Following weeks of jury selection, the trial of fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin began with opening statements on March 29, 2021. Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd in south Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.
As required, the prosecution presented its case first. Here are the witnesses who have been called to testify so far.
Witnesses for the prosecution:
1. Jena Scurry, the 911 dispatcher who handled the call that resulted in Chauvin and the other officers responding to the intersection where Floyd was detained. Jena Scurry detailed how she was troubled by seeing on wall-mounted dispatch screens how Floyd's arrest played out on city surveillance cameras.She said she glanced up at the screens and saw a police squad moving "back and forth" as officers dealt with Floyd, then moments later take him to the pavement. Multiple times she looked away and then back to see the same image of the officers keeping Floyd on the pavement. It was then that "something was not right. It was an extended period of time," she said. "It was a gut instinct, now we can be concerned."
Scurry said she called a supervisory sergeant and reported what she saw. "I don't know, you can call me a snitch if you want to but we have the cameras up for [squad] 320's call, and … I don't know if they had to use force or not, but they got something out of the back of the squad, and all of them sat on this man, so I don't know if they needed you or not, but they haven't said anything to me yet," the dispatcher is heard by the jury saying in her call to the sergeant.
2. Alisha Oyler, a Speedway employee at 38thand Chicago who witnessed Floyd's arrest and testified that she recorded several brief video clips of Floyd's arrest and turned them over soon after to police. Oyler said under prosecution questioning that she made the videos because "police is always messing with people ... and it's not right."
3. Donald Williams II, a witness at the scene of 38thand Chicago who urged Derek Chauvin to get off Floyd's neck and to check Floyd's pulse. Williams told the court that as a longtime mixed martial arts fighterhe was familiar with how Chauvin had Floyd pinned to the pavement. Williams recognized it from his training as a "blood choke." He added it can lead to someone falling unconscious."You see Floyd fade away like the fish in the bag," he said. "He vocalized that he can't breathe and 'I'm sorry.' His eyes rolled back in his head." As Williams watched the viral video shot by a fellow bystander,he told the court that Chauvin was shifting his weight on purposerepeatedly to tighten the hold on Floyd's neck, what the witness called a "shimmy."
4. Darnella Frazier, the teenager, now 18, who filmed the video seen worldwide of Floyd's death outside Cup Foods. "When I look at George Floyd I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles because they are all Black," she said. "I have a Black father, I have Black brothers, I have Black friends. I look at them and how it could have been one of them. It's been nights I've stayed up apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life, it's not what I should have done it's what he should have done."
Nelson was brief in his cross-examination, crafting his questions to set the scene as becoming increasingly hostile to the point of creating a potential threat to the officers. Frazier agreed with Nelson that bystanders were getting louder and more angry, but she added that she didn't think anyone was ever threatening to Chauvin.
5. Judeah Reynolds, the 9-year-old cousin to Frazier who also witnessed Floyd pleading for his life. "I was sad and kind of mad and it felt like it was stopping his breathing and it was hurting him," she said. Defense attorney Eric Nelson did not cross-examination the girl, who was then excused.
6. Alyssa Funari, who was 17 at the time she witnessed Floyd's death and began recording with her cell phone. Her previously unseen footage was played in court. "It was difficult because I felt like there wasn't really anything I could do," she said. "As a bystander I was powerless there, and I was failing to do anything."
7. Kaylynn Gilbert, who was also 17 when she arrived at Cup Foods with Funari. She said she had a "gut feeling" that something was wrong. "I saw (Chauvin) digging his knee into (Floyd's) neck more. He was putting a lot of pressure into his neck that was not needed."
8. Genevieve Hansen, aMinneapolis firefighter who was off-duty when she encountered the scene and attempted to render aid to Floyd, but was rebuffed by officers."There is a man being killed, and I would have been able to provide medical attentionto the best of my abilities, and this human was not provided that right," she said. Hansen, 27, a two-year member of the Fire Department, testified that Chauvin appeared "very comfortable with the majority of his weight balanced on top of Mr. Floyd" while pinning him to the pavement with his knee.
9. Christopher Martin, 19, the Cup Foods clerk who sold Floyd a pack of cigarettes and suspected the $20 bill Floyd used was counterfeit. After he attempted twice to get Floyd back in the store, his manager summoned the police. Martin was seen in exterior store video footage pacing about near the arrest scene and clasping his hands atop his head. Martin said he was feeling "disbelief and guilt." Why? He was asked. "If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided."
