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CNN NEWSROOM

Chauvin Trial Resumes with MMA Trainer Who Saw Floyd's Death; Biden, CDC Director Warn of Virus Surge if Americans Let Guard Down; Second Day of Testimony Gets Underway in Derek Chauvin Trial. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 30, 2021 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: The final moments of George Floyd's life, his final breathes, and he says he witnessed a man going through torture.

[10:00:07]

A mixed martial arts fighter who says he saw Floyd in what he knew to be dangerous chokehold called a blood choke. He takes the stand again today as the second day of Derek Chauvin's trial is set to begin at any moment.

We also learned from the prosecution that Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck not through the famous eight minutes, 46 seconds but longer, nine minutes, 29 seconds, 43 seconds longer than the previously believed to 8:46, a number that already became a rallying cry for racial justice.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is in Minneapolis following the trial. So, Omar, tell us what we expect to happen today. Who is going to come to the stand?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, testimony is going to continue from Donald Williams. He was the third witness called over the course of Monday, and, basically, court ended right in the middle of his testimony. So we're expecting as early as 15 minutes from now but likely at 10:30 Eastern Time that, testimony to resume.

As you were mentioning before you came to me, he testified to being a mixed martial arts expert. He was standing just feet away from George Floyd back in May of 2020, witnessing this for the over nine minutes which we now know. And he was testifying to what he saw is a blood choke in those moments. So that's likely what we're going to hear.

But yesterday, we heard and got a clear case from both sides as to what they are going to argue either for or against Derek Chauvin. The defense highlighting a key fight in this, what was the actual cause of death for George Floyd, which they argue is primarily because of the methamphetamine and fentanyl in his system.

Prosecutors have a different approach, saying that it was Chauvin's actions that primarily caused George Floyd's death. And to hammer home that point, they played the entire nine-minute, 29-second video of that now infamous cell phone angle that has played out over these past ten months showing some of George Floyd's final moments, as his brother, Philonise Floyd, sat in the courtroom and watched.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHILONISE FLOYD, GEORGE FLOYD'S BROTHER: It's not something that you want to watch, your brother tortured and screaming.

He's basically like a fish out of water gasping for air.

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE FLOYD FAMILY: The police chief himself is going to come in and testify that those things that was done by Derek Chauvin was inappropriate.

It defies our common sense, logic and most of all, as Philonise said, humanity. Where is the humanity?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ: Now, over the course of Monday, we heard testimony from three witnesses in total. I mentioned Donald Williams. But the first witness that was called was a 911 operator here in Minneapolis, Jena Scurry, who testified and, I should say, her role is that she helped in the dispatch of sending officers to the Cup Foods on May 25th, 2020.

She saw all this play out in real-time through surveillance video and she was so concerned about what she was seeing, she reached out to a higher up, a sergeant, saying she doesn't want to be a snitch but she felt like she needed to say something. She thought her video had froze because how prolonged this interaction was.

Now, when court gets back into session here in just a few minutes, I mention the testimony will continue. The judge just made a quick ruling a few moments ago saying that there was question about four witnesses' testimony who were under age at the time of when this event unfolded and allowing the video and audio of them to be streamed. It will only be audio for those four and their names will not be distributed, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Okay, lots of questions like that as the trial progresses. Omar Jimenez, thanks very much.

With me now, Laura Coates, CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor herself, and Charles Ramsey, he's CNN Law Enforcement Analyst and former Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., Police Commissioner. Thanks so much to both of you for joining me this morning.

Laura, I want to begin with a legal question that relates to time. You know, those nine minutes, 29 seconds, 43 seconds longer than the famous 8:46, I'm curious what the legal impact of that is when you look at the language of the charges here. Second-degree murder charge talks about intentional assault. Third-degree murder charge talks about acting with a depraved mind without regard for human life. Second-degree manslaughter talks about culpable negligence. Does time factor in to a jury's decision on that? LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it does. But just to be clear, he's not charged with intentionally murdering George Floyd. He's charged with a crime that has an unintentional murder component. That might sound confusing. The rules in Minnesota is that you have to have the intent to act but you need not need to have the premeditated intent to kill under these actual charges.

[10:05:01]

But the length of time is very important here because it goes to the ideas of just how depraved or how disregard and reckless and negligent or the conduct really became over time. The longer you go away from the point in time when reasonable force could have been presumably used to the time that he is no longer resisting arrest, that he has completely subdued, he is now unconscious, doesn't have a pulse. The farther away you get from the idea of when an officer can use force to restrain to the point where now they're just doing it for some gleeful reason, perhaps, then you've got the notion of the length of time depraved mind, the idea of a disregard total for human life here, and makes a difference for the prosecution to be able to develop that across all three charges.

SCIUTTO: Yes, understood.

