MINNEAPOLIS (CN) — George Floyd’s acquaintance Morries Hall appeared in court Tuesday morning seeking to avoid taking the witness stand in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck after arresting him last Memorial Day.
Before testimony began for the day, Judge Peter Cahill held a hearing on a motion by Hall to quash a subpoena. Hall was in the car Floyd was apprehended in on May 25, 2020, and both sides have requested his testimony. Hall appeared via Zoom from the Hennepin County Public Safety Center, across the street from the courtroom. He’s been held there since March 21, awaiting a June 9 court date for charges related to domestic abuse and violation of a protection order.
Hall left town after Floyd’s death, heading to Texas. He eventually returned to Minnesota after being apprehended by Texas Rangers.
His reasons for leaving the state were among the things Chauvin's attorney Eric Nelson wanted to ask about. Those also included Floyd’s drug use on the day he died and behavior inside the Mercedes-Benz where he, Hall and Shawanda Hill were first apprehended.
Hall’s attorney, Adrienne Cousins, said her client would not testify about any of that. He would plead the Fifth Amendment, she said, as to any of the events of May 25 and any questioning about Floyd’s drug use up to and including that day or his relationship to Floyd.
Cousins pointed out that Minnesota’s third-degree murder statute has a broad reach when it comes to drug-related deaths. The statute allows third-degree murder convictions for “directly or indirectly, unlawfully selling, giving away, bartering, delivering, exchanging, distributing or administering a controlled substance” to someone who dies as a result. If Chauvin’s defense team prevails on its theory that Floyd died not because of Chauvin’s conduct but because of drug use, she said, Hall’s testimony could put him on the hook for Floyd’s death.
“At this point in time, Mr. Hall has no immunity. He has been provided no immunity, no protection for his testimony whatsoever,” Cousins said. “I cannot envision any topics that Mr. Hall would be called to testify on that would be both relevant to the case [and] that would not incriminate him.”
She said that Hall’s mere confirmation that he was with Floyd at the time could lead to prosecution for drugs allegedly found in the car and in the squad car officers attempted to put Floyd in. Floyd’s girlfriend Courteney Ross testified last week that she believed Hall had provided drugs to Floyd before.
Nelson pushed for Hall to testify, but made little argument beyond outlining the issues he hoped to raise with Hall. Those included his decision to go to Texas, his apprehension, and several questions about his relationship with Floyd, Floyd’s drug use and the events of May 25. He noted that Hall had provided a fake ID to police on that day, and at some point after police arrived had been seen on a security camera throwing something away.
Reluctant to rule out testimony completely, Cahill gave Nelson what he called “homework,” requesting a list of the questions Nelson intended to ask Hall so that he could rule on which would and would not be subject to Fifth Amendment privilege. Several of the issues Nelson brought up in court were straight out, he said, but potential testimony about Floyd falling asleep in the car before officers arrived could walk the line. “There’s really a very small, narrow line of topics that might be permissible,” the judge said.