"I had been sad and kinda angry," said the tiny voice.
Those simple but strong words were spoken with a 9-year-old girl who watched a police officer kneel on the neck of George Floyd for more than 9 dreadful minutes on the day he died. It arrived through highly emotional testimony about the next day of this murder and manslaughter trial of Derek Chauvin. The little woman's memory of what she saw and the way she felt appeared to strike on the Minneapolis court just like a thunderclap.
After prosecutor Jerry Blackwell asked her why she was sad and mad she clarified,"Because it felt like that (Chauvin) was quitting his (Floyd) breathing and it was kind of like hurting him." However, her words will linger for the remainder of the trial.
You will find other underage witnesses who took the stand. Darnella Frazier was only 17-years-old when she recorded the tragic experience on her mobile phone. At a trembling voice she proclaimed how Floyd pleaded for his life, even repeatedly telling Chauvin that he could not breathe. "I saw a guy fearful, scared, and begging for his life. It wasn't right. He was suffering. He was in pain. He cried to his mother," said Frazier. Fighting back tears she added,"It seemed like he knew that it was over for him." Indeed, it was. She stood by helplessly as Floyd lapsed into unconsciousness, stopped breathing, and subsequently died.
Frazier's dreadful experience that day has haunted her ever since. She's been racked with guilt and plagued by sleeplessness. "I keep up at night apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not interacting rather than saving his entire life," she acknowledged. Then, referring to Chauvin sitting only a couple of feet away, Frazier stated,"(But) it's not what I should have done. . .it's what he must have done" Such keen insight by somebody so very young is both rare and compelling. Although we cannot see the faces of the jury, they were allegedly transfixed.
The opening day of this trial on Monday was dominated from the visceral outrage the jurors surely felt as they watched the electronic recording of a lifetime being extinguished. The seconds and minutes ticked away in excruciating agony. Tuesday attracted a more human dimension to an already dramatic trial. The injury of what four young witnesses saw May 25, 2020 was introduced in tragic detail. During them, prosecutors painted a vivid picture of an out-of-control police officer who wasn't only subduing a suspect but using lethal force to kill him.
Trials can be painstaking jobs because prosecutors have to prove every element of an indictment and the offenses charged. But skilled lawyers know how to infuse immediacy and emotion in their attempts to persuade the prosecution of a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Here, the prosecution staff has done a masterful job. Up to now.
But their next pair of witnesses will be different and more challenging. Medical testimony and usage of force experts will be less dramatic but equally crucial in demonstrating that Chauvin's actions --not a drug overdose-- were a"significant factor" in causing Floyd's death and his use of force was excessive. The visual recording is informative and will probably be utilized in concert with the more technical testimony. The emotion of these indelible images serves as the spoke on the prosecution's wheel of proof in its pursuit of justice.
Every witness thus much continues to be connected in some way to the upsetting scenes that are the centerpiece of the state's case. On Tuesday, Donald Williams has been asked to dissect the words he spoke to Chauvin and his fellow officers that are heard so reluctantly on the recording. As a bystander, Williams pleaded with them to allow Floyd breathe and cautioned them that he had been dying. On cross-examination, the defense seemed to suggest that Williams and many others became so loud, agitated, and"angry" that the officers must have been distracted. If this was an attempt to blame the bystanders, it was absurd.
Equally absurd was that the defense effort to use Williams' martial arts experience to make the point that a combative person who is rendered unconscious with a choke grip might suddenly awaken to start fighting again --thus justifying Chauvin's unrelenting compression of Floyd's neck. It was a ridiculous debate since Floyd was likely on the pavement with his hands cuffed behind his back.
While occasionally employing a tissue to dab tears from his eyesWilliams explained how he"phoned police on law enforcement because I believe I witnessed a murder."
When off-duty Minneapolis firefighter Genevieve Hansen arrived at the scene, she told the jury how alarmed she became when she watched an unconscious man on the ground with his face smashed into the sidewalk. A trained medic, she identified herself and tried to intervene but had been advised by Chauvin's fellow officer Tou Thao to back . On the stand, Hansen broke down as she explained how she pleaded with the officers to no avail. "I was desperate to help. . .there was a man being killed." She called 911 but at the time medics arrived it was too late.
The frequent denominator among all witnesses so much is that there have been many opportunities to conserve George Floyd's life. They saw what happened in actual time. So, also, have the jurors about the chilling digital recording that is central to the case.