An attorney for one of George Floyd’s alleged drug dealers said her client plans to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in order to avoid exposure to a third-degree murder charge.
Morries Lester Hall was with Floyd on the day of his death along with Shawanda Hill, who will be testifying. Hall was recorded with Floyd inside Cup Foods and in the front passenger seat of Floyd’s vehicle prior to the arrival of officer Derek Chauvin, who is now on trial for murder in Floyd’s death.
Floyd’s former girlfriend, Courteney Ross, told the jury last week that she and Floyd had a history of purchasing drugs from Hall.
Defense counsel Eric Nelson said in his opening statement that Hall’s testimony would provide evidence that Floyd consumed two pills inside the vehicle, fell asleep and wouldn’t wake up.
“Mr. Hall’s testimony in these matters would specifically put him in very close proximity to Mr. Floyd,” Adrienne Cousins, a public defender, said in the courtroom Tuesday morning on behalf of Hall, who appeared remotely from prison.
“There’s an allegation here that Mr. Floyd ingested a controlled substance as police were removing him from the car. A car, by the way, that has been searched twice and, to my understanding, drugs have been found in that car twice. This leaves Mr. Hall potentially incriminating himself into a future prosecution for third-degree murder,” Cousins continued.
She cited a Minnesota law that “covers third-degree murder liability for someone who was involved in drug activity that eventually leads to an overdose.”
“And that statute is broad, judge,” she went on. “It does not just include a situation where A sells drugs to B, B then succumbs to an overdose. In fact, it includes any activity, directly or indirectly, unlawfully selling, giving away, bartering, delivering, exchanging, distributing or administering a controlled substance.”
Cousins also pointed out that Hall “has been provided no immunity” for offering testimony in the case, suggesting the state “wants to leave open the possibility of being able to charge him in the future,” according to former prosecutor Julie Grant.
Judge Peter Cahill agreed that Hall has a legitimate Fifth Amendment privilege for most subject matters in the case, but said Hall could offer limited testimony on Floyd’s behavior inside the vehicle.
“It exposes him on that third-degree murder charge,” Cousins responded. “If there were to be a future third-degree murder charge, and Mr. Hall was charged with basically being involved with this drug activity that had caused Mr. Floyd to pass away due to an overdose, him even being in that car incriminates him in terms of behaviors of Mr. Floyd, what he observed, when he observed it.”
Murder charges in overdose deaths are not unusual in Minnesota, one of 20 states to allow prosecutors to charge suppliers in overdose cases. In fact, between 2011-2016, Minnesota was the second-most aggressive state in prosecuting these cases, filing 433 charges for drug-induced homicide.
According to the Bemidji Pioneer, Jacob Jordan Johnson was found guilty of third-degree murder in January of last year for arranging heroin deals with the victim. In another case, a Rochester man was charged with third-degree murder simply for helping a woman who overdosed purchase heroin.
Just two weeks ago, a Mankato man was charged with third-degree murder for allegedly supplying the drugs that killed 32-year-old Jaeton Williams.