Day 2 of state testimony had some of the most emotional and contentious exchanges we’ve seen so far. First to take the stand was again Donald Williams, under cross-examination. The tense exchange involved Eric Nelson challenging Williams’ knowledge of chokeholds, and having him recount his emotions at the time. The intent seemed to be to get a rise out of the witness, but Williams did not take the bait. However, his overall demeanor was somewhat defensive.
Day 2 included several other eye witnesses from that day, including Darnella Frazier, the 17-year-old at the time, who recorded the now viral video of the incident. She appeared by phone only, and testified that she regrets not physically intervening to help Floyd. She described how she stays up nights, apologizing to Floyd for not doing more. Her testimony, describing the events of the day and the effect it has had on her, was extremely powerful.
6 other witnesses testified by audio only, due to either being minors at the time of the incident, or are still minors today. All of these testimonies helped establish the state’s argument that the events had a traumatizing event on the bystanders. This is important, because one of the reasons the state is pursuing harsher charges is because Floyd was killed in front of children. Additionally, the minor children all testified to the same basic sequence of events as the other eyewitnesses. The consistency of the witness testimonies is key for the prosecution.
By far the most contentious testimony of the day came from firefighter Genevieve Hansen. Hansen was off-duty at the time and came upon the situation while she was out for a run. Her testimony of the situation was that she offered her expertise to help treat Floyd, and was denied. She became extremely emotional as she described watching Floyd lose his life, and being denied the ability to intervene and possibly save his life. One of the more damning statements she made was that she while she was identifying herself as an EMT, officer Thao then said to her “If you were really a first responder, you would know better than to get involved.”
The cross-examination became very testy, with Hansen making several cutting remarks in response to Nelson’s line of questioning. The majority of cross focused on her emotions at the scene, and how they may have impacted her abilities at the time or her memory. In one exchange, Nelson questions her description of Floyd initially as a “small, slim man,” which we know to be untrue. She responded that he looked small underneath 3 officers. Nelson then questioned whether her emotions at the time may be inhibiting her memory of the situation, to which she replied “Absolutely. That’s why we’re lucky it was videotaped.” Another heated exchange came when Nelson began to ask if the emotions of the crowd began to escalate as the situation escalated. Hansen’s icy response was “I don’t know if you’ve ever seen anybody be killed, but it’s upsetting.” The hostile exchange led to Judge Cahill sending the jury out so that he could issue a warning to Hansen about arguing with the court.
My take: Today’s testimonies were very emotionally draining, but equally powerful. All of the witnesses that testified by audio only were very compelling in that they all described basically the exact same scenario, which lines up with other testimonies, and the video we’ve seen.
Donald Williams, though slightly defensive, was able to keep his cool as Eric Nelson attempted to provoke him. The same could not be said for Genevieve Hansen. While I was cheering her on for her bravery and attempts to intervene, she came off as argumentative during cross-examination. So much so that the judge had to send the jury out to warn her about arguing with the court. I will say, I was very shocked when they were talking, and she defended herself saying “I was finishing my answer,” and the judge responded with “I will decide when you are done answering.” That made me irate! However, I do understand that she should just be answering the questions given to her, not embellishing. While I think that her testimony demonstrated her distress and desperation over what happened, I feel her attitude, eye-rolling, and snarky comments will not look good to the jury.
Thus far, the state has done an excellent job at driving home how shocking, traumatizing, and atrocious this incident was. How all of that lands with the jurors remains to be seen.