Derek Chauvin is on trial for George Floyd's death

By Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 10:11 PM ET, Wed March 31, 2021
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8:39 a.m. ET, March 31, 2021

Witnesses are testifying about the death of George Floyd. Here's what happened Tuesday.

From CNN's Elise Hammond

Witness Donald Williams answers questions on March 30 in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Witness Donald Williams answers questions on March 30 in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Court TV/Pool/AP

Feelings of horror and fear were recalled in a Minneapolis court Tuesday as a series of bystanders testified about what it was like to witness George Floyd slowly die under the knee of former police officer Derek Chauvin last May.

Six bystanders testified on the second day of Chauvin's criminal trial: a 9-year-old girl, three high school students, a mixed martial arts fighter and a Minneapolis firefighter.


The state has stayed focused on video of the 9 minutes and 29 seconds that Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck. They told the jury, "You can believe your eyes that it's a homicide," prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell said Monday.

The defense

Defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that the case was more complicated than just that video. He said Chauvin was following his police use of force training and argued Floyd's cause of death was a combination of drug use and preexisting health issues.

He also said that the bystanders morphed into a threatening crowd, which distracted the officers. During cross-examinations of some witnesses, he tried to get them to admit they and the crowd were angry.

The off-duty firefighter

Genevieve Hansen, a Minneapolis firefighter and trained EMT, was out for a walk on her day off. She testified that when she saw the Floyd incident in front of Cup Foods, she tried to help, but former officer Tou Thao refused her access to treat Floyd.

In cell phone video that she recorded, Hansen is heard telling officers to check his pulse, but she says she didn't see any of them do it.

She later called 911, but said she should have called "immediately." After Floyd was taken away in an ambulance, she testified that she stood on the sidewalk in shock at what she just saw.

The MMA fighter

Donald Wynn Williams II, a bystander and MMA fighter, said that Chauvin performed a "blood choke" on Floyd and adjusted his positioning several times to maintain pressure on Floyd's neck. He said he wanted to get Chauvin off Floyd but didn't physically intervene because Thao was directing him to stay away.

"I just was really trying to keep my professionalism and make sure I speak out for Floyd's life because I felt like he was in very much danger," he said.

During cross-examination, Williams acknowledged that he had repeatedly called Chauvin and Thao names and yelled at them even after Floyd had been taken away in an ambulance. Yet he rejected defense attorney Eric Nelson's description that he had grown "angry" on the scene.

The charges

Chauvin faces a second-degree murder charge, a third-degree murder charge and a second-degree manslaughter charge.

He could be convicted of all, some, or none of the charges. Minnesota's sentencing guidelines recommend about 12.5 years in prison for each murder charge and about four years for the manslaughter charge.

What's next

Witness testimony in the trial is expected to last about four weeks, followed by jury deliberations.

HLN's Mike Galanos and CNN's Omar Jimenez recap day 2 of the trial and offer a preview of what is to come today: