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CNN NEWSROOM

Third Day of Witness Testimony in Derek Chauvin Trial. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired March 31, 2021 - 13:00   ET

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


[13:00:00]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you would just put an X on here where you were parked when you made that second video, do you know what I mean?

All right, try it again. Okay.

And then if you would show the jurors where you saw them walking Mr. Floyd after you stopped recording?

CHRISTOPHER BELFREY, WITNESS: They were walking him this way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so then at some point you started up your car and drove off out of the area?

BELFREY: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And can you show the jurors where you drove when you did that?

And so the record should reflect you turned from 38th street to go what would be southbound on Chicago?

BELFREY: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the record should also reflect that you are indicating the officers walking Mr. Floyd from the Dragon Walk corner, what would be northbound on Chicago, correct?

BELFREY: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Towards the Cup Foods store?

BELFREY: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, when you turned and went south on Chicago, had they already walked Mr. Floyd in front of you over to that or did you cut in front of them? Do you know what I mean?

BELFREY: I believe they already crossed. I'm not sure, to tell you the truth. There was a lot was going on. I am not sure if it was before or after, to tell you the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And at one point, you said earlier that you saw them putting them in a squad car?

BELFREY: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did you see that taking place?

BELFREY: Over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So when you turned to go southbound, is that when you looked --

BELFREY: Behind us in the rear view, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. And then anything else to do with that scene that night night?

BELFREY: No, that's it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no further questions, your honor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any cross?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You may step down. Thank you.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: If you are just joining us, we just finished hearing testimony from Christopher Belfrey, who shot some video outside of that Cup Foods store on May 25th of last year.

Joining me now, Laura Coates, CNN Legal Senior Analyst and a former federal prosecutor, and CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey, former police commissioner in Philadelphia.

So, Laura, what we just heard from Mr. Belfrey, he was talking about why he decided to start recording, why he stopped recording as well, he said, and what he saw. What is this setting up?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they are talking about how this case cannot be viewed in a vacuum. A few years ago, perhaps people may have heard as a juror who said, what did all these people take their cameras out?

Well, the world has changed, we know the importance and the gravity of the videos being able to contextualize, being able to be the star witnesses, being able to corroborate even things that witnesses cannot do and having all these different vantage points to give you all these perspectives is invaluable in any case, let alone this one.

And so it's setting up yet another corroboration, a very important information that shows you how this began, what transpires. But we still are not to the meat of the matter essentially which answers the question, why did Derek Chauvin use deadly force when the threat had been neutralized?

HILL: I heard you talking about that a short time ago, Laura, as we're listening to what we have heard over the last one. Well, now we're in day three of testimony. The fact that we have not heard about that at this point, how is the case being built, in your mind?

COATES: Well, we haven't heard it from the defense, who get to give an answer to the question, but we are methodically seeing the progression of this by the prosecution. Remember, it's not like Law & Order for most people who are watching, where you got the crime, the suspect identified, prosecuted and convicted within 55 minutes. You've got to build up the way you introduce evidence, the way you have things come on to record, to be able to use it more and more.

The prosecution is not going to do any favors for the defense because they're going to want him, perhaps, to testify and try to explain what they view as entirely indefensible. So as long as they are setting up that theme, that question in mind of what would it have taken for this officer to take his knee off his neck, why didn't you heed the statements and the imploring of all the eyewitnesses to actually help? Why did you not? As long as that is lingering in the mind, you force the hand of the defense to say, you're going to have to try to explain and it better be good.

HILL: And I want to just stick with that thought one more moment. I promise, Charles, I'm coming to you. Don't worry.

[13:05:00]

But as we're looking at what we saw today, one other things that is interesting is the fact that the prosecution was really questioning another witness who heard from earlier today, Chris Martin, who worked in that Cup Foods store who dealt with that allegedly counterfeit bill and talking about the state of mind that he thought George Floyd may have been in in that moment. And he said he seemed high. You said that's a very clear part of the prosecution's planning in all of this?

COATES: It is. It's a preemptive strike because they are aware that this is what is going to be used. We had a preview in the opening statement of the defense that tried to suggest somehow that was George Floyd's fault or that they had to be able to subdue somebody with this herculean strength, perhaps. All this goes into the idea of them trying to frontend.

Okay, even if it was a counterfeit bill that he tried to use, even if he was high, look at his physical demeanor, look how nobody was threatened by him, look at how they were able to verbally communicate. Do any of those things -- if all of that is true, does that somehow alleviate liability from the then-Officer Chauvin from kneeling on a man's neck over nine minutes and 29 seconds? This is a preemptive strike and it's a thoughtful and holistic strategy to use.

