George Floyd’s friend is refusing to testify at trial because he has not received immunity and his testimony could incriminate him in drug dealing and potential third degree murder charges, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Morries Lester Hall, who was in the car along with Floyd the day of his death and is accused of giving him the alleged fake $20 note police were called over, appeared in court via video link to hear the court’s decision on whether or not to grant his motion to quash the subpoena calling for him to give testimony.
Hall, 42, had last week filed a shock notice with Hennepin County District Court stating his intention to plead the Fifth should he be called to testify by either side.
He appeared via media-link from Hennepin County Public Safety Facility where he has been held since his arrest on March 16 on charges of Violating a No Contact Order, Domestic Assault by Strangulation and another felony warrant. His bail was set at $10,000.
Hall had requested to be allowed to wear civilian clothes rather than jail ‘scrubs’ during the appearance and appeared in a suit Tuesday.
Judge Peter Cahill told Chauvin’s defense team to draw up a list of questions they would like to ask Hall by Thursday when he will make a final decision on the matter.
Former Minneapolis police officer Chauvin, 45, is charged with murder and manslaughter after being accused of pinning his knee down on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds last May 25.
He has pleaded not guilty, arguing that he did only what he was trained to do in his 19 years as a cop.
Hall’s bid to avoid testifying was filed the night before Floyd’s girlfriend Courtney Ross took the stand and told jurors that she and Floyd had bought opioids and drugs believed to be speedballs, a mix of methamphetamine and fentanyl, from Hall.
The legal document was filed by Hennepin County Public Defender and states, ‘Mr Morries Lester Hall…hereby provides notice to all parties in this matter that if called to testify he will invoke his fifth amendment privilege against self-incrimination.’
This morning his attorney Adrienne Cousins stated that, with no immunity or protection, he risked incriminating himself in a future third degree murder investigation for any matters relating to controlled substances consumed by Floyd and potentially provided by Hall.
In Minnesota law third degree murder charges can be brought against someone directly or indirectly involved in providing, selling or bartering controlled substances to a person who subsequently succumbs to their consumption.
Hall’s lawyer Cousins said, ‘I cannot envision any topics that Mr Hall would be called to testify upon that would be relevant to the case that would not incriminate him.’
Hall, like Floyd, is a Houston native and the two men connected with each other in Minneapolis through a pastor.
According to an interview with The New York Times he and Floyd had been in touch every day since 2016 and he considered the older man a ‘confidant and mentor.’
In that same interview Hall himself boasted, ‘I’m a key witness to the cops murdering George Floyd, and they want to know my side. Whatever I’ve been through, it’s all over with now. It’s not about me.’
Yet despite his claims Hall was far from co-operative at the outset of the investigation into Floyd’s death.
Agents of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension attempted to contact Mr Hall numerous times to no avail and he initially provided police with a false name at the scene of Floyd’s arrest.
Chauvin is standing trial on three counts: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. If convicted on the most serious count he could face up to 40 years in prison. If convicted on the lesser charge he could be free within as little as five years.
Hall was next to Floyd in the blue Mercedes SUV when Cup Foods staff tried to get Floyd to return the cigarettes he had just purchased using a fake $20 bill, or come back and pay with a genuine one.
He was next to Floyd when Officers Lane and Keung arrived on the scene. And he was next to him when Lane pulled his weapon and instructed him to get out of the car.
In numerous clips Hall can be seen interacting with both officers on the sidewalk.
During testimony last week jurors heard Cup Foods clerk Christopher Martin explain that one of the reasons he knew the $20 bill with which Floyd tried to pay was fake was because of its blue pigment.
But he went onto reveal that his suspicions were also roused because the note was so similar to one that Hall had attempted to pass off as real earlier that same day and which the clerk had refused to accept.
Speaking not long after the May 25, 2020 incident Hall said, ‘I walk with Floyd. I know that I’m going to be his voice.’
But if Hall’s legal move is successful that voice that will not be heard from the witness box.