Okay, Charles Ramsey, I want to ask you about how the defense is attempting to play this, particularly as it comes to police training. This is what his defense team said about Officer Chauvin -- former Officer Chauvin's actions. Have a listen. I want to get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR DEREK CHAUVIN: Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his 19-year career. The use of force is not attractive but it is a necessary component of policing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Charles Ramsey, you have led police departments in Washington and Philadelphia, and your experience, are police trained to apply that kind of force for that length of time, right? Does that sound familiar to any training you've received?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: No. The only part of his statement that is accurate is that use of force is not something that is pretty to look at, and that's true. But when you look at these things, and I've reviewed thousands, literally thousands of use of force cases in my career in the last ten years or so, video is very, very common to have as part of the investigative packet.

When you take a look at that, you look at it from the first -- the beginning of the first contact all the way through to the very end. At the very beginning, when you see them trying to put Floyd into the car, it looks as if he's resisting. There is some level of force that is being used there. But at some point in time, they get him out of the car, they get him in a prone position, he is no longer struggling. At that point in time, the force stops. You can only use the force that is necessary to overcome resistance at that point of time and it has to be objectively reasonable. And at some point in time, it becomes unnecessary and unreasonable.

And Laura is absolutely right. There is a significant period of time when force was no longer needed in this case. What's going to happen, and I don't know if today but soon, the body-worn camera footage, because then you'll pick up the actual audio, the conversation between the officers that right now you haven't heard. But once you hear that, you really start to get a more complete picture as to what was actually taking place on the part of all of those officers, not just Chauvin, but all of them.

SCIUTTO: Laura Coates, another defense strategy here is to bring up possibility of drugs in Floyd's system. Explain to our viewers how the law sees this in Minnesota when you might have more than one contributing factor but the case is decided how based on what is the principle cause of death as opposed to the only. Is that right? In the simplest terms.

COATES: The standard is has to be a substantial cause, not the sole cause. Juries are instructed to figure out whether or not this is a substantial cause. And, essentially, you're looking at criteria to suggest whether the actions of the officer contributed to the death of George Floyd.

Now, toxicology reports, discussions about an autopsy, problems with his organs perhaps or other afflictions he may have been suffering from, those are all known not until after the fact. They're through an autopsy. They're after the fact. And so the idea that an officer would have access and be privy to that information at the time of the decision to act and to kneel is farcical.

So, what the moment in time to capture for a jury here is what was known at the time and what was the force that was used when you are trying to subdue and ultimately continue to sit upon and kneel on George Floyd? If they believe that this is a substantial cause of death, then you have the elements you need to prove a conviction.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Charles Ramsey, another argument the defense is making here is that the crowd -- the defense claims the crowd -- the officers found the crowd as threats. And at a minimum, they were distracting the officers, claiming their screams caused the officers to divert attention from the care of Mr. Floyd.

You're an experienced former police officer, your reaction to that?

RAMSEY: Well, listen, I have seen a lot of hostile crowds, and believe me, that wasn't one of them.

[10:10:00]

So, you know, was there yelling and telling them, you know, get off his neck and so forth, yes. That's not hostility. They're concerned about this -- about Floyd's wellbeing. And it's not a hostile crowd. But even if you were to say they were hostile, that is even more the reason for you wanting to get him up, get him in the car and get him out of there before the situation gets even worse.

And so depending on how you want to look at that statement, I mean, you could look at that and say, hey, listen, why are you there for ten minutes? And if it was so threatening, look at Chauvin. He has got his sunglasses on top of his head, he's got his hand on his hip. he is very nonchalant. Do you think that man felt threatened? I don't think so. That is not how you'd react if you're either dealing with a resistor or if you think you've got a hostile problem.

SCIUTTO: Listen, so good to have both of you. You have so much experience on this. It really makes a difference in trying to figure this all out. Laura Coates and Charles Ramsey, thanks very much.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, the testimony will resume in that trial in just moments, and we're going to bring it you to live, the moment it happens.

And President Biden is pleading with state leaders to bring back mask mandates as the CDC director warns, her words, of impending doom. Can we stop another surge?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:15:00]

SCIUTTO: Despite a massive surge in vaccinations, coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths, sadly, are on the rise again across the U.S. The numbers point to what health experts have feared for weeks that the country is on the edge of another surge. But at least a dozen governors are still easing restrictions, citing lower COVID-19 numbers and the ongoing vaccination.

CNN's Miguel Marquez joins me now. Listen, Miguel, President Biden, senior medical officers in the administration, they've been very clear that now is not the time to let our guard down. But, once again, politically, that's not what is happening in a lot of states.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. People are seeing that light at the end of the tunnel and it's sort of no holds barred. The mask is coming off, social distancing is ending and we're seeing that everywhere. 30 states are now up, the number of cases are up, nowhere more than here in Michigan where they say that they are in an official third surge in Michigan.

