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George Floyd's friend 'who sold him drugs' will NOT be forced to testify for Derek Chauvin's defense, judge rules, after denying motion for acquittal

 George Floyd's friend and alleged drug dealer will not be forced to testify for the defense at Derek Chauvin's murder trial, the judge ruled today. 

Morries Lester Hall, who was in the car with Floyd on the day he died outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis, appeared in court on Wednesday morning to make his case against being subpoenaed by the defense. 

Defense attorney Eric Nelson had hoped Hall's testimony would help shift blame for Floyd's death onto himself, for his drug use and other health problems. 

On March 31, Hall filed a shock motion stating his intention to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination if called to testify for either side. 

The motion came hours before the jury heard testimony from Floyd's girlfriend, Courteney Ross, who claimed both she and Floyd were supplied illicit drugs by Hall - who denied that allegation. Under Minnesota law a person who provides drugs to a person who subsequently dies of an overdose is liable for third degree murder charges. 

Standing briefly before the judge on Wednesday, his hair pulled back and smartly dressed in suit and tie, Hall said: 'I am fearful of criminal charges going forward [because] I have open charges not settled yet.' 

Hall's lawyer, state defender Adrienne Cousins said that for Hall to answer anything would be for him to present himself 'on a silver platter' to the state should they pursue any third degree murder investigation.

Judge Peter Cahill ruled that this was a valid invocation of the Fifth Amendment and quashed the subpoena calling Hall to testify. 

Morries Lester Hall, George Floyd's friend who was with him on the day he died, appeared in court at Derek Chauvin's murder trial on Wednesday as the judge ruled that he will not be forced to testify for the defense
Hall is pictured in body-camera footage from the day Floyd died

Morries Lester Hall, George Floyd's friend who was with him on the day he died, appeared in court at Derek Chauvin's murder trial on Wednesday as the judge ruled that he will not be forced to testify for the defense

Floyd's friend 'who sold him drugs' will not have to testify
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Video showed Hall (left) in the Cup Foods store with Floyd (right) moments before his fatal confrontation with police

Video showed Hall (left) in the Cup Foods store with Floyd (right) moments before his fatal confrontation with police 


Cahill ruled on the subpoena moments after denying a defense motion to acquit Chauvin without sending his case to the jury.  

Nelson made the dramatic bid to have his client acquitted ahead of proceedings Wednesday morning, arguing that the evidence brought by the state did not prove either the unreasonableness of Chauvin's use of force or the cause of Floyd's death.

According to Nelson, by calling multiple witnesses in both use of force and cause of death, the state had introduced doubt through the myriad of contradictory opinions they had expressed.

In a brief hearing Nelson said: 'The defense has failed to produce sufficient evidence even in the light most favorable to the state [on] use of force and whether the use of force was reasonable as well as the cause of death of Mr Floyd.'

Nelson told the court that what the state had essentially done was provide six different opinions from six different police experts with only Professor Seth Stoughton and LAPD Sergeant Jody Stiger actually agreeing that Chauvin's use of force became unreasonable when Floyd ceased struggling.

Minneapolis Police Department Lt Richard Zimmerman told the jury it was unreasonable once Floyd was in handcuffs, Nelson said, while Chief Medaria Arradondo approached it from a civil employment point of view finding the force a violation of policy.

Nelson noted that while doctors Martin Tobin, William Smock and Lindsey Thomas all concluded Floyd died from asphyxia, Chief Medical Examiner Dr Andrew Baker concluded that his heart simply could not handle the stress of the situation in which he found himself.

Baker also the fact that Baker said he labeled Floyd's death a homicide 'for medical purposes only'.  

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher refuted Nelson's arguments by saying the state had established all of the evidence on all of the points.

Denying the motion, Judge Cahill pointed out that, unlike a jury whose duty is to presume innocence, his duty was to view the case presented by the state in the most favorable light. 

Defense attorney Eric Nelson (pictured) filed his motion to acquit Chauvin on Wednesday morning, arguing the evidence brought by the state did not prove either the unreasonableness of Chauvin's use of force or the cause of Floyd's death
Derek Chauvin is pictured in court on Wednesday his motion for acquittal was denied by Judge Peter Cahill

Defense attorney Eric Nelson (left) filed his motion to acquit Chauvin (right) on Wednesday morning, arguing the evidence brought by the state did not prove either the unreasonableness of Chauvin's use of force or the cause of Floyd's death


Wednesday's proceedings followed a third night of protests in Minneapolis over the police killing of 20-year-old black man Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in the suburb of Brooklyn Center, less than 10 miles from where Floyd was killed. 

Chauvin pleaded not guilty to three counts in connection with Floyd's May 25 death: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. 

