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Mar. 29 updates for the murder trial of Derek Chauvin Day 1

Prosecution and defense teams give opening statements and call witnesses in the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder.

Live coverage of this blog has ended, please click here for Day 2 of Derek Chauvin's trial.

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin's trial began Monday morning. Chauvin faces three charges, including second-degree murder, in the death of George Floyd.

Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 after Chauvin, a white 19-year veteran of the department, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for several minutes.

The nearly nine-minute video of Floyd's death, in which he can repeatedly be heard saying, "I can't breathe," led to global protests last year against police brutality.

Judge adjourns trial until tomorrow after 'technical glitch'

462d ago / 10:07 PM UTC

Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill adjourned the trial until tomorrow a bit sooner than planned.

"We had a major technical glitch here," Cahill said. 

The live feed from the courtroom went dark while Donald Williams, the third witness called by prosecutors, was testifying. Williams, a mixed martial arts fighter, can be heard on a viral bystander video berating Derek Chauvin and the other officers while they arrested George Floyd.

At one point, he called the fired officers "bums."

The trial will resume Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. local time with Williams on the stand.

Witness calls Chauvin's move on Floyd a 'shimmy'

462d ago / 9:39 PM UTC

A mixed-martial arts fighter, who came up to the scene of George Floyd's arrest, called Derek Chauvin's knee-on-neck move a "shimmy," a maneuver designed to cut off airflow.

Donald Williams, a high school and junior college wrestler before getting mixed martial arts, was a street bystander on May 25 and told jurors that he recognized what Chauvin was doing to Floyd.

As a prosecutor showed video of Floyd moaning in agony under Chauvin's knee, and Williams called it a "shimmy," noting how the officer's foot was on its toes, driving down and applying pressure into Floyd's neck.

“You can see his foot, his toe is pointing down," Williams said. “And that’s the pressure, to push more down, between his knee, George’s head and the concrete and cut off circulation.”

Williams was the third and final witness on Monday. He will return to the stand Tuesday morning.

 

Bystander heard George Floyd 'pleading' for his life

462d ago / 9:21 PM UTC

George Floyd was "pleading" for his life as a police officer had a knee on his neck, a bystander to the deadly confrontation told jurors Monday.

Donald Williams, 33, was on his way to Cup Foods on May 25 when he saw police holding Floyd to the ground. Williams was the third witness called by prosecutors.

“Hearing George on the ground pretty much pleading for his life saying he’s sorry, 'I can’t breathe, I want my mom, just please let me up,' things like that," Williams told jurors.

Williams had spent that Memorial Day fishing and compared Floyd's demise under the knee of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer on trial, to the fish he caught, as they suffocate out of the water. 

"The more you see Floyd fade away, slowly fade away," Williams said. "He was going through distress because of the knee. He vocalized it, that 'I can't breathe, I need to get up and I'm sorry' and his eyes slowly roll to the back of his head." 

 

Nearby cashier takes video of Floyd's arrest last year

462d ago / 8:47 PM UTC

A bystander who shot video of George Floyd's arrest said she felt compelled to capture his interaction with officers, because police are "always messing with people."

Alisha Oyler worked as a cashier at a Speedway convenience store, across the street from where police took Floyd into custody, leading to his death on May 25. 

She took seven video clips of police taking Floyd into custody.

"I always see the police, they're always messing with people. It's wrong and it's not right," Oyler, 23, told jurors.

 

Defense replays fixed camera video in cross-examination of 911 dispatcher

462d ago / 7:41 PM UTC

Derek Chauvin’s defense attorney in his cross-examination of the first witness Monday replayed video that a 911 dispatcher saw that led her to raise concerns about his use of force, pointing out that she did not have the same training on use of force as police officers.

Eric Nelson in his questioning of Minneapolis 911 dispatcher Jena Lee Scurry said she was not a police officer and thus had not been through the same police academy or training as Chauvin. 

Scurry said in earlier testimony that Chauvin was on George Floyd's neck for so long, she thought live video footage of the scene had frozen. 

She testified that she believed "something was wrong" as she watched a fixed police camera on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis showing Floyd being detained by Chauvin and his colleagues.

"It had not changed. They were still on the ground ....  it was long enough, long enough that I could look back multiple times," Scurry said. "I first asked if the screens had frozen because it hadn't changed." 

Nelson asked Scurry questions to suggest that what she also saw at the time was a potential struggle happening inside a police car as video showed what appeared to be the police car rocking back and forth during part of the encounter before Floyd was on the ground. 

He also asked her if she could hear what the officers were saying as she watched the duration of the live police feed video, which she confirmed she could not at the time.

Prosecution calls second witness, a nearby employee who saw Floyd's arrest

462d ago / 7:32 PM UTC

Prosecutors called their second witness to the stand, a 23-year-old woman who saw police apprehend George Floyd last year.

Alisha Oyler worked at a Speedway convenience store across the street Chicago Avenue when police were called on May 25.

She was questioned by former federal prosecutor Steven Schleicher, who also led jury selection for the prosecution.

462d ago / 7:04 PM UTC

Biden will be following trial 'closely,' White House says

462d ago / 6:15 PM UTC

President Joe Biden will "be watching closely" the trial of Derek Chauvin, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.

"At the time of George Floyd's death, he talked about this as being an event that really opened up a wound in the American public and really brought to light for a lot of people in this country just the kind of racial injustice and inequality that many communities are experiencing every single day," Psaki said. 

Psaki said Biden would not weigh in any further on the matter while the trial was ongoing. When asked whether Biden had been in touch with the Floyd family ahead of the trial, Psaki said she did not have any calls to discuss at the moment.

Biden frequently talked about Floyd as a candidate and has continued to do so as president, urging the country to use Floyd's death as a call to action against systemic racism. In late May, days after Floyd's killing, then then-presumptive