Floyd family has faith in conviction, braces for difficult testimony ahead

Tray Ling

More than two dozen of George Floyd’s family members have converged in Minneapolis to watch the murder trial of the former police officer charged in his death and they’re bracing themselves for the difficult testimony and images expected to come later this week when his cause of death and autopsy […]

More than two dozen of George Floyd’s family members have converged in Minneapolis to watch the murder trial of the former police officer charged in his death and they’re bracing themselves for the difficult testimony and images expected to come later this week when his cause of death and autopsy are examined.

“We pray a lot and we talk about different things that we might see in court,” said his brother, Philonise Floyd. “So we know that autopsies are getting ready to show, so we’re prepping each other.”

Philonise Floyd, his wife, Keeta Floyd, and the family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, sat down for an interview Tuesday evening amid the second week of testimony in Derek Chauvin’s trial. They discussed the emotional toll of rewatching Floyd die pinned under Chauvin’s knee in a bystander’s video that has been played several times in court. They expressed confidence in the prosecution’s case, and they rejected any interest in the state negotiating a plea deal with Chauvin.

“The family wants him to be held accountable in the court of law to the full extent,” Crump said, adding that he is not aware of any plea negotiations between the prosecution and Chauvin. “This case of Derek Chauvin regarding the killing of George Floyd is exactly like Philonise said — America’s on trial. Is it just rhetoric, or, do we really live by what we project to the world — liberty and justice and equality … for all?”

Chauvin is on trial for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other former police officers who were at the scene of Floyd’s May 25 arrest — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — are scheduled to be tried Aug. 23 on charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.

All four defendants, who were fired, are out on bond.

Philonise and Keeta Floyd and other family members have taken turns sitting in the one seat reserved in the courtroom for Floyd’s relatives. Social-distancing protocols have limited the number of people who can attend. Relatives also watch the trial on a live feed broadcast to another room in the courthouse.

They said the family is committed to showing up every day regardless of the trauma they must bear.

“Every time you go into the courtroom you see your brother passing away over and over again,” Philonise Floyd said. “It’s like déjà vu. You see the same thing. It’s a lot of pain, a lot of agony. I’m sitting there and I just — you know, I can’t save him. You constantly see him scream … I teared up lots of times.”

Asked about the dynamics of the case, Keeta Floyd was quick to fire off the full names of witnesses from memory and the impact of their testimony.

“Keeta sounds like a lawyer,” Crump joked, prompting everyone to break into smiles and laughter. But the lightness was fleeting among the conversations about seeing Chauvin in person and meeting some of the witnesses.

Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe. Kueng knelt on his back and Lane knelt and held onto his legs. Thao held off bystanders who pleaded with the officers to relent and check for a pulse.

“He just seems like he has no remorse,” Keeta Floyd said about seeing Chauvin in the courtroom. “He’s just there.”

“It’s terrible sitting in there watching him knowing he’s out on bond,” Philonise Floyd said. “… I think he should be incarcerated right now.”

They said several witnesses came by to see the family briefly after being on the stand.

Judeah Reynolds, who was 9 when she witnessed the incident, interacted with Floyd’s daughter, and witness Donald Williams II stopped by briefly to see the family, Crump said.

Jena Scurry, the 911 dispatcher who was so troubled by what she saw of the arrest being broadcast in real time on a city security camera that she reported it to the officers’ supervisor that night, walked by, Crump added.

“She had tears in her eyes,” he said. “She just acknowledged that she did all she could.”

“I’m just happy that they had a voice, that they came out and they spoke, because they didn’t have to do it,” Philonise Floyd said of the testimony.

Philonise said he was moved by the testimony of 61-year-old Charles McMillian, a witness who tried to intervene and who was so overcome by sobs on the witness stand that court was briefly recessed. “Every time he dropped one tear, I dropped two to three,” Philonise Floyd said. “It was just terrible just watching him.”

Floyd’s family and Crump said they believe the prosecution has put on a strong case and they were not concerned about competing theories on the cause of death or the prosecution bringing in an outside pathologist to supplement the findings of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.

Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, has argued that Floyd died of a drug overdose and pre-existing health issues, including heart disease. The prosecution has said its outside expert will testify that Floyd died of asphyxia despite the county medical examiner’s ruling that he died of cardiac arrest. Both ruled the death a homicide, a death that occurs at the hands of another person.

The family and Crump said strong testimony from key police leaders, including chief Medaria Arradondo, the bystander video and the length of time Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck are too strong to overlook.

“The nation is watching, and they want Chauvin to be convicted,” Philonise Floyd said. “I’m hopin’ and I have faith that we will get justice. This is a monumental case. A case of this magnitude, everybody around the world is waitin’ and they want to know what’s going on.”

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