It is unclear whether the 45-year-old will take the stand in his own defense. 

If convicted on the most serious count, Chauvin faces a possible 40 years in prison. 

If found guilty of manslaughter he faces a maximum penalty of ten years though he could be free within five.

Much hangs on the outcome of this trial – not least the likely fates of former police officers Thomas Lane, 38; J Alexander Keung, 27; and Tou Thao, 35; the three officers currently awaiting trial for aiding and abetting in Floyd's death. 

At the center of Chauvin's defense is the argument that Floyd's death was not caused by the officer's actions but by outside factors - namely Floyd's drug addiction and underlying health conditions, including a bad heart.  

Nelson made two other key arguments in his opening statement: that use of force is an unattractive but essential component of policing, and that the hostile crowd that surrounded Chauvin and fellow officers as they restrained Floyd had distracted them from proper procedure and care. 

Judge Peter Cahill has said he expects the defense to wrap up his case by the end of this week, with closing arguments beginning Monday. 

The first witness called on Wednesday was Dr David Fowler, the former chief medical examiner of Maryland, who told the jury that Chauvin did not cause any significant injury to Floyd's neck when he pinned the handcuffed black man to the asphalt.  

Contrary to all other medical experts, including Dr Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County chief medical examiner who performed Floyd's autopsy, Fowler concluded that Floyd died from a 'sudden cardiac arrhythmia' due to his underlying heart disease during his restraint by police.

Among the 'significant contributing conditions' that he listed was the presence of fentanyl and methamphetamine, paraganglioma - the adrenalin secreting-tumor that Floyd had - and his exposure to the squad car exhaust which could, Fowler stated, have caused some degree of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Fowler also said that Floyd had an enlarged heart, which meant he needed more oxygen to function, and that methamphetamine use heightened his risk of cardiac arrhythmia. 

Later in his lengthy and technical testimony, Fowler cited multiple studies which challenged the notion that the prone position - in which Floyd was held for nine minutes and 29 seconds - is inherently dangerous. 

He also referenced studies which concluded that it doesn't matter how much a person weighs if they are applying a single knee to another person - and a double knee restraint makes only a modest difference.

According to those studies a person transfers just 23 percent of their bodyweight during a double knee restraint. So, Dr Fowler said, Chauvin – who he viewed as applying a single knee restraint for most of the restraint – would have been applying less than 30 to 35 pounds of weight to Floyd.

Asked if any of that weight compromised Floyd's neck structures, Fowler said: 'None of the vital structures.'

'There was absolutely no evidence of any injury to the skin or deeper structures of the back or neck,' he said, citing photos from Floyd's autopsy.

In fact, he said the pressure applied to Floyd was less than the amount necessary to even bruise him.

Dr David Fowler, the former chief medical examiner of Maryland, took the stand on Wednesday morning and testified that George Floyd died of 'sudden cardiac arrhythmia' when he was pinned to the ground by Derek Chauvin

Dr David Fowler, the former chief medical examiner of Maryland, took the stand on Wednesday morning and testified that George Floyd died of 'sudden cardiac arrhythmia' when he was pinned to the ground by Derek Chauvin 

Forensic Pathologist: Floyd died from 'sudden cardiac arrhythmia'
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The defense moved through its first six witnesses at a rapid pace on Tuesday, first focusing on one of Floyd's prior arrests and then on the events on the day of his death.  

Testimony from the sixth witness, use-of-force expert Barry Brodd, took up the bulk of the first day. 

Brodd, who has nearly three decades' experience in law enforcement and specializes in police and civilian defense cases, testified that Chauvin did not use deadly force against Floyd. 

In fact, Brodd argued that Chauvin's placing the handcuffed black man in the prone position and kneeling on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds did not constitute use of force at all.  

'It's a control technique. It doesn't hurt,' Brodd said. 'It's safe for the officer, safe for the suspect and you're using minimal effort to keep them on the ground.' 

During direct examination by Nelson, Brodd said Chauvin was 'justified' and acting 'with objective reasonableness' in his interactions with Floyd.  

He told the jury that police officers 'don't have to fight fair', explaining that they can use a level of force that is 'one up' from the level of any resistance. He noted that when dealing with suspects who are under the influence of drugs, officers can 'find themselves in a fight for their life in a heartbeat'. Floyd's autopsy showed levels of methamphetamine and fentanyl in his bloodstream. 

Brodd also leaned in to the defense narrative that Chauvin and his fellow officers felt 'threatened' by the gathering crowd. 

Brodd's confident testimony took a turn when prosecutor Steve Schleicher stepped up to cross examine him, wasting no time in tackling the assertion that keeping Floyd in the prone position did not constitute a use of force and did not hurt.