Now, the number of cases have rise about 5,000 or lower, 5,000 daily. That's about where they were in October before that last massive surge that the country saw. Hospitalizations are also up here, especially among younger people, which is of great concern. They are seeing the U.K. variant, the South African, and they're concerned that they may be more transmissible and more deadly and hospitalize more people.

Here's what the White House is telling those governors who are reducing all the restrictions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDY SLAVITT, SENIOR ADVISER TO WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE TEAM: Well, I think the governors know better. I think the governors know that they're not helping the cause, that they're actually weighting down the cause.

To me, a mask feels like a very small price to pay to protect people's lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARQUEZ: Put it this way. Do you want to be the last person in the country to get so sick from coronavirus that you end up being intubated and hospitalized? Do you want to be the last person in the country to die before you get to your vaccine? That's what you're sort of facing now.

And just, anecdotally, you see it in airports, on airplanes, in restaurants, in public spaces, people getting together very, very close, masks not so much mandatory, but people just use it as an option. Jim?

SCIUTTO: They are. We're seeing it. A lot of us are. Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.

We are going to go now live to the trial of Derek Chauvin. Testimony has now begun. Let's listen in.

MATTHEW FRANK, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: -- that were significant to you.

DONALD WILLIAMS, WITNESS: Correct, yes. Like I say before, you could see that he was going through tremendous pain and you could see it in his face from the grunting. You could see his eyes slowly rolling back in his head and him having his mouth open, wide open slowly, he would drool and slob and dryness on his mouth. And you could see he was trying to gasp for air and trying to be able to breathe as he's down there and trying to move his face side to side so he can, you know, I believe, I'm assuming gasp for more air there.

FRANK: Okay. And as you were standing there, seeing all this, how are you feeling?

WILLIAMS: As I was sitting there, I just was really trying to keep my professionalism and make sure that I speak out for Floyd's wife because I felt like he was in very much danger. And seeing another man like me, you know, being controlled in a way where --

FRANK: Yes, let me just --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Answer the question.

FRANK: And were you scared for yourself?

WILLIAMS: Yes, I was totally scared for my safety and people around me, you know?

[10:20:00]

FRANK: And so did you feel like you could intervene in a situation more than verbally, more than speaking?

WILLIAMS: No, not as much. As much as I want to, my energy didn't let me. And I was controlled on the curb. So, I did as much as I can.

FRANK: Now, you, at some point, learned the name of the officer, Thao, who was standing there, correct?

WILLIAMS: Correct.

FRANK: So, you know I'm going to ask about that and you know who I'm referring to?

WILLIAMS: Correct.

FRANK: And at some point, did you step off the curb and have an interaction with Officer Thao?

WILLIAMS: Yes, I did step off the curb and have an interaction with Officer Thao.

FRANK: And what did Officer Thao do?

WILLIAMS: He proceeded to push his hand on my chest, swiped down, put my hands up and I stepped back. I went back on the curb.

FRANK: And did you make any further moves towards Officer Thao?

WILLIAMS: No further moves.

FRANK: At some point, did a person come up and identify themselves as a Minneapolis fire fighter?

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: Did you know her before that day?

WILLIAMS: No, I did not know her.

FRANK: And I think you said earlier, she asked that they check his pulse.

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: And were there other than you and her, other bystanders on the sidewalk there?

WILLIAMS: Yes, there were other bystanders on the sidewalk.

FRANK: Did you hear any of them threatening the safety of the police officers?

WILLIAMS: No, I did not.

FRANK: And at some point, did you help, in fact, restrain some of those individuals?

WILLIAMS: Correct, once the situation got a little intense with someone who was behind me. I spoke to one of the gentlemen and I told him that this is not the time or place for this right now. And then he proceeded go back into the building.

FRANK: So, did you know that individual?

WILLIAMS: No, I did not know the individual.

FRANK: Did you recognize him or know where he was from?

WILLIAMS: No, I did not.

FRANK: At some point, did you ask him to go back in the store?

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: So you thought he come from the store?

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: And after you told him to do that, what did he do?

WILLIAMS: He proceeded to go back into the store and I believe might have been escorted as he was crying back to the store.

FRANK: So he never made another move towards the police officers?

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: Mr. Williams, the jury heard some audio and video of this incident already when you were there. And you were using some pretty strong language.

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: You were raising your voice?

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: Why? Why for those -- both of those?

WILLIAMS: For fear of myself and fear that people around me and trying to just be able to talk to the officer and let him know that, you know, this should not happen, you know? Just from being around different officers and working in that industry, I just never seen that and I felt like I should speak on it and (INAUDIBLE) what I see.

FRANK: What were the kind of emotions that were causing you to speak like that?