The clerk said that when he first saw the bill, "I noticed it had a blue pigment to it, kind of like a $100 bill would have, so I found that kind of odd and assumed it was fake."Martin said store policy meant he would have to pay for any counterfeit currency he or his co-workers accepted."I took it anyway and was willing to put it on my tab, and then I second guessed myself," he said.
10.Christopher Belfrey, who was with his fiancée and picking up something to eat from Cup Food that night, when he parked behind Floyd's SUV. He began recording a video with his phone when he saw Office Thomas Lane point a gun at Floyd and pull him out of the vehicle. He then moved his car across the street to avoid "commotion" and resumed recording as the officers sat Floyd on the pavement and questioned him. "It startled me when I seen the officer raise his gun, I started recording," he said.
11. Charles McMillian, who was the first witness on the scene after officers escorted Floyd from across the street, then struggled to get him into their squad car. McMillian, initially encouraged Floyd to cooperate because once in handcuffs "you can't win," he testified.McMillian cried on the stand as he described feeling "helpless."He confronted Chauvin after Floyd was taken away in an ambulance. "I think I said to him, 'Five days ago I told you at the end of the day go home to your family safe, and that the next person go home to their family safe, but today I gotta look at you as a maggot.'"
12. Lt. James Rugel, head of the Minneapolis Police Department's Business Technology Unit. He was on the stand while the state played body camera videos from officers Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Chauvin.
13. Courteney Ross,George Floyd's girlfriend for the three years leading up to his death. She testified about their relationship after she met him while visiting the Salvation Army Harbor Lights shelter where he was a security guard. They both struggled off and on with opioid addiction. Both suffered chronic pain and had prescriptions when they became addicted; they then began obtaining the drugs off the street. She said Floyd typically used oxycodone and obtained them through other people's prescriptions to ensure that they were safe. Shortly before Floyd's death, they had taken a pill that acted more as a stimulant, Ross said.
"Both Floyd and I, our story is a classic story is of how we both get addicted to opioids," she testified. " ... We got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction many times."The defense has contended that illicit drug use played a role in Floyd dying and not anything Chauvin did to him on May 25.
14. Seth Bravinder, aHennepin EMS paramedic who responded with his partner to 38thand Chicago whereGeorge Floyd lay unconscious pinned beneath the three officers. Bravinder said "there were multiple officers on top of the patient, we assumed — I assumed — there was potentially some struggle still because they were still on top of him."
Bravinder and his partner loaded Floyd into the ambulance and began working on him. He said full cardiac arrest is "not a good sign for successful resuscitation. Basically, just because your heart isn't doing anything at that moment, it's not pumping blood. It's not a good sign for a good outcome."
15. Derek Smith, a Hennepin EMS paramedic and partner to Bravinder. He checked Floyd's pulse at the scene and immediately noted there was no pulse and Floyd's pupils were dilated. "I looked to my partner, I told him 'I think he's dead, and I want to move this out of here and begin care in the back,' " Smith said, noting the agitated crowd of bystanders.
However, they continued to work on Floyd in the ambulance, including directing Officer Thomas Lane to deliver chest compressions while they attempted various lifesaving attempts en route to HCMC.
Smith said Floyd never regained a pulse, but they continued attempting to save him. "He's a human," Smith said. "I was trying to give him a second chance at life."
16. Capt. Jeremy Norton, a Minneapolis Fire captain who responded to 38thand Chicago, where the ambulance carrying Floyd had already left. He encountered an"agitated to distraught" off-duty firefighter Genevieve Hansenand other bystanders. He made his way to the ambulance, where Floyd was "an unresponsive body on a cot." Afterward, he called his supervisors to report what happened.
"I was worried that a man had been killed in police custody…and then I also wanted to notify my supervisor that there was an off-duty firefighter that was a witness at the scene."
17. David Pleoger, a retired Minneapolis police sergeant in the Third Precinct who was supervisor to Chauvin and the other three officers the night of Floyd's death. He fielded concerns through 911 dispatch on May 25 about possible excessive use of force by officers while detaining Floyd. He then headed to the scene while questioning Chauvin on what happened.Chauvin did not immediately tell him that he placed his knee on Floyd's neck.The officer said Floyd was going "crazy [and] wouldn't go in the back of the squad."
When Chauvin did disclose later that night that he used his knee to hold down Floyd, he did not say for how long, the sergeant added. The sergeant, who reviewed officers' body-worn camera video, was asked when use of force against Floyd should have ended. He replied: "When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint."