Asked to outline the topics about which he would want to question Hall Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson reeled off a list including, any events leading up to Hall and Floyd’s arrival at Cup Foods, whether Hall handed Floyd a counterfeit bill, whether he gave Floyd controlled substances, Floyd’s behavior in the car and the fact that Hall told investigators that Floyd was suddenly falling asleep suggesting he had just ingested drugs and had told Hall he had intended to take these drugs later when they got home.
Nelson also said he would want to ask Hall about what Floyd’s behaviors when police arrived, the fact that Hall gave false names to officers, was seen taking something out of his backpack and throwing it away and that he immediately left Minnesota after the incident, only returning when he was apprehended by Texas rangers.
Judge Cahill, said that he would not simply allow a blanket invocation of the Fifth noting, ‘We need to tread carefully,’ and sought to find topics on which the defense could question Hall without him legitimately invoking the Fifth.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Franks was also present though Judge Cahill pointed out that he ‘did not have a dog in the fight.’
Frank countered that his ‘dog in the fight’ was a ‘fair trial for Mr Chauvin,’ and asked that Hall not be permitted to plead the Fifth question by question in front of the jury.
Hall had been a key state witness but his refusal to testify has turned him into a much more significant prospect for the defense who lose their chance to cross-examine him on a host of explosive matters should he refuse to take the stand.
In closing the hearing Judge Cahill instructed Nelson to come up with a list of questions that he could ask without Hall running the risk of self-incrimination.
According to Cahill it seemed to him that Hall could be asked about Floyd’s behaviors without necessarily incriminating himself despite the fact that they ran close to suggestions of drug use.
In closing he told the attorneys, ‘Everyone’s got their homework assignments. We’re not done with this.’
He will make his ruling on Thursday.
The hearing came a day after the Minneapolis police chief who called George Floyd’s death ‘murder’ soon after it happened testified Monday that Chauvin had clearly violated department policy when he pinned Floyd’s neck beneath his knee for more than 9 minutes.
Continuing to kneel on Floyd’s neck once he was handcuffed behind his back and lying on his stomach was ‘in no way, shape or form’ part of department policy or training, ‘and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values,’ Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said.
Arradondo, the city´s first Black chief, fired Chauvin and three other officers the day after Floyd´s death last May, and in June called it ‘murder.’
Arradondo’s testimony came after the emergency room doctor who pronounced Floyd dead said he theorized at the time that Floyd’s heart most likely stopped because of a lack of oxygen.
Dr. Bradford Langenfeld, who was a senior resident on duty that night at Hennepin County Medical Center and tried to resuscitate Floyd, took the stand as prosecutors sought to establish that it was Chauvin´s knee on the Black man´s neck that killed him.
Langenfeld said Floyd´s heart had stopped by the time he arrived at the hospital. The doctor said that he was not told of any efforts at the scene by bystanders or police to resuscitate Floyd but that paramedics told him they had tried for about 30 minutes and that he tried for another 30 minutes.
Under questioning by prosecutors, Langenfeld said that based on the information he had, it was ‘more likely than the other possibilities’ that Floyd’s cardiac arrest – the stopping of his heart – was caused by asphyxia, or insufficient oxygen.
The defense has argued that Chauvin did what he was trained to do and that Floyd’s use of illegal drugs and his underlying health conditions caused his death.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, asked Langenfeld whether some drugs can cause hypoxia, or insufficient oxygen. The doctor acknowledged that fentanyl and methamphetamine, both of which were found in Floyd’s body, can do so.
Minneapolis police Inspector Katie Blackwell, commander of the training division at the time of Floyd´s death, also took the stand Monday.
She said Chauvin, whom she´s known for about 20 years, received annual training in defensive tactics and use of force, and would have been trained to use one or two arms – not his knee – in a neck restraint.
‘I don´t know what kind of improvised position that is,’ she said, after being shown a photo of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd´s neck.
Source: Thanks msn.com