“I wake up to the senseless killing,” Philonise Floyd, 39, told The Washington Post. “It changed a lot of things. It added a little more pressure because justice for George means freedom for all because African Americans never get justice. If we can get justice this time, we can begin to change things for the next time.”
Floyd delivered an emotional account of his brother Monday as the prosecution prepared to conclude its case against former police officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd said he approached his testimony with a sense of duty, love and pain.
He viewed his time on the stand as a “chance to paint the picture to let the world know who he was to the family,” Floyd said. “I can’t explain who he was to others. But I can tell the world what he meant to us.”
It was another obligation as he has positioned himself as the family’s patriarch — picking up extra shifts in the courtroom when other relatives are too overwhelmed to represent the family in a covid-restricted space, taking media interviews, speaking at rallies.
Before he took the stand, Floyd said he had prayed with the Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.), who represents the Cuney Homes housing projects where he grew up. Hip-hop artists Paul Wall and Silkk the Shocker reached out to offer support over the weekend.
Floyd said he did not practice his testimony much with the attorneys. He knew the stories he wanted to tell about George Floyd: the big brother who sent his siblings clothes and shoes when he was away at community college; the man who talked to him for hours about the finer points of being a truck driver; the mama’s boy who at 6-foot-6 would still curl around his mother in the fetal position (their mother, Larcenia “Cissy” Floyd, was 6-foot-2) and could not bear to leave her casket when she died in May 2018.
For prosecutors, his stories helped rebut some of the points of contention that Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson has built throughout the trial. By establishing the deep connection that his brother had with his mother, the testimony helped establish why George Floyd cried for her and no one else in his final seconds of life.
Philonise Floyd also said he was particularly surprised when prosecutors asked him about the word “hooping.” George Floyd had told police he had been “hooping” when they asked about his physical state during the altercation at Cup Foods.
The brother testified that everyone he knew from growing up used the word “hooping” to describe playing basketball. He was surprised when he was informed that the defense attorney — who is arguing that Floyd probably died of an overdose — had suggested “hooping” was slang for taking drugs.
“That’s a hell of a thing to say because it’s all false,” Philonise Floyd said. “I can’t believe this. That’s such a dumb thing to say.”
After Philonise Floyd’s testimony, Chauvin’s lawyer opted not to cross-examine him. Floyd said he was not surprised.
“How could he?” Philonise Floyd said. “There was nothing he could come back around and challenge.”
The past two weeks of the trial have been emotionally taxing on Philonise Floyd, who has broken down in tears after witnesses recounted their testimony, after repeatedly watching the death of his brother and viewing autopsy photos of his brother’s heart. But testifying Monday gave him a different type of feeling as the prosecution draws its case to a close.
“I finally got a breath of fresh air,” Philonise Floyd said. “I watched my brother die over 100 times in the courtroom. … But the thing about it is that God has given me strength to move forth and make sure that his death will not be in vain. I want to see him have a legacy. You don’t have to be perfect to have a legacy, but you to have a special moment and a special time that puts change in people’s heart. And I think that’s what my brother done.”