A key witness in the trial of Derek Chauvin is threatening to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination because his lawyer argues that anything he says about the alleged drug activity that he had with George Floyd could lead to him being charged with third-degree murder in Floyd’s death.
Morries Hall appeared at a court hearing on Tuesday, in which his lawyer argued that he has no immunity from prosecution that may come from testimony about his and Floyd’s behavior shortly before police arrived and arrested Floyd on May 25. Eric Nelson, who is representing Chauvin, told the jury that they would hear from Hall, who has been identified as an alleged drug dealer that Floyd obtained narcotics from. “This will include evidence that while they were in the car, Mr. Floyd consumed what were thought to be two Percoset pills,” Nelson said in his opening statement. He named Hall and Shawnda Hill, George Floyd’s former girlfriend, as being in the SUV with Floyd outside of Cup Foods, prior to police arriving on-scene.
Police were called to Cup Foods after Floyd allegedly used a fake $20 bill to purchase cigarettes. “Mr. Floyd’s friends will explain that Floyd fell asleep in the car and that they couldn’t wake him up to get going, that they thought the police might be coming because now the store [employees] were running out,” said Nelson. These statements from Nelson come in an attempt to undermine the prosecution’s major allegation that Chauvin killed Floyd by kneeling on his neck for an extended period of time—9 minutes and 29 seconds—cutting off Floyd’s blood and oxygen supply. Nelson has countered that a combination of fentanyl and methamphetamine, both found in Floyd’s system during an autopsy and both known to be dangerous, and undetected heart disease are what killed Floyd, which makes testimony from Hall valuable to the defense.
Adrienne Cousins, who is Hall’s attorney, filed a motion to quash subpoenas from both the prosecution and defense for Hall to take to the stand as a witness. “Your Honor, I cannot envision any topic that Mr. Hall would be called to testify on that would be both relevant to the case that would not incriminate him,” Cousins stated before Judge Peter Cahill during the hearing on Tuesday, without the jury in the courtroom. Courtney Ross, who was Floyd’s girlfriend, testified last week that Hall was Floyd’s drug dealer. Cousins stated that Hall’s testimony would be the “link in the chain” for the drugs that Floyd ingested shortly before his death, which would leave Hall open to a third-degree murder charge.
Eric Nelson said that he would, in addition to Floyd’s behavior in the SUV on the day of his death, like to question Hall about where Floyd obtained the fake $20 bill, whether Floyd obtained drugs from Hall, what they were doing prior to arriving at the Cup Foods store, their interactions with employees inside the store, why he and Floyd provided fake names to police and why Hall left the state immediately following Floyd’s death. Nelson also said that he wishes to ask Hall what was in a backpack that he was seen holding during the police interaction. Judge Cahill asked Nelson to put his questions in writing, saying that he may allow Nelson to question Hall about his observations of Floyd suddenly falling asleep in the car, but nothing further. Cahill said he intends to hold another hearing without the jury present to determine if it is possible for Hall to answer those questions without incriminating himself.
The prosecution maintains that such a narrow scope of questioning would create a “huge problem” for them, saying that there would have to be other questioning and that they would have to question Hall “about his credibility and other aspects of that interactiont that would lead, unfortunately and potentially, to him invoking question by question in front of the jury.” Judge Cahill said that he will make a decision on whether or not to allow Hall to take the stand following the next hearing on the matter, which will be scheduled after Nelson submits his written question.
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