

He argued Chauvin “followed his police training,” and that the “hostile bystanders” distracted Chauvin from his duties. 

Lastly, he said that Floyd’s death was a result of his prior drug use and pre existing health issues.  

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, revealed to the jury that Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for a total of nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds – longer than the previously understood eight minutes and forty-six seconds. 

Blackwell, opened up the prosecution saying that 9-2-9 were the “three most important numbers in this case.” Nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds was all it took for Chauvin to “squeeze the very life” out of Floyd.

The first round of emotional witness testimonies created a strong case against Chauvin – arguably one that the defense will struggle to overcome. 

One witness, Donald Wynn Williams, who can be heard pleading for Chauvin to get off of Floyd in the original video, called the police on Chauvin after Floyd had been taken away in the ambulance. 

Upon hearing his original 9-1-1 call, Williams became emotional on the stand. 

“I called the police on the police. I believed I witnessed a murder,” said Williams. 

The teenager who took the original video footage, Darnella Frazier, also testified. 

When seeing what happened to Floyd, Frazier said she saw her own Black father, brothers, and friends.

“I look at that and I look at how that could have been one of them,” said Frazier. 

Frazier also expressed her guilt for “not doing more” on the scene to help Floyd. 

“It’s been nights I’ve stayed up apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting,” said Frazier through tears. “But it’s not what I should have done, it’s what he [Chauvin] should have done.”

Among the bystander witnesses was Frazier’s nine-year-old cousin. 

“I was sad and kind of mad,” she said. “Because it felt like he was stopping his breathing, and it was kind of like hurting him.”

One off duty Minneapolis firefighter, Genevieve Hansen, said she repeatedly asked the officers to check for Floyd’s pulse – they refused. 

Under cross examination, Nelson asked Hansen about the claim that the on-lookers were angry and threatening to the point that Chauvin could not perform his job correctly. 

“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen someone die in front of you, but it’s very upsetting,” said Hansen. 

Many witnesses broke down in tears while giving their testimonies – demonstrating the strong emotions each one feels towards the events of May 25. 

The paramedics who treated Floyd provided evidence as to whether or not Floyd died at the scene. 

They testified that he was unresponsive, and “not breathing” when they arrived.

“In layman terms,” said Paramedic Derek Smith, “I thought he was dead.”

A condemning testimony came from Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the head of the homicide division for more than twelve years. 

Zimmerman said Chauvin’s level of force after Floyd was handcuffed and on the ground was “totally unnecessary.” 

Prosecutor Mathew Frank asked if Zimmerman was ever trained to kneel on a person, to which he said no. 

“Because if your knee is on someone’s neck, that could kill them,” said Zimmerman. 

Under cross, Nelson claimed that policing had “changed significantly” since Zimmerman received his training. He outlined Zimmerman’s limited use of force experience as an investigator in comparison to that of a patrol officer. 

Floyd’s family has also spoken about their experience watching the events from the courtroom. 

“All the witnesses, I just listen to them, and I see that not only do our family, the Floyd family, have to relive this, they have to relive this too,” said Floyd’s brother, Terrence. 

Floyd’s sister, Bridgett, explained that she refused to watch the opening statements of the case. 

“I am not ready to see the video of my brother being murdered,” she said.

She however commented on the defense’s claim that Floyd was killed by his use of drugs. 

“The drugs that they say they found in his system did not kill him. The world has seen how my brother left this world,” she said. 

The trial will continue on in it’s second week. The prosecution is expected to provide expert witnesses to prove that Chauvin’s knee caused Floyd’s death. 

Many advocates that stand with Floyd and his family say they are looking to this trial to see whether or not police officers will be held accountable for violence in the future, as they believe they haven’t been in the past. 

In a Minneapolis courtroom, America watches as this case’s verdict inches closer. A verdict that may create an irreversible precedent for the country moving forward.