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Donald Williams II is a 33-year-old professional MMA fighter with more than a decade of martial arts experience. He’s also a key witness in the trial of disgraced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. His testimony on Monday was chilling as he described watching the life leave George Floyd’s body like watching a “fish in a bag.”
On day one, defense attorney Eric Nelson used his opening statement to vilify the witnesses of the lynching and attack George Floyd’s lifelong fight with drugs. On day two, Nelson came out swinging at Williams. Unfortunately for Nelson, Williams dodges punches for a living.
The defense strategy is clear and unsurprising. Nelson attempted to get under the skin of Williams, using a well-known questioning tactic meant to anger the witness. He wants the jury to see Williams as an angry, dangerous Black man who had the technical skill and desire to severely harm the officers. Nelson wants the jury to think that Williams was a ticking time bomb who was threatening the officers, causing them to divert attention from caring for Floyd. He wanted the jury to forget Williams testimony that he “called the police on the police” because he “believed (he) witnessed a murder.”
“You’re not going to paint me as angry.”
Williams wasn’t having it, though. He said explicitly, “you’re not going to paint me as angry.” He is a 33-year-old Black man living in Minneapolis. the witness no doubt knows the danger of White victimhood. He no doubt has been on the receiving end of a White person seeing his black skin as an inherent threat. That’s what Nelson sought to achieve today. He wanted just one White juror to hear Williams get a little bass in his voice or switch up his posture. Nelson wanted to trigger the implicit (or explicit) bias so many White Midwesterners have towards people with melanin.
It was disturbing and unapologetic. It was White Supremacy on display and a textbook representation of how so many Black Americans are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. It was an example of Black skin being weaponized against itself.
But the racial makeup of the jury is promising. There are six White jurors, three Black men, one Black woman and two jurors who identify as multiracial. All three alternate jurors are White. But the defense just needs to convince one juror that they shouldn’t believe the video they watched with their own eyes. Just one juror can lead to a hung jury, which would effectively prevent true justice.
The trial continues today with several more witness testimonies and cross examinations, including multiple minors who witnessed the lynching.