HILL: Charles, as you're listening and watching what we're hearing this morning from witnesses, what standing out to you now on day three?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, as far as what we've seen today, that one video, I think, made it clear at what point was Mr. Floyd actually handcuffed and taken into custody. It didn't occur by the car.

Obviously, it occurred after he was taken out of his vehicle, not by the police vehicle. He was already restrained at the time he got by the car. And I think that's pretty important, especially when you are talking about use of force at some point in time later. And so that's now an issue that we know exactly when that occurred and who actually took him into custody originally. So that, to me, was an important point.

HILL: So, to your point, what do you think that changes? What does it change now that we are seeing that moment versus what we knew before seeing that video?

RAMSEY: Well, when we look at use of force cases, and I have reviewed quite a few of them, it is important to know is the person already retrained. Are you using force against a handcuffed suspect? I mean, these are all important things when you take a look at a use of force case and you are trying to determine was it necessary, was the force used proportional and was it reasonable?

There are times when a person that is handcuffed, they can kick, they can do a lot of things when they are handcuffed. So it's not that you never use force against a person that is handcuffed. But certainly you have to have a higher justification for a use of force once a person has been restrained.

HILL: Well, I see you nodding there.

COATES: I am, because, of course, he's absolutely right. The idea that -- the question is not whether an officer generally can use force, they absolutely do. And as the defense pointed out in their opening, it's not pretty when they do. You don't want to see an officer have to use force. But there is a timeline that the prosecution is developing here.

Even if there's a moment where force was necessary and it was reasonable, as Charles Ramsey has spoken about and proportional, and even if that's all true, at some point, once somebody is unconscious, does not have a pulse, is not breathing, they no longer represent any type of a force.

And remember the opening statements of the prosecutor, they laid out the time and then told you just how much longer then-Officer Derek Chauvin remained there. And you heard the different witnesses imploring and saying, look at him, he's not breathing, the firefighter saying, show me a pulse, show me right now that he has a pulse. You have children who are begging and wondering why they're doing it.

And so far, the only defense has been that I guess police officers in their minds were snowflakes in some respect and couldn't tolerate being called a bum in reaction to have him what they (INAUDIBLE) as witnessing a murder. Somehow, that was what precipitated their conduct.

It's just not enough to remove that lingering question here, Erica, why did you continue to use deadly force once the person was no longer responsive, no longer posing any threat whatsoever. If they can't answer that question, I have got an element proven and more than one charge in this case.

HILL: You bring up the point at how officers did or did not react. And the fact that we have been talking about it over the last couple of days, Charles, this sense of them that was presented in opening statements, that the crowd could have really gotten the best of these officers who were on site, that they were having to deal with what I guess the defense was trying to describe as an angry mob or crowd that was gathering, which we haven't really seen evidence of yet certainly in these videos.

How do you think that is holding up so far of what we have seen, not just from the witnesses but in the questioning from the defense, Charles?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, the video kind of tells a story.

[13:10:00]

I mean, I know what a hostile crowd looks like. I think most people know what a hostile crowd looks like, especially after January 6th. This was not a hostile crowd. It just wasn't.

And so if you are painting the picture and there's no video, that's one thing, because then you can paint the mind we're in a particular neighborhood and people gathered, they were loud and blah, blah, blah. That's not the case here. I mean, you can see for yourself here and make a determination as to whether or not you think this crowd was hostile.

And even if they were, Chauvin's main responsibility was the safety and welfare of the person he's taken into custody and he failed at that.

And so what started off to kind of piggyback on Laura's earlier statement, what can start off as a reasonable use of force initially can turn into an unreasonable use of force over time. Because just because you were justified at one point in the incident doesn't mean you are still justified to use that same level of force later.

And that's what you're looking at here. You've got a long period of time when there is no resistance, there's no -- not even any movement. So why are you continuing to use force?

HILL: We talked a little bit at the top of the hour as we were starting to look at some of the testimony from today about what we heard from that clerk who was working in the store who interacted with George Floyd, testified that he looked high. I just want to play a little bit of that for folks who are just joining us now. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTOPHER MARTIN, CUP FOODS EMPLOYEE: When I asked him if he played baseball, he went on to respond to that, but it kind of took him a little long to get to what he was trying to say. So it would appear that he was high.

MATTHEW FRANK, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: So you just had some signs that you thought he was under the influence of something?

MARTIN: Yes.

FRANK: But were you able to carry on at least some conversation with him?

