By Nate Morris and Mike Creef
With closing arguments taking place today in the Derek Chauvin murder trial, all eyes remain fixed on the Minneapolis jury.
Throughout the trial, the prosecution has called dozens of witnesses to the stand. Some of these witnesses have been medical and law enforcement experts. Others, however, knew George personally or bore witness to his death.
From eyewitnesses at the scene pleading for George’s life to be spared, to Black Americans forced to endure Floyd’s public lynching, re-living the details of this case over the past month has been nothing short of harrowing for many.
This trial – and its pending verdict – will center around Derek Chauvin’s killing of George Floyd. But as the last several weeks have shown, Floyd was not Chauvin’s only victim.
Sisters witness a tragedy
Two young sisters, one just 17 and one just nine, both took the stand to testify against Chauvin. They were among the witnesses at the Cub Foods convenience store.
During her testimony, the 17 year old (who filmed the viral video of Floyd’s death), said she sent her sister inside to shield her from the horror of what was happening. Throughout her time on the stand, the teen held back tears as she recalled watching Mr. Floyd slowly succumb to Chauvin’s violent actions.
“I saw a man suffering and begging for his life,” she said. “It wasn’t right. He was suffering. He was in pain.”
The teen recalled feeling immense guilt over Floyd’s death.
“It’s the nights I stayed up apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life.”
“But I know it’s not about what I should have done,” she said, presumably pointing to Officer Chauvin, “it’s about what he should have done.”
Convenience store employee recalls traumatic day
Another witness called by the prosecution was a young man in his 20s who worked at the Cub food store on the day Floyd was killed. The employee interacted with Floyd after the $20 bill he used to purchase his goods was determined to be a counterfeit.
Even though he played no role in Mr. Floyd’s death, he too recalled feeling “disbelief and guilt” after Chauvin killed Floyd.
“If I had just not taken the bill,” he said “this could have been avoided.”
When police arrived and pinned George Floyd to the ground, the employee recalled calling his mother and urging her not to come downstairs. He said he wanted to protect her from what was happening on the busy street corner.
Testimony revealed that the employee originally filmed the entirety of the incident, but later deleted the video. When asked why, he responded that his decision was based on the actions emergency services took after leaving the scene.
“The ambulance went south on 38th instead of going down Chicago,” he said. “Anyone who lives in the city knows the fastest way to the hospital is to go down Chicago. It made clear to me the [George Floyd] was no longer with us. I didn’t want to have to show that to anybody.”
“You aren’t gonna paint me out to be angry”
The testimony of Donald Williams, II will likely be one of the most remembered moments of the trail. Williams, who was also a witness to Floyd’s killing, told the jury he “called the police on the police” because he “believed he was witnessing a murder”.
In an attempt to cast a narrative that Williams was a threat to Chauvin’s safety, Derek Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, readily invoked racial stereotypes.
Nelson went line by line through what Williams shouted at Chauvin, as it became clear that the officer would not relent as Floyd pleaded for air.
“It’s fair to say that you grew more and more angry, isn’t it sir?” Nelson asked Williams pointedly.
“I grew more and more pleading for life,” Williams responded. “You’re not going to paint me out as angry.”
Courtney loses the love of her life
Courtney Ross, George Floyd’s longtime girlfriend, took the stand in a powerful and emotional day of testimony as she recalled the life of the man she loved.
Ross recounted how she and Floyd met. At a time when she was struggling with housing insecurity, he was a security guard at a local shelter. One day, in 2017, he approached her and asked if he could pray for her and their relationship began.
Ross and Floyd both struggled with addiction, which Chauvin’s attorney repeatedly attempted to exploit. Ross, however, recalled that Floyd was incredibly active and never complained of shortness of breath.
“George lifted weights that were far beyond anything I could lift. He did sit-ups, push ups,” Ross said. “He loved playing sports with anyone who wanted to play, including neighborhood kids.”
Gianna loses her father
Six-year-old Gianna Floyd will never be able to have her father hold her in his arms again.
Gianna’s words, “daddy changed the world” echoed across the world and became an emotional rallying cry in the fight for reform.
As Eric Nelson and the defense team continue to work to disparage Floyd’s memory, Gianna’s mother continues fighting for truth. She described Floyd as a loving and devoted father who would do anything for his daughter.
I want justice for him because he was good. No matter what anybody thinks, he was good,” Roxy Washington said. “He loved [Gianna], he loved her so much.”
Studies show trauma among Black teens widespread in wake of Floyd’s death
A recent article from USA Today highlights how the death of George Floyd has deeply traumatized many Black teens across the country, especially in Minneapolis.
“I haven’t even really fully dealt with it,” 17-year-old Marcus Hunter of Minneapolis told the paper. “It’s really just been weighing on my heart. That’s why this trial is such a big deal.”
In an interview over the summer with Vox, Chicago family doctor Brittani James spoke about the trauma young Black men and women are facing.
“These kids are a vulnerable population,” James told reporter Kelly Glass. “Even adults we’re seeing are struggling to put words to the racial trauma and the deep pain they’re experiencing.”
“We had to stare and watch one of us getting murdered. That is PTSD. That is actual and irrefutable racial trauma.”
Chauvin’s trial drawing to a close
While many of Derek Chauvin’s victims bravely took the stand, the former officer remained silent. Throughout the trial, Chauvin never expressed any emotion, except to smile once at the judge while pleading the fifth last week.
Chauvin faces charges of second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. Twelve jurors will decide his fate this week.
Regardless of the outcome, too many of Chauvin’s living victims will carry this trauma with them forever.