A Minnesota judge on Wednesday ruled that a man who was in George Floyd’s vehicle on the day Floyd died does not have to answer a single question during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Morries Hall has described himself as a “key witness” to the fateful events of May 25, 2020. Body camera footage from police officers showed him sitting in Floyd’s passenger seat. But even acknowledging that he was in Floyd’s car when officers approached it near Cup Foods could open Hall up to criminal charges, his public defender, Adrienne Cousins, argued.
Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, included in his proposed questions, “After conducting your business in Cup Foods, did you return to the vehicle with Mr. Floyd?”
“Mr. Hall cannot answer that question. Mr. Hall cannot put himself in that car with Mr. Floyd. This was a car that was searched twice, and drugs were recovered twice. If Mr. Hall puts himself in that car, he exposes himself to constructive possession charges,” Cousins told Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill in the county courthouse.
Hall would face charges even if Chauvin were acquitted of the three charges, including second-degree murder, against him, she added. Hall could potentially be charged with third-degree murder.
Nelson also sought to ask Hall if he noticed a change in Floyd’s behavior in the vehicle, to describe the behavior, and whether he told Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents that Floyd was drowsy or asleep.
Hall was interviewed by agents upon being apprehended in Texas several days after Floyd’s death. Hall fled to the state and was arrested on an outstanding warrant.
He is currently in jail on charges in a separate case.
Hall sold drugs to Floyd, Floyd’s girlfriend Courteney Ross told the court on April 1.
Hall, in street clothes, was then told to address the judge. He said he was not willing to answer any of the proposed questions.
“Why would you not answer those?” Cahill asked.
“I am fearful of criminal charges going forward. I have open charges that’s not settled yet of my personal stuff,” Hall responded, before confirming he planned to invoke his Fifth Amendment right.
Cahill ruled in favor of Hall, the latest in a series of rulings against the defense.
“I’m going to advise both sides to file your proposed questions … but I am finding that he has a complete Fifth Amendment privilege here,” the judge said.
“I had earlier said that possibly he could talk about how Mr. Floyd looked in the car, but counsel’s argument is persuasive that that could provide a link. And since it’s not just evidence that would incriminate a person but also provide a link to incriminating, I do find that his invocation of his Fifth Amendment right is valid and I am going to quash the subpoena.”
Cahill said Monday that he would not let the defense play any clips from Hall’s interview with law enforcement agents last year, because he found Hall was not necessarily a trustworthy witness.