Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is currently on trial for second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter in regards to the killing of George Floyd. On May 25, 2020 Floyd, a Black man, died after Chauvin, who is white, knelt on the back of his neck for over eight minutes during an arrest prompted by allegations that Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 bill.
Video of Floyd’s death was viewed by millions of people and sparked thousands of protests across the US and beyond.
Law & Crime reports that earlier today Judge Peter Cahill ruled that Donald Williams, a college wrestler, MMA fighter, and witness to Floyd’s death, would be permitted to give testimony at Chauvin’s trial that specifically touches on the use of ‘blood chokes’.
Chauvin’s defense team had filed a motion to try and limit what Williams could testify about in court. The defense did not try to obstruct Williams speaking about “what he observed” on May 25, but they did not want Williams to share his opinions regarding martial arts holds and techniques on the grounds that, “his training, experience and/or expertise in mixed martial arts, boxing or other training on the grounds that it is irrelevant and overly prejudicial.”
Chauvin’s defence went further to say that there “was no legal foundation by which to consider Williams an expert and that any testimony about Williams’ MMA-influenced knowledge or skills were further irrelevant because Minneapolis officers did not receive the same training Williams purportedly received.”
According to Tapology Donald ‘The Deathwish’ Williams has a 6-6 record and a fighting career that spans from 2011 to 2019. In 2016 he won the Savage Entertainment MMA bantamweight title.
State prosecutor Matthew Frank said that Williams has been wrestling since he was 13 and that he has fought between 18 and 20 times. Frank also said that Williams had trained alongside officers from various Minneapolis-area police departments.
Frank told the court that William’s knowledge of submission holds makes his observations around Floyd’s death extremely relevant to a jury.
“As part of his training, they are taught choke holds, and that is a way of controlling another person by rendering them unconscious,” he said. “As part of that, [Williams] knows how it feels to be rendered unconscious, and they actually practice that in their training. They practice it in part because they have to know when it’s time to tap out . . . if it goes too far, somebody can be seriously injured. Somebody can die. That’s all part of his training and his experience in mixed martial arts.”
Frank also told the court that Williams immediately recognized that Derek Chauvin was applying a blood choke to Floyd and that Williams could explain to a jury what a blood choke is.
“Mr. Williams will explain that . . . a blood choke is where you . . . try to interfere with the blood flow to render that person unconscious,” said Frank. “And he recognized aspects of that in what Mr. Chauvin was doing at the scene . . . that’s partly why he’s so agitated and so vocal at the scene . . . and that’s why he’s so expressive.”
Frank also said that Williams would testify that he recognized that Chauvin performed a ‘shimmy’ maneuver in order to tighten the choke.
Judge Cahill did rule that he would prevent Williams from providing testimony that could be construed as “a medical opinion”, but that he is completely entitled to relate his MMA training and experience to what he saw on May 25.
The ruling means that Williams will be characterized as a ‘learned bystander’ whose warnings to Chauvin at the scene (Williams repeatedly told Chauvin that he was killing Floyd) should have been heeded. This characterization aids the prosecution in their attempts to prove that Chauvin “consciously” took the chance of “causing death” to Floyd, which is a prerequisite for his manslaughter charge.