Jurors have repeatedly heard George Floyd’s last words and seen images of him dying on a Minneapolis street. But on Monday, they got a different picture of him: Family photos taken throughout his life, narrated by the memories of his younger brother, Philonise.
A baby nestled on his mother’s chest. A teen leaning over a textbook. A basketball player on the South Florida Community College basketball team. A father holding up his daughter.
Philonise Floyd, 39, took the witness stand Monday afternoon in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, telling jurors stories about growing up with his “big brother” as prosecutors showed the old photos.
The younger brother choked up seeing the image of George – nicknamed “Perry” after his father – and his mother. “I miss both of them,” he said.
Philonise Floyd said he was married on May 24. His brother died May 25, 2020. And his mother died on May 30, 2018. “It’s like a bittersweet month because I’m supposed to be happy when that month comes,” he said, pausing to take off his glasses and wipe his eyes with a tissue.
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In this image from video, Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, becomes emotional as he testifies as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides over court Monday, April 12, 2021. (Photo: AP)
He testified as a “spark of life” witness to give jurors a better sense of who George was. A 1985 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling allows prosecutors to humanize deceased subjects. “The victim was not just bones and sinews covered with flesh, but was imbued with the spark of life,” the court said.
Philonise Floyd said his brother “was so much a leader to us in the household.” He was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and the family moved to Houston when they were young. The brothers have two older sisters. George Floyd was born after them, then Philonise and then Rodney.
“He would always make sure we had our clothes for school. He made sure we all were going to be to school on time,” he said. George couldn’t cook — he “couldn’t boil water” — but he made “the best banana mayonnaise sandwiches,” Philonise said.
Philonise Floyd, who is married with two kids living in Houston, said he grew up playing Nintendo games with George. He recalled George marking his height on the walls, saying he “always wanted to be taller.” He said George was beloved in the community.
“People would attend church just because he was there,” Philonise Floyd said. “He just knew how to make people feel better.”
The younger brother talked about George Floyd’s love of sports. He said George excelled in basketball and football in high school and got a scholarship to go to South Florida Community College before transferring to Texas A&M University, where he played football.
Philonise said George taught him how to play basketball. “He’d say man, let’s go hooping,” Philonise said.
George taught him how to play football, too, Philonise said. “I always thought that my brother couldn’t throw, but he never intended to throw the ball to me. He would always throw it at an angle where I had to chase it or jump for it or dive for it.”
Philonise said George had a “one of a kind” relationship with their mother, nicknamed “Miss Cissy.”
“I cry a lot, but George with my mom he would always just be up on her,” Philonise said. “It was just so unique how they were with each other. He would just lay up on her in the fetus position like he was still in the womb.”
Philonise said George was heartbroken by their mother’s death in 2018. At the funeral, George was “just kissing her. He didn’t want to leave the casket,” Philonise said.
The funeral was the last time he saw George before he died, Philonise said. But the two would frequently talk on the phone in the mornings when Philonise was working as a truck driver.
“He would just listen,” Philonise said.
Contributing: Kevin McCoy and Tami Abdollah
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