He asked Brodd if he truly believed that it is unlikely that 'orienting yourself on top of a person on the pavement with both legs [on top of them] is unlikely to produce pain?' Brodd conceded that it could. 

Schleicher countered that if that position could produce pain, by Brodd's logic, it could also constitute a use of force. 

Looking at the all-too-familiar image of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck, Brodd was forced to concede: 'Shown in this picture, that could be use of force' - but argued that Floyd had grown increasingly non-compliant. 

Schleicher then showed a screengrab of Floyd pinned to the ground and asked: 'What part of this is not compliant?'

Barry Brodd (pictured) testified on Tuesday that Derek Chauvin did not use deadly force against George Floyd

Barry Brodd (pictured) testified on Tuesday that Derek Chauvin did not use deadly force against George Floyd 

Refusing to deviate from his narrative Brodd insisted: 'I see his arm position. A compliant person would have both their hands in the small of their back and be resting comfortably.'

The disbelief clear in his voice, Schleicher asked: 'Did you say resting comfortably?'

'At this time when he's attempting to breathe by shoving his shoulder into the pavement,' Brodd replied. 

Before launching into his analysis Brodd noted that he's testified in 10 state and federal cases. The most high profile case was that of Jason Van Dyke, a Chicago police officer who shot dead black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014. 

In that case, Brodd told the court in 2018 that Van Dyke - who shot McDonald 16 times - was justified in his use of force because the teen was holding a knife. Van Dyke was ultimately convicted of murder and sentenced to 6.75 years in prison. 

Brodd's analysis of Chauvin's actions stood in stark contrast to testimony the jury heard last week when the prosecution called use-of-force expert LAPD Sergeant Jody Stiger, as well as a host of Minneapolis police officers, including the most senior officer in the department, Lieutenant Richard Zimmerman, and the Chief of Police himself, Medaria Arradondo.

Those witnesses had described Chauvin's use of force as excessive, unreasonable and a 'violation' of his badge, police ethics and the 'highest principal' of policing – a respect of the sanctity of human life.

The state rested on compelling testimony from use-of-force expert Professor Seth Stoughton, who concluded that: 'No reasonable officers would have believed that was an appropriate acceptable or reasonable use of force.' 

Brodd said Chauvin was 'justified' and acting 'with objective reasonableness' in his interactions with Floyd on May 25, 2020
George Floyd

Brodd said Chauvin was 'justified' and acting 'with objective reasonableness' in his interactions with Floyd on May 25, 2020 

Police expert says Chauvin did NOT use deadly force against Floyd
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In his cross examination of Brodd, Schleicher referred to Stoughton's distinction between threat and risk, asking: 'Would you agree that a threat is showing some sort of intention to do you harm?' Brodd agreed.

Schleicher asked, 'Would you agree that officers are authorized to use force to respond to threat, but not to a mere risk?' Merely being intoxicated or being large did not present threats but risks, he said. 

Brodd agreed, stating that there would need to be a 'third element' – the actions of the suspect – to convert that risk into threat.

Schleicher used this line of argument to undercut the defense's suggestion that either Floyd or the crowd presented anything beyond a risk to Chauvin and his fellow officers. 

The prosecutor increased his pressure on Brodd by showing body-camera footage where Floyd could clearly be heard saying that he couldn't breathe, that his stomach hurt, his neck hurt, that 'everything hurts'.

Without any audible distraction from the crowd Chauvin could be heard acknowledging each of the complaints saying, 'Uh huh' several times.

Asked if he heard Floyd say: 'My neck hurts', Brodd first said that he did not before amending his answer to say: 'I heard it. I didn't necessarily note it.' 

Brodd went on to characterize Floyd's weakening state as 'becoming more compliant' before admitting that there had been no non-compliance immediately before in the video shown. 

Nelson tried to rehabilitate his witness on redirect, pulling focus back to the fact that Floyd had avoided being pushed into the squad car.  

In cross examination Brodd was asked to break down specific components of Chauvin's restraint

In cross examination Brodd was asked to break down specific components of Chauvin's restraint

Earlier in the day the jury was shown new footage of Floyd's friends - Morries Hall and Shawanda Hill - watching his fatal arrest outside the Cup Foods store. 

The video was recorded by a body-camera worn by Minneapolis Park Police Officer Peter Chang, who arrived on the scene after fellow officers had already confronted Floyd and was instructed to keep an eye on Hall and Hill.   

Impatient to leave, Chang told the pair they must wait until 'after all this is settled'.

'Don't you hear your friend talking and yelling over there?' the officer asked before telling them: 'Stay put guys. I don't want to be involved in that.'

Later when Hill and Hall were told that Floyd had been taken to the hospital, Hill was heard asking frantically: 'What happened to him?'  