WILLIAMS: No feeling or no remorse or no response from -- from the officer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection is? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nonresponsive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nonresponsive is sustained. You will disregard the answer from the last question. If you could be a little more precise in framing your question, Mr. Frank, I think that will help.

FRANK: I certainly could, your honor.

The motions that you were feeling that caused you to use this kind of language and that tone of voice?

WILLIAMS: The emotions that caused me to use this language and this voice was nonresponsive from the officer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sustained, disregard the answer.

FRANK: So let me -- I guess, let me ask you this way. Were there things that you were seeing about the officers that also caused you concern?

WILLIAMS: Correct.

FRANK: And what was that?

WILLIAMS: The non-response from the officer.

FRANK: Okay. So that is something that was also affecting how you were feeling about the incident?

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: And so then that led into part of why you were raising your voice and using terms used?

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: When the -- were you present when the ambulance arrived?

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: Now, at any time during this interaction, did you see Officer Chauvin take his knee off Mr. Floyd's neck?

[10:25:04]

WILLIAMS: No.

FRANK: Okay. When the ambulance arrived, did he do that?

WILLIAMS: No.

FRANK: And did you see a paramedic, you know, an ambulance personnel, check for Mr. Floyd's pulse?

WILLIAMS: Repeat the question.

FRANK: Yes. When the paramedics arrived, did you continue to watch when the paramedics got out of the ambulance and checked on Mr. Floyd?

WILLIAMS: Yes, I did.

FRANK: Did you see if they checked for Mr. Floyd's pulse?

WILLIAMS: I believe that they were attempting to go check for the pulse. And he the knee was still -- he was still on top of him. Did they check the pulse? I cannot recollect. I don't remember if he was able to check his pulse but I remember (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) and he was responsive to that point.

FRANK: Thank you. Let me (INAUDIBLE) question. Thank you.

Now, when the paramedics loaded Mr. Floyd into the ambulance, were you still there at the scene?

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: And after that happened, did you see what the officers did -- well, let me back up a little bit. At some point, did you learn that there were more than those two officers at the scene?

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: And when did you learn that?

WILLIAMS: Once the ambulance have arrived, I did notice that there was more than one officer -- more than two officers on the scene.

FRANK: So where did you see or how did you see these other officers?

WILLIAMS: Once they started to load Mr. Floyd on to the straddle to -- the technical name of it, they put him on to the little bed thing.

FRANK: The gurney or the stretcher?

WILLIAMS: The gurney, correct, yes.

FRANK: And then when they did that, you saw these other officers?

WILLIAMS: Correct.

FRANK: Where had they been? Where did they come from?

WILLIAMS: They were on the bottom side of Floyd -- or trying to get his feet on to the gurney, yes.

FRANK: And then you were able to see them?

WILLIAMS: Correct.

FRANK: All right. And after Mr. Floyd was put into the ambulance and the ambulance left, did you stay at the scene for a little while?

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: And so right after the ambulance left, did you see where the officers went?

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: Where did they go?

WILLIAMS: They proceeded to cut to the other side, in front of the store which is 38 this way and they proceeded to go towards 38th and proceed to go away from the scene. And --

FRANK: And were you still in that same emotional mindset?

WILLIAMS: Yes, I was very lost at the moment. And I was very nervous and not knowing what to do. Yes.

FRANK: And did you, in fact, stay around the scene for a little while?

WILLIAM: Yes, I did.

FRANK: Okay. At some point, did you make a 911 call?

WILLIAMS: That is correct. I did call the police on the police.

FRANK: All right. And why did you do that?

WILLIAMS: Because I believe I witnessed a murder.

FRANK: And so you felt a need to call the police?

WILLIAMS: Yes, I felt the need to call the police on the police.

FRANK: And there were police there, right?

WILLIAMS: There were police there.

FRANK: And why didn't you just talk to them about it?

WILLIAMS: I believe that they didn't -- I just -- we just didn't have no connection. You know, I spoke to them but not on a connection of a human being relationship.

FRANK: Did you believe they were involved?

WILLIAMS: Yes, totally.

FRANK: And so when you made that 911 call, how long after the ambulance left was that?

WILLIAMS: Time recollection, I don't know.

FRANK: In a matter of minutes? WILLIAMS: Minutes, seconds, not too long after they retreated to the other side of the street. I proceeded to call the police.

FRANK: And prior to today, have you had an opportunity to listen to a recording of that 911 call?

WILLIAMS: Can you please repeat that question?

FRANK: Prior to coming to court today, did we play for you a copy of that 911 call, a recording of it?

WILLIAMS: When I say yes or no? I can't remember at this moment.

[10:30:01]

FRANK: If you heard that today, would you be able to recognize it as the 911 call that you made?

WILLIAMS: That is correct.

FRANK: Okay. We have now marked that.