New York Daily News
Floyd’s friend fears slay rap if he testifies
One of the people with George Floyd the day he died could be exposed to a third-degree murder charge in Floyd’s death if he’s forced to testify in Derek Chauvin’s ongoing trial, the man’s attorney argued in court Tuesday.
Morries Hall (below), who was in the front passenger seat when police first confronted Floyd in Minneapolis last spring, appeared via videoconference as lawyer Adrienne Cousins explained to the court why her client is planning to invoke the Fifth Amendment, a constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Cousins said that testifying about any of his actions on May 25, including whether Hall provided drugs to Floyd that day, could potentially lead to a series of criminal charges.
“There’s an allegation here that Mr. Floyd ingested a controlled substance as police were removing him from the car — a car, by the way, that has been searched twice and, to my understanding, drugs have been found in that car twice,” she said.
“This leaves Mr. Hall potentially incriminating himself in a future prosecution for third-degree murder.”
The discussion played out before the jury was called back to the courtroom for the seventh day of witness testimony in Chauvin’s trial.
Chauvin, the first ex-cop to be tried in Floyd’s killing, is accused of killing Floyd on May 25 when he took him into custody while investigating a report Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a convenience store.
Chauvin put Floyd on the ground and knelt on his neck for approximately nine minutes as the handcuffed Black man begged for his life.
Hall, who is in jail on charges unrelated to Floyd’s death, could theoretically be charged in Floyd’s death because prosecutors never offered him immunity.
It’s still unclear whether Hall provided Floyd with any drugs before the deadly arrest, but Floyd’s girlfriend testified last week that she believed her boyfriend sometimes did buy drugs from Hall and from Shawanda Hill, the other passenger in the car.
Judge Peter Cahill agreed that most questions Hall could face on the witness stand would potentially incriminate him, but he believes Hall could still talk about being in the car with Floyd and discuss Floyd’s behavior that day. Cahill asked defense attorney Eric Nelson to draft some potential questions and bring them to him on Thursday so the court can decide whether they would be appropriate.
If Cahill rules that Hall must testify on a limited line of questioning, Hall would be forced to take the stand or be held in contempt.
In trial testimony Tuesday, Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use-offorce instructor, said Chauvin’s actions during the fatal arrest were not consistent with how cops are taught to restrain combative suspects.
Mercil said officers are trained to use a knee on a suspect’s back or shoulder if necessary, but must “stay away from the neck when possible.” He acknowledged that cops are taught to use neck restraints — defining them as “constricting the sides of a person’s neck” — and said they could be used to deal with “active aggression.”
Outside the Hennepin County Courthouse, Floyd’s family gathered for a prayer with a group of supporters and civil rights activists, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, former New York Gov. David Paterson and Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr.
One of Floyd’s brothers, Philonise, said it’s been painful for his family to watch the proceedings, which have featured emotional witness testimony and numerous replays of the graphic footage showing Floyd’s final moments.
“We’re going through hard times right now and we need people on our side to help us get through this,” Philonise Floyd told reporters.
“It’s like trying to squeeze water out of a rock right now. But my family, we have faith,” he said. “We’re going to get through this. But one thing I can tell you, me and Ms. Gwen Carr, after we get the verdict and we get this conviction, we’ll be able to breathe.”