Hill took the stand and told how she had struggled to wake Floyd up when he fell asleep in his car moments before police were called to Cup Foods to investigate claims he'd used a counterfeit $20 bill. 

Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson hoped Hill's narrative would support the defense's contention that Floyd was under the influence of drugs that may have contributed to his death. 

At times hard to hear and irritable, Hill described how Floyd was 'happy, normal' and 'alert' when she bumped into him in Cup Foods and he offered to drive her home.   

But back in the car Hill said she saw that Floyd had suddenly fallen asleep before Cup Foods clerks came out to confront him about using a counterfeit $20 bill. 

By then, she said: 'He was already sleeping. When they came to the car and when they came try to wake him up, I tried to wake him up over and over, he kept, he'd wake up, then say something, then nodded back off. He did that a couple of times.'

Hill went onto relate how she had struggled to get Floyd to focus when the officers Thomas Lane and J Alexander Keung arrived, telling him: 'Baby that's the police, open the door, roll down the window.'

Hill said Floyd was 'startled' when Lane pulled his gun, prompting him to grab at the steering wheel and plead: 'Please don't shoot me, please don't shoot me.' 

In his brief cross-examination Assistant Attorney General Frank Matthew established that, despite his sleepiness, Floyd was not short of breath or complaining of chest pains at any point. 

Body cam shows Floyd's friends asking where he went
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The jury was shown new footage on Tuesday of Floyd's friends watching his fatal arrest outside the Cup Foods store on May 25, 2020. Pictured: A screengrab of the footage recorded by Minneapolis Park Police Officer Peter Chang's camera shows Officer Thomas Lane speaking with Floyd's friends Shawanda Hill and Morries Hall near where Officer J Alexander Keung stood over Floyd in handcuffs

The jury was shown new footage on Tuesday of Floyd's friends watching his fatal arrest outside the Cup Foods store on May 25, 2020. Pictured: A screengrab of the footage recorded by Minneapolis Park Police Officer Peter Chang's camera shows Officer Thomas Lane speaking with Floyd's friends Shawanda Hill and Morries Hall near where Officer J Alexander Keung stood over Floyd in handcuffs 

Chang kept and eye on Hall and Hill as they watched officers struggle to get Floyd into a squad car from across the street

Chang kept and eye on Hall and Hill as they watched officers struggle to get Floyd into a squad car from across the street

Derek Chauvin defense attorney questions Shawanda Hill
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Chang took the stand after Hill and described a relatively calm scene on his arrival at Cup Foods, where he saw Keung next to Floyd who was seated on the ground, handcuffed and leaning against the wall outside Dragon Wok restaurant. 

Chang told the court that he had been 'concerned for the officers' safety' due to the 'very aggressive crowd' that gathered outside Cup Foods on 38th and Chicago as police struggled with and subdued Floyd. 

Minneapolis Park Police Officer Peter Chang was the fourth witness to testify for the defense on Tuesday

Minneapolis Park Police Officer Peter Chang was the fourth witness to testify for the defense on Tuesday

At the start of Tuesday's proceedings the jury was shown video of Floyd telling a police officer: 'I don't want to be shot' during an arrest in May 2019, as the defense sought to convey that he had a history of feigning medical distress and swallowing drugs when confronted by cops. 

Nelson argued that the footage showed Floyd's 'modus operandi' when approached under 'remarkably similar' circumstances to those of the day he died, May 25, 2020. 

Retired Minneapolis police officer Scott Creighton testified as the court watched body-camera footage of the arrest on May 6, 2019. 

Creighton told the jury that Floyd was not responsive and that he had to 'physically reach in [to the car] because I wanted to see his hands.'

In the video Floyd can be heard saying: 'I don't want to be shot' before Creighton pulled him out of the car. 

Under cross examination by Erin Eldridge, Creighton observed that the situation had 'escalated really quick' once Floyd refused to show his hands and that he was compelled to pull his gun.

He described Floyd as 'incoherent' but able to walk and talk. 

On re-direct Nelson asked if Creighton had heard his partner instructing Floyd to 'spit it out'. Creighton said, he may have done.    

Retired paramedic Michelle Moseng, who was called to provide medical care to Floyd during the May 2019 arrest, testified that he was agitated and upset and told her that he had been taking seven to nine opioids – oxy and Percocet – every twenty minutes throughout the day and another just before the officer had approached the car.   

The jury was shown new video of Floyd arrest on May 6, 2019, on Tuesday as the defense sought to convey that he had a history of feigning medical distress and swallowing drugs when approached by police

The jury was shown new video of Floyd arrest on May 6, 2019, on Tuesday as the defense sought to convey that he had a history of feigning medical distress and swallowing drugs when approached by police

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