18. Third Precinct Sgt. Jon Edwards, who was working the overnight "dogwatch" shift on May 25, the night Floyd died. Edwards was summoned to 38thand Chicago to secure the scene after Floyd was taken to HCMC. Officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng were still at the intersection. Edwards ordered them to turn on their body-worn cameras on and step out of their squad so it could be secured. The sergeant attempted to interview witnesses, but the only one, Charles McMillian, refused to give his name or speak with Edwards.
19. Police Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who said it was "totally unnecessary"for Chauvin to put his knee on a handcuffed Floyd's neck during his arrest. Zimmerman, a 36-year veteran of the department and head of the homicide unit, minced no words when testifying based on his viewing video from the officers' body-worn cameras. He said, "First of all pulling him down to the ground face down and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for. I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger."
Under cross examination, defense attorney Eric Nelson noted that as an investigator, Zimmerman rarely has to use force compared to a patrol officer. Zimmerman also acknowledged under questioning that situations can be fluid, and officers must quickly adapt to what he called "scene security." "So you're gonna assess, are there people watching, are there people videotaping, are those people happy or angry, etc., right?" asked Nelson. "Yes," said Zimmerman.
20. 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. He 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.
"At the time it was not completely possible to rule that out," he said, "but I felt it was less likely based on the information available to us."
21. Chief Medaria Arradondo, who has served as the 700-member force's police chief for the past three years. He went on the record less than a month after Floyd died and called it "murder." On Monday, Arradondoplaced the responsibility for Floyd's death on Chauvin in his testimonyusing terms that were just as clear but less stark.
"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.
"There's an initial reasonableness of trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds," the chief continued, "but 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 defense attorney Eric Nelson, Arradondo acknowledged that officers sometimes need to take control of a situation. "Would you agree that the use of force is not an attractive notion?" Nelson asked.
"I would say the use of force is something that most officers would rather not use," Arradondo said. 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.
22. Inspector Katie Blackwell, theFifth Precinct Inspector for the Minneapolis Police Department, 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," said Blackwell, who has known Chauvin for about 20 years, when they were both community service officers.
She also walked through records showing the various training that Chauvin received in 2016 and 2018, which included when a suspected is detained facedown and handcuffed. As heard multiple times in previous testimony during the prosecution's case, the person should be put "in the side recovery position or an upright position … as soon as possible," or run the risk of asphyxiation."
23. Sgt. Ker Yang, a Minneapolis police department crisis trainer who explained that listening is key to crisis intervention. Voice, neutrality, respect and trust are at the core of the model on how an officer should approach a crisis situation. "It is useful [and] it is practical," he said. "When it is safe and feasible, we shall de-escalate."
24. Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use of force trainer with Minneapolis Police Department. He is experienced in martial arts, particularly Brazilian Jiujitsu, a form of martial arts that results in leverage and body control. Derek Chauvin was on his training roster. He testified about "red zones, where injury tends to range from serious to long lasting and could include serious bodily injury or death. Areas included the head, neck and sternum, among others. Conscious and unconscious neck restraint should only be used in cases of active resistance andaggression, respectively, he said.
"You want to use the least amount of force necessary to meet your objective to control, if those lower uses of force do not work or are too unsafe to try you can increase your level of force against that person."
25. Officer Nicole Mackenzie, a medical support coordinator for the Minneapolis police department, responsible for CPR and other classes for officers. She said police have a responsibility to both call ambulance and render aid "if it's a critical situation." She testified that being able to talk doesn't mean you're necessarily able to breathe. She testified that agonal breathing, or a brainstem reflex that causes gasping, could be misinterpreted as breathing. "Somebody could be in respiratory distress and still be able to verbalize it," she said. "Just because they're speaking doesn't mean they're breathing adequately."
26. Sgt. Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department police officer of 28 years and use of force expert hired by the state. He reviewed the materials and deemed the use of force against Floyd "excessive." Initially when Mr. Floyd was being placed in the backseat of the vehicle, the officers were justified in trying to have him comply and sit in the backseat of the vehicle," Stiger said. "However, once he was placed in the prone position on the ground, he slowly ceased his resistance and the officers—or ex-officers I should say—should have slowed down or stopped their force.
