Derek Chauvin trial: Floyd family say we’ll ‘breathe’ when officer is convicted – live updates
George Floyd’s family said they “will be able to breathe” when Derek Chauvin, the former officer who knelt on the unarmed black man for more than nine minutes, is convicted of his murder.
Speaking outside the Minneapolis courthouse where Mr Chauvin is on trial, the Floyd family on Tuesday described their anguish at having to “relive” Mr Floyd’s final moments during the proceedings.
“It causes them and many people to suffer PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” said Ben Crump, a lawyer representing the family.
Mr Crump said the trial, which entered its seventh day of testimony, has had a “psychological” toll on not just the family, but the global audience following the televised trial remotely.
Bystander footage of Mr Chauvin kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck as the 46-year-old pleaded for air triggered global protests against racial injustice and has been played repeatedly during the proceedings.
The Floyd family have sat through each day of testimony and said they had decided to hold a prayer session after a “tumultuous week” of watching Mr Floyd’s final moments on repeat.
They held a group prayer outside the courthouse alongside Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, another black man killed during a police restraint, and former New York Governor David Paterson.
Mr Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, told the group: “We’re going through hard times right now and we need people on our side to help us get through this.”
In a reference to his brother’s final words, he added: “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.”
It came as Mr Chauvin’s lawyer sought to argue that the former officer did not use a chokehold and his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck did not cause him to become unconscious, in the first glimpse of his defence strategy.
Prosecutors called Lt Johnny Mercil, a use-of-force instructor for the Minneapolis Police Department, to the stand to testify that Mr Chauvin had not used an authorised form of restraint.
Lt Mercil told prosecutors police are taught to “stay away from the neck when possible” and to put them in the recovery position as soon as feasible “because when you restrict their ability to move it can restrict their ability to breathe”.
However, Lt Mercil also agreed with the defence’s argument that there are scenarios in which it is appropriate to hold someone in a prone position until the scene is safe.
Under cross-examination from defence lawyer Eric Nelson, Lt Mercil testified that he did not observe Mr Chauvin use a chokehold on Mr Floyd.
Lt Mercil said he has trained hundreds of officers how to use a neck restraint, which is defined as constricting the sides of a person’s neck.
Lt Mercil told the defence that based on his experience, it takes “under ten seconds” for a person to become unconscious during a neck restraint.
Mr Nelson’s line of questioning laid the groundwork for him to argue that Mr Chauvin’s actions were reasonable and did not cause Mr Floyd to fall unconscious.
Asked by Mr Nelson if he has ever trained officers that if a person can talk, they can breathe, Lt Mercil responded: “It’s been said, yes.”
Lt Mercil was called to testify as a witness for the prosecution, but his regular agreement with the defence’s line of questioning could be problematic as prosecutors seek to argue that Mr Chauvin used excessive force.
Just one juror needs to vote against conviction for Mr Chauvin to be acquitted.
Chauvin had training on ‘crisis’ situations
Earlier in the day, the court heard Mr Chauvin had received training on how to deal with “crisis” situations and use-of-force in 2016 and 2018.
Sergeant Ker Yang, who runs crisis-intervention training for Minneapolis Police, told the court that officers are taught to make critical decisions in dealing with people in crisis and to de-escalate the situation.
Sgt Yang testified that Mr Chauvin completed 40 hours of training in how to deal with suspects who are going through crisis.
He told the court that police are trained in crisis intervention incidents to use principles such as neutrality, respect and trust, and how to spot and interact with suspects who are going through crisis.
Proseuctors also showed Lt Mercil a photograph of Mr Chauvin kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck and asked if he was using an authorised neck restraint under the circumstances.
“I would say no,” he told the court.
Mr Chauvin, 45, is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter and third-degree murder.
Key witness seeks to avoid testimony
A key witness to Mr Floyd’s fatal arrest sought to avoid testifying in Mr Chauvin’s murder trial earlier on Tuesday.
Morries Hall, who was with Mr Floyd in his car shortly before his death, has argued that giving evidence in the case could incriminate him on separate charges.
Mr Hall is currently in custody and appeared by video camera for a hearing on the matter after he was subpoenaed to testify.
“There’s really a very small narrow topic that might be permissible,” Judge Peter Cahill said as Mr Hall’s lawyers argued that it was impossible for him to be cross-examined without incriminating himself.
The defence are eager to question Mr Hall on the events leading up to Mr Floyd’s arrest for using an alleged counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes on May 25 last year.
Prosecutors are seeking to prove that Mr Floyd’s death was due to asphyxiation, caused by Mr Chauvin kneeling on him for more than nine minutes.
The defence claims the 46-year-old died from heart arrhythmia brought on by illegal drugs in his system and underlying heart problems.
Mr Nelson confirmed he wanted to ask if Mr Hall sold or gave Mr Floyd drugs.
Mr Hall’s lawyer told the court: “there’s an allegation here that Mr Floyd ingested a controlled substance as police were removing him from the car… This leaves Mr Hall potentially incriminating himself.”
The judge said he would rule later on Mr Hall’s request not to testify.
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