MARTIN: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: So the prosecution trying to establish, as you pointed out, Laura, a bit of a preemptive strike. Yes, we are establishing that he may have been under the influence, but also the fact that he was then -- that the prosecutor then says, but you were able to carry on a conversation with him. That's also clearly part of the strategy?

COATES: It is. Remember how they laid out the question. So he was slow to respond. Remember, what the defense is trying to suggest is that the officers who normally would be given a benefit of a doubt because of their split-second decision-making under very violent or potentially violent circumstances had somebody who was slow to respond, somebody who was not acting erratically.

We see with our own eyes, we watched the video of somebody who's walking through the store, you see a toddler at one point walked by George Floyd, you have a pregnant woman walked by him, you had other customers. You have the actual employees who were conversing amongst themselves, none of them phased by somebody that even if they do believe he's under the influence had posed any threat.

And yet the manager who tells his young employee to repeatedly go back out to a car outside the store to go try to bring him back inside. None of this is indicative of somebody who you think poses a physical, violent, let alone lethal threat. And you have all of this playing out.

And what struck me as well, Erica, was just the guilt that the number of witnesses have been expressing. This young man was saying, look, I was just going to offer to use my own money because the policy was, if I take a counterfeit $20 bill, I got to give money from my own paycheck. And he was willing to do that just to let the problem go away. And talking about how if I just hadn't taken it, maybe he would still be alive.

And it just struck me to think about all these different witnesses having such profound guilt, a few people away from the person who had the power to act and did not.

HILL: Laura and Charles, stay here with us. We're going to continue to take a closer look at what we are learning in day three of witness testimony. Much more coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial coming up.

Also ahead this hour, President Biden's plan to tax the rich to pay for a multitrillion dollar revamp of America's rather unloved infrastructure.

Plus, a huge step forward in the fight against the pandemic and relief potentially for parents. Pfizer says its clinical trials show the vaccine is 100 percent effective in kids age 12 to 15.

And Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz calling sexual misconduct allegations extortion, we have more on those claims being investigated by the Justice Department.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:15:00]

HILL: Welcome back to our special coverage to the murder trial of Derek Chauvin. The court is on a lunch break right now. This morning, we heard from most recently Witness Christopher Belfrey, who recorded George Floyd's arrest. This morning, all eyes were on new video from inside the Cup Foods store, which showed some of George Floyd's last moment.

Store Employee Chris Martin testifying that Floyd paid for a pack of cigarettes using what Martin thought may have been a fake $20 bill. On the stand, Martin described how he inspected that bill. And when talking about how he felt after confronting Floyd and calling the police, Martin said he felt guilt.

Later, when police arrived and there was a commotion outside, this is what he says he witnessed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the relationship of those two guys? What was happening there?

MARTIN: George was motionless, limp, and Chauvin seemed very -- he was in a resting state, meaning, like, he just rested his knee on his neck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what did you do when you saw that?

MARTIN: I pulled my phone out first and I called my mom, told her not to come downstairs, and then I started recording.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[11:20:01]

HILL: CNN's Omar Jimenez is covering the trial for us in Minneapolis. Omar, a lot of reaction to his testimony, to Chris Martin's testimony today.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erica. I mean, for starters, what is defined today is new video and context surrounding that initial call to police about George Floyd over a counterfeit $20 bill. So Christopher Martin, he's a 19-year-old cashier at Cup Foods on May 25th, 2020, talked about what happened that day when he received a bill he believed was counterfeit. He explained how he was holding it up to the light, examining it, how blue markings led him to believe that this doesn't quite feel like a $20 bill.

And then he went on to explain what the process was for actually accepting a bill and the policy that ended up unknowingly at the time setting off a chain of events to officers arriving.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: The policy was if you took a counterfeit bill you had to pay for it out of your money, or your paycheck.

FRANK: Gives you an incentive about to be careful of what you take?

MARTIN: Yes.

FRANK: All right. So did you think that bill might not be legitimate?

MARTIN: I did.

FRANK: And what did you decide to do?

MARTIN: I took it anyways and I was planning to put it on my tab, until I second guessed myself, and as you can see on the video, I kept examining it and then I eventually told my manager.

If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ: What is clear hearing from these witnesses is what happened now over ten months ago, and their proximity to it still weighs heavy on their minds and their hearts.

And I should also note, Christopher Martin is 19 years old, he is the fifth teenager or younger to testify as part of this trial. And we've only had ten witnesses testify in total, so half had been teenagers or younger, and the younger, nine years old that we heard testify yesterday.

Now, after Christopher Martin took the stand, Christopher Belfrey, a man who was positioned behind the initial interaction between police and George Floyd at the first vehicle. Cell phone video of his was played. He was only questioned by the prosecution, the defense attorney chose not to cross-examine and then we broke for lunch. And we are expected to get back in just about an hour or so.

