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Floyd’s Family Takes Seat at Trial

Emotional video, testimony bring many to tears

4/6/2021, 3:48 p.m.
“This is life-changing,” Philonise Floyd said during a break in the proceedings. “All this testimony is so hard on everyone.”
Floyd family attorney Ben Crump (center) joins George Floyd's brothers Philonise (right) and Rodney (left) before the start of the murder trial against former police officer Derick Chauvin to announce a $27 million civil lawsuit settlement between the Floyd family and the City of Minneapolis. (AP photo)

(AP) — A member of George Floyd’s family often occupies a reserved seat in the back corner of the Minneapolis courtroom where former police Officer Derek Chauvin is on trial in Floyd’s death. The seat reserved for Chauvin’s family goes unclaimed.

Floyd’s younger brother Philonise Floyd, of Houston, has attended several days of the trial to bear witness on behalf of his family. He has watched the often-excruciating bystander, police body camera and security videos of his brother’s fatal encounter with Chauvin on May 25, and listened to testimony from eyewitnesses and police.

“This is life-changing,” Philonise Floyd said during a break in the proceedings. “All this testimony is so hard on everyone.”

Chauvin, who is 45 and white, is charged with killing the 46-year-old Black man by pinning his neck for 9 minutes, 29 seconds as Floyd lay face-down in handcuffs. Floyd had been accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a neighborhood market.

Nobody from Chauvin’s family has taken the seat they’re entitled to use. Chauvin was recently divorced, and few details have emerged about the rest of his family. Courtroom seating has been strictly limited due to coronavirus concerns.

While admission to the courthouse is strictly limited, civil rights attorney Benjamin Crumpwho represents the Floyd family, and the Rev. Al Sharpton were seen at the courthouse Tuesday morning with some members of the Floyd family, waiting for an elevator. Gwen Carr, the mother of the late Eric Garner, was with them. Sharpton, Crump and Carr held a prayer vigil with members of the family outside the courthouse during the midday break Tuesday.

Philonise Floyd told reporters he’s been trying to stop crying and has kept a box of tissues on the floor next to his chair. He said his family members and seemingly everyone he meets in Minneapolis can’t stop crying, either. But he said he’s grateful for the support his family is getting from the community, including the protesters who often gather outside the courthouse.

He was in the courtroom last week as George Floyd’s girlfriend, Courteney Ross, recounted both happy and sad times during their relationship — and their struggles with opiate addiction. He paid close attention, sometimes hanging his head as she recounted their life together, as part of prosecutors’ efforts to humanize George Floyd to the jury by portraying him as more than a crime statistic and giving a sympathetic explanation for his drug use.

At one point Philonise Floyd shook his head and turned his eyes away from the TV screen as it showed his brother laying unresponsive on a stretcher.

During a graphic video of officers struggling with George Floyd inside and then outside a squad car, yelling “Mama” and “I can’t breathe,” Rodney Floyd held his hands and looked down, shaking his head, refusing to watch. He later told a reporter in the hallway, through tears, that he did watch some of the video out of the corner of his eye.

He watched at least some of the other videos too. His jaw visibly clenched and his head shook as he heard his brother’s cries for help. But he turned his head as one video showed Chauvin’s knee on his brother’s neck.

Shareeduh Tate, a Floyd cousin from Houston, told a reporter she had been encouraged by the often-emotional testimony from bystanders who pleaded with the officers to ease up.

“I could almost feel like I was living in that moment with them,” she said. “Countless times I myself have wished I had been able to intervene.”