Stiger also testified that officers' body-worn camera video from one of the officers showed Chauvin using "his right hand and appeared to use a pain compliance on Mr. Floyd's hand." Chauvin appeared to accomplish this by "squeezing fingers or bringing knuckles together, which can cause pain or pulling the hand into the cuff, which can cause pain as well." When someone cannot comply, he said, "At that point, it's just pain." He also testified that placing a person prone on the ground runs the risk of positional asphyxiation, and placing weight on that person heightens the risk.
27. Special Agent James Reyerson of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and part of the agency's use of force investigation group. Reyerson testified about taking photos of Chauvin, processing videos and other evidence, including the squad and the vehicle Floyd was driving, along with items found inside the vehicle: a pill, some dollar bills, a pipe. He testified that Chauvin kept his weight on a handcuffed George Floyd's neck for minutes after Floyd was no longer talking or moving during the incident late last spring.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson also played a short clip of Floyd from Kueng's body camera during which he was pleading with the officers. Did it appear that Mr. Floyd said "'I ate too many drugs?'" Nelson asked.
"Yes, it did," Reyerson said.
When Frank later played a longer version of the video in court, Reyerson reversed course.
"Yes, I believe Mr. Floyd was saying, 'I ain't do no drugs,'" the agent said.
28. McKenzie Anderson, a forensic scientist for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. She processed both the Mercedes Benz Floyd was in and Squad 320 on the first processing of the squad, she tested eight stains, seven of them blood, that tested positive for George Floyd's DNA. She reprocessed the squad at defense attorneys' request in January and found what appeared to be a pill and other apparent remnants in the backseat of the squad. It tested positive for George Floyd's DNA.
29. Breahna Giles, a chemical forensic scientist for the BCA. She testified that the pills found inside the Mercedes contained methamphetamine and fentanyl. The partial pill and other traces of it tested positive for methamphetamine, and in the case of the largest partial pill, another substance was detected, but there was not enough of it to conclusively identify it, she said.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson asked Giles if the trace substance was fentanyl.
"I can't confirm," she said.
"You can't say it was or wasn't fentanyl?"
"Yes," she said.
30. Susan Neith, a forensic chemist at NMS labs in Pennsylvania. She tested the two pills found in the Mercedes and the partial found in the squad. All three pills contained a fentanyl concentration of less than 1%, which she said is common. The pills contained a methamphetamine concentration of 1.9 to 2.9%, which she said was atypically low.
"The majority of the time I see 90 to 100% methamphetamine," she said.
31. Dr. Martin Tobin, a physician in pulmonology and critical care at Hines VA hospital in Chicago, and Loyola University School of Medicine. In lengthy testimony, he concluded that "Floyd died from a low level of oxygen. This caused damage to his brain that we see, and it also caused a [pulseless electrical activity] arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop."
Floyd stopped breathing 23 seconds later and "didn't have an ounce of oxygen in his body" less than a minute after losing consciousness, Tobin said. He noted the moment Floyd died when shown the bystander video of his final moments. "At the beginning you can see he's conscious, you can see slight flickering and then it disappears, so one second he's alive and one second he's no longer," Tobin said. " ... That's the moment the life goes out of his body."
32. Daniel Isenschmid, a forensic toxicologist at NMS Labs in Pennsylvania. He testified that while fentanyl was found in Floyd's blood, so was norfentanyl, which is metabolized fentanyl. Overdose victims rarely have norfentanyl in their blood, he said. He testified that Floyd's ratio of fentanyl to norfentanyl was 1.96 ng/ml. This is compared to the average ratio of 9.05 in postmortem cases and 3.2 in driving under the influence cases. Floyd's level of methamphetamine, 19 ng/ml, was in the bottom 5.9% of a sample of DUI methamphetamine cases.
"Does this show Mr. Floyd was below the average and even below the median in DUI cases?" prosecutor Erin Eldridge asked. "Yes," Isenschmid said.
33. Dr. Bill Smock, a specialist in legal forensic medicine and former emergency room doctor at the University of Louisville's trauma center. He works as a police surgeon for the Louisville Police Department. He reviewed videos from Floyd's arrest and other case records and concluded that he died from a lack of oxygen and not from a fentanyl overdose. Much of what he testified supported Tobin's conclusions about Floyd's deteriorating condition and movements in his effort to keep breathing.
Smock said Floyd was not snoring, had dilated pupils, and was talking and saying "I can't breathe."
Smock testified that Floyd also showed no signs at the scene of a diagnosis called excitable delirium. He also addressed the need for CPR, "way before it was. As soon as Mr. Floyd was unconscious, he should have been rolled over. ... When they can't find a pulse, CPR should have been started."