But we also have got answers to a previous break that happened earlier in the day when it was supposed to be a five-minute break and ended up being a little bit longer. We were told from inside the court that it appeared to be an issue with a juror. And as they came back, we understand from a report inside the court that this juror seemed to have some sort of medical issue they were dealing with. And she came back in.

The conversation between the judge and her, was -- the judge said, as I understand, you have been having trouble sleeping, and she said, yes, she confirmed it but also said that she had been up since 2:00 A.M.

So as much of a toll as we can imagine these witnesses are going through trying to recount some of these experiences, we remember that there are 14 jurors seated in here who are going to have to eventually weigh a potential verdict in this knowing that the entire world is watching.

The jurors have been attentive throughout all of this, as we've understood, and so has the family member for George Floyd, the designated one that's been in the courtroom, Shareeduh Tate, she's the cousin of George Floyd.

But to summarize, yesterday was the defined by eyewitness testimony being steps away from George Floyd as he was pinned under the knee of Derek Chauvin, and what we've seen some of that today, context and video over how this started has seem to dominate everything. Erica?

HILL: Omar, I appreciate it as always, thank you.

Let's bring back in Laura and Charles.

So, Laura, in terms of setting things up and also what we are hearing from these witnesses, as you pointed out, as Omar just pointed out, about how heavily what they witnessed has weighed on them over the last ten months. Christopher Martin also explained today why he deleted some video that he took of the incident. I want to play that moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: Later on that night, I deleted it because when they picked George up off of the ground, the ambulance went straight on 38th instead of going straight on Chicago. And if you live in South Minneapolis, the easiest way to get to the hospital was straight on Chicago. So, that to me, kind of made it like clear that he was no longer with us.

FRANK: So you thought he had died?

MARTIN: Correct.

FRANK: Not quite sure why that would make you delete the video?

MARTIN: Oh, I just didn't want to have on to show it to anybody or be questioned about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: How does a statement like that, do you think, Laura, resonate with the jury?

COATES: Well, you are looking at a 19-year-old child, really, who is saying that once he realized that he witnessed a murder, that somebody was dead, and I don't want to put words in his mouth that somebody had died given the route the ambulance did not take, that he didn't want to have to show to anyone or be questioned about it.

[13:25:10]

He also spoke about how he was emotional and even turned to another African-American who was standing on the sidewalk with him and said, they are not going to help him. This is what we have to deal with, calling his mother, warning her not to come downstairs because he thought she might be in danger.

And you see a theme emerging for jurors here who were watching witness after witness who were talking about the foresight, the empathy that they showed and the exercise of care with respect to other people, the underage videographer, the cell phone videographer, who shoot her nine-year-old cousin at the store because she couldn't see, this young man calling his mother so she won't come down into this, a firefighter who was trying to help even though she's off duty, and so many others imploring to help.

But who is not on that list of people who are trying to get aid for George Floyd or intervene and demonstrate empathy and humanity? The person who is the defendant in this case, Derek Chauvin.

HILL: You know, Laura, you just mentioned that the firefighter who was on the stand yesterday and finished up this morning, an off duty firefighter at the time who witnessed George Floyd's death. Here is Defense Attorney Eric Nelson's sole question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: When you are on the scene of May 5th of 2020, did you show any identification identifying yourself as a Minneapolis firefighter?

GENEVIEVE HANSEN, EYEWITNESS, OFF DUTY FIREFIGHTER AND EMT: No, sir.

FRANK: Just a real quick follow-up. To that point, did you have I.D. with at that point in time?

HANSEN: No, sir.

FRANK: You were not on duty?

HANSEN: No, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Charles, should he have identified herself as a firefighter? Is that protocol? Is that what you think the defense is trying to get at?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, she did identify herself verbally, but there's no way the police could have known that that was legit that she actually was, in fact, an EMT. She didn't have any equipment with her. She could have maybe performed CPR, but officers are trained in CPR as well. So I don't know what she could have added beyond what the officers would have been capable of doing had they chosen to do so but they didn't know her. So that part of it, I certainly understand they called for an ambulance, which is protocol.

HILL: All right. Charles, I always appreciate your insight. Stay with us as we continue to look at some of the other headlines of the day.

We are waiting any moment now on President Biden headed to Pittsburgh where he will pitch his $3 trillion jobs and infrastructure plan. The Senate minority leader, meantime, is calling it a Trojan horse. We're going to speak with one expert for a look at just how badly this may be needed.

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