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murder trial Family of George Floyd say they will be 'able to breathe once more if Derek Chauvin is convicted of his murder'

Floyd family speak of their anguish at ex-policeman’s murder trial

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Keeta and Philonise Floyd leave court with their attorney Ben Crump after the sixth day in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who is facing murder charges in the death of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US. Photo: NIcholas Pfosi

Keeta and Philonise Floyd leave court with their attorney Ben Crump after the sixth day in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who is facing murder charges in the death of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US. Photo: NIcholas Pfosi

Keeta and Philonise Floyd leave court with their attorney Ben Crump after the sixth day in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who is facing murder charges in the death of George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US. Photo: NIcholas Pfosi

The family of George Floyd said they “will be able to breathe” if Derek Chauvin, the former officer who knelt on the unarmed black man for more than nine minutes, is convicted of his murder.

Speaking yesterday outside the Minneapolis courthouse where Mr Chauvin is on trial, the Floyd family described their anguish at having to “relive” Mr Floyd’s final moments during the proceedings.

“It causes them and many people to suffer PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” said Ben Crump, a lawyer representing the family.

Mr Crump said the televised trial, which entered its seventh day of testimony yesterday, had had a “psychological” toll on not just the family, but the global audience following remotely.

Footage of Mr Chauvin kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck as the 46-year-old pleaded for air triggered global protests against racial injustice and has been played repeatedly during the proceedings.

The Floyd family have sat through each day of testimony and said they had decided to hold a prayer session yesterday after a “tumultuous week” of watching Mr Floyd’s final moments on repeat.

They prayed outside the courthouse alongside Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, another black man killed during a police restraint, and former New York Governor David Paterson.

Mr Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, told the group: “We’re going through hard times right now and need people on our side to help us get through this.” In a reference to his brother’s final words, he added: “But one thing I can tell: Me and Ms Gwen Carr, after we get the verdict and we get this conviction, we’ll be able to breathe.”

It came as Mr Chauvin’s lawyer sought to argue that the former officer did not use a chokehold and his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck did not cause him to become unconscious, in the first glimpse of his defence strategy.

Prosecutors called Lt Johnny Mercil, a use-of-force instructor for the Minneapolis Police Department, to the stand to testify that Mr Chauvin had not used an authorised form of restraint.

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Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Johnny Mercil, a use of force trainer, gives evidence (Court TV via AP)

Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Johnny Mercil, a use of force trainer, gives evidence (Court TV via AP)

Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Johnny Mercil, a use of force trainer, gives evidence (Court TV via AP)


Mr Mercil told prosecutors police are taught to “stay away from the neck when possible” and to put them in the recovery position as soon as feasible “because when you restrict their ability to move it can restrict their ability to breathe”. However, he also agreed with the defence’s argument that there are scenarios in which it is appropriate to hold someone in a prone position until the scene is safe.

Under cross-examination from defence lawyer Eric Nelson, Mr Mercil testified that he did not observe Mr Chauvin use a chokehold on Mr Floyd.

Mr Mercil said he had trained hundreds of officers how to use a neck restraint, as constricting the sides of a person’s neck. He told the defence that based on his experience, it takes “under 10 seconds” for a person to become unconscious during a neck restraint.

Asked by Mr Nelson if he has ever trained officers that if a person can talk, they can breathe, Mr Mercil responded: “It’s been said, yes.”

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Defence lawyer Eric Nelson, left, with Derek Chauvin (Court TV/AP)

Defence lawyer Eric Nelson, left, with Derek Chauvin (Court TV/AP)

Defence lawyer Eric Nelson, left, with Derek Chauvin (Court TV/AP)


Mr Mercil was called to testify as a witness for the prosecution, but his regular agreement with the defence’s line of questioning could be problematic as prosecutors seek to argue that Mr Chauvin used excessive force.

Just one juror needs to vote against conviction for Mr Chauvin to be acquitted.

Earlier in the day, the court heard Mr Chauvin had received training on how to deal with “crisis” situations and use-of-force in 2016 and 2018. Sergeant Ker Yang, who runs crisis-intervention training for Minneapolis Police, told the court that officers were taught to make critical decisions in dealing with people in crisis and to de-escalate the situation.

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher said records show that Mr Chauvin attended a 40-hour course on the method in 2016.

“When we talk about fast-evolving situations ... a lot of the time we have the time to slow things down and reevaluate and reassess and go through this model,” Mr Yang said.

Records also show that Mr Chauvin took in-service training in the use of force in ­October 2018.

Mr Chauvin (45) is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter and third-degree murder.

(© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2021)


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