Friend with George Floyd on day of arrest to appear today in Derek Chauvin murder trial

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Paul Walsh, Star Tribune
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

A seventh day of testimony is on tap in the Derek Chauvin murder trial, but the jurors will not be present when a witness to George Floyd's arrest speaks in court Tuesday.

Morries L. Hall was with Floyd on that night late last spring, when Floyd was apprehended by police outside a corner store in south Minneapolis and pinned on the pavement under an officer's knee until dying.

Hall has said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination and not testify as ordered in the fired police officer's trial in Hennepin County District Court.

On Monday, presiding Judge Peter Cahill has directed Hall, who is in jail on unrelated criminal allegations, to appear virtually and address his intention not to testify.

Floyd's girlfriend, Courteney Ross, testified last week that Hall provided Floyd with illicit drugs earlier in the month before Floyd died on May 25. Chauvin's defense has been contending that opioids, and not the officer's restraint technique, were a key factor in Floyd's death that night.

In his opening statement, defense attorney Eric Nelson said Hall would testify that Floyd consumed two pills in the car before police arrived, fell asleep and could not be awakened.

The judge agreed that the 42-year-old Hall can wear civilian clothes instead of jail scrubs for the court appearance.

Hall was sitting in the front passenger seat of a vehicle with Floyd, when police approached Floyd about using a fake $20 bill at Cup Foods in south Minneapolis. Floyd was soon arrested, pinned on the pavement by police and lapsed into unconsciousness while being held down for more than 9 minutes.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the killing of Floyd. Three other fired officers who assisted in Floyd's 2020 arrest — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — are scheduled to be tried in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.

Monday's testimony focused heavily on officer training and how Chauvin's actions in detaining Floyd did not comply with what he was taught, according to the prosecution.

Nelson countered that policy wording gives officers latitude during arrests, and flexibility about how and when to provide medical attention to a suspect.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who previously called Floyd's death a "murder," testified and placed the responsibility for the death on Chauvin.

"Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting — and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that — that should have stopped," the chief said after spelling out department policy on when to use force vs. calming a situation through de-escalation tactics.

"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, that in no way shape or form is anything that is by policy. It's not part of our training and is certainly not part of our ethics or values."

Under cross examination by Nelson, Arradondo acknowledged that officers sometimes need to take control of a situation. The chief also agreed that department policy affords an officer flexibility under evolving circumstances for when to use force or choose to de-escalate an encounter with someone resisting arrest.

Next up was Katie Blackwell, the Fifth Precinct Minneapolis police inspector who formerly headed up training for the department when Floyd was killed.

Blackwell was shown a photo from the viral video of Chauvin on Floyd's neck and was asked whether that is a tactic the police are taught. "I don't know what kind of improvised position this is," she said.

The first to testify Monday was Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, the emergency room physician at HCMC who examined Floyd and declared him dead soon after he arrived by ambulance. He said he tried various measures for 30 minutes to save his patient.

Langenfeld testified that Floyd never had a heartbeat "sufficient to sustain life," and he believed Floyd's cardiac arrest was due to a lack of oxygen, or asphyxia. He said he did not believe Floyd's cardiac arrest was the result of a heart attack.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482