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Emotional, memorable witnesses in Chauvin trial take the stand on Day 2 of ex-officers' federal trial

The prosecution called Cup Foods employee Christopher Martin and eyewitness Charles McMillian to testify Tuesday.

ST PAUL, Minn —

  • Cup Foods employee Christopher Martin, eyewitness Charles McMillian, 911 dispatcher Jena Scurry take stand
  • FBI audio and video evidence expert Kimberly Meline resumes officer bodycam analysis to start Day 2
  • Judge Paul Magnuson rules Floyd's girlfriend Courteney Ross will not testify
  • Attorney for Thomas Lane said his client will take the stand

Tuesday, Jan. 25

Tuesday marked the second day of testimony in the trial of three former Minneapolis police officers — Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao —  accused of violating George Floyd's civil rights. 

From the beginning, it was clear the day would be all about setting the scene for jurors — first with body camera footage, and then with eyewitnesses. Among the witnesses was one of the most powerful from Derek Chauvin's trial — Charles McMillian. He was one of the first bystanders to witness Floyd's death.

McMillian spoke to Floyd and the officers throughout the interaction. Prosecutors in the federal trial called him to the stand to recount what he saw on that day, but unlike in state court, Judge Paul Magnuson would not let prosecutors use much video with McMillian on the stand. He said he wanted to avoid emotional reactions.

McMillian still testified that he believed George Floyd would die and that he didn't see officers try to render medical aid.

Defense attorneys on cross examination disputed that, saying Lane twice asked to roll Floyd on his side and that Kueng checked his pulse.

Jurors also heard from the young Cup Foods clerk who took the fake $20 bill from Floyd, in addition to Jena Scurry — the 911 dispatcher who was so concerned with what she saw on a city traffic camera she called a police supervisor.

And again on Tuesday, jurors watched lengthy video evidence — both body cameras from Kueng and Thao, and the viral video shot by a teenage bystander.

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4:08 p.m.

The 911 dispatcher who took the call from Cup Foods, Jena Scurry, then took the stand. 

Scurry detailed the timeline of each officers' arrival, saying the officers eventually gave her a "Code 4," meaning the scene was safe. The prosecution went on to ask Scurry what dispatchers are supposed to do if they receive a call about a person who can't breathe. She told the court a fire crew is usually called to respond, due to their ability to be almost anywhere in four minutes or less.

Scurry then told the court that as she was watching the situation unfold on surveillance cameras, she observed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck. She said what she saw disturbed her enough to call the police sergeant on duty.

After Scurry finished her testimony and the jury was dismissed, Paule told the judge about the press conference held by members of Floyd's family that took place outside the building's security checkpoint Monday night.

“It will not occur in the building," Magnuson said. "That’s inappropriate. It must be outside in the future." 

2:30 p.m.

Charles McMillian, an eyewitness to the events that unfolded on the day of Floyd's death, was next to take the stand for the prosecution.

McMillian told the court he was driving by Cup Foods that day when he noticed commotion and decided to pull over. He said he remembered telling Floyd that he "can't win," in in the video evidence showed to the courtroom, he can be heard pleading with the officers to "please let him breathe."

McMillian then said he was afraid Floyd was "going to die."

Gray opened cross examination, asking McMillian if he recalls his client (Lane) saying the officers should roll Floyd over, or if he heard Lane say, "I think he's passing out." McMillian answered "no" to both questions

He went on to tell Gray he did not recall any of the officers rendering aid to Floyd, and he does not remember Floyd resisting arrest or fighting the officers.

2 p.m. 

Testimony resumed after lunch recess with defense attorney Robert Paule, representing Tou Thao, cross examining Cup Foods cashier Christopher Martin who earlier detailed his interactions with George Floyd on the day of his death. 

Paule opened by asking Martin about an earlier observation that Floyd seemed "high" when he was in the store, and then played back a video where Thao appears to push Martin's co-worker off the street. Paule asserts the video shows Thao first hold his hand up, and then ask the man to get off the street. 

"You can see that what you thought was your co-worker getting pushed off the street was actually him not obeying a command by a police officer?" Paule asked.

"Fair enough," Martin responded. 

Plunkett, Kueng's attorney, then began his very brief cross-examination of Martin, telling him he would be as quick as possible. Martin told the court he was in college and just wanted to "get it [his testimony] over with" so he could go do his homework.

Earl Gray, Lane's attorney, also led a brief cross-examination of Martin before he was dismissed.

11:40 a.m.

Cup Foods cashier Christopher Martin was the second witness called by federal prosecutors Tuesday. He was on duty May 25, 2020 when George Floyd came into the convenience store to buy cigarettes, allegedly with a counterfeit $20.

Prosecutors had Martin narrate video of he and Floyd interacting as Floyd walked about the store, and then questioned him about their transaction. Martin told witnesses he accepted the $20 and immediately knew it was fake. He says he told a manager, who told him to go outside and convince Floyd to come back in. When he refused, police were called to the store, which brought all three officers and Derek Chauvin to the scene. 

Martin later described going outside and seeing people yelling at Thao to check on Floyd. He says he then saw Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck and started to shoot video, only to delete it later because he "didn't want to see it again." "

Prosecutors ended their questioning of the witness, and court went into recess for lunch. Defense attorneys will begin cross-examining the witness at 2 p.m. 

9:30 a.m. 

Police bodycam video is front and center as testimony gets underway in day two of the federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers accused of depriving George Floyd of his civil rights.

J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao are charged with failing to provide Floyd with medical care as fellow officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes. Thao and Kueng face an additional count for failing to stop Chauvin, who was convicted of murder and manslaughter in state court last year.

Before testimony resumed Tuesday morning Judge Paul Magnuson handed down several rulings, including one that prohibits George Floyd's girlfriend Courteney Ross from taking the stand in this federal trial. Judge Magnuson pointed to interviews Ross conducted after being in court Monday as the reason she will not be allowed to testify. 

FBI forensic examiner Kimberly Meline was on the stand breaking down video from Thomas Lane's body camera Monday as day one closed. Federal prosecutors called her back Tuesday to testify on bodycam video that captured the perspective of former officer J Alexander Kueng. Meline shared her opinion that the video clips jurors are seeing are credible and authentic.

KARE 11's Lauren Leamanczyk and Karla Hult, both at the federal courthouse covering the trial, say the video reflects relatively calm exchanges between Kueng and Floyd, until officers attempt to get him in the back of a Minneapolis police squad, at which point things begin to escalate. 

After wrapping up testimony on Kueng's video, Meline was asked to compare and contrast two additional videos of the incident. One is the so called "Milestone" video from a city camera that offers a wide view of the intersection of 38th and Chicago. The other is the video seen around the world, shot by teen Darnella Frazier. 

Cross examination of Kimberly Meline was handled by Tou Thao's defense attorney Robert Paule. Paule asked the FBI analyst about her credentials and background, then brought up the topic of "investigative bias." 

Paule asked if Meline viewed the video that shows Floyd's blue Mercedes SUV, and whether she could observe what those inside were doing. He then made clear he wants prosecutors to start the video 10 seconds earlier than the clip jurors originally saw.

Monday, Jan. 25

On Monday, Judge Paul Magnuson reviewed the charges, procedure and pandemic protocol with the jury and the prosecution and defense teams made their opening statements. 

RELATED: Who is on the jury for the federal trial of three former Minneapolis police officers?

Prosecutor Samantha Trepel spoke to the jury about the three officers' lack of action while Floyd struggled to breathe under Chauvin's knee and then outlined several points of the prosecution's strategy, which will include sharing videos with the courtroom and witness accounts.

The court took a short break, followed by defense attorney Robert Paule issuing opening statements on behalf of his client Tou Thao. 

Paule began by "acknowledging the tragedy" of George Floyd's death before reviewing the timeline of his arrest and said the video taken by bystander Darnella Frazier doesn't show the full picture of what happened that day. He concluded by asking the jury for a "Not Guilty" verdict for Thao. 

Next the court heard opening remarks from J. Alexander Kueng's attorney, Thomas Plunkett. He told the jury that Kueng was a rookie officer who might've felt intimated by the dynamics of the Minneapolis Police Department. Plunkett implored the jury use "common sense" in their decision for Kueng when deciding if he acted with bad purpose and specifically intended to "deprive Mr. Floyd of his rights."

The final defense attorney to issue an opening statement was Earl Gray, Thomas Lane's lawyer. According to KARE 11 reporter Karla Hult, Gray's statements most directly pointed fingers at Derek Chauvin and painted Lane as a "gentle giant."

Following opening statements, the prosecution called its first witness, FBI video and audio evidence expert Kimberly Meline.

Meline told the court she worked to synchronize the footage, including that taken inside and outside Cup Foods, surveillance from other area businesses, bystander recordings and police body camera video, explaining how it could help determine what happened that day.

Following Meline's testimony, the judge dismissed the jury just before 5 p.m.

After court adjourned, George Floyd's girlfriend of three years, Courteney Ross, spoke about the federal trial. 

For opening statements, Ross said she thought the prosecution did "an amazing job." 

When it came to the defense, she said, "Right now it's frustrating because they're not taking any accountability. I know it's their job to present things in a way that favor the defendants but right now it just seems like a blame game." 

Court will resume at The St. Paul Federal Courthouse 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

RELATED: After opening statements, first witness called in federal trial of 3 ex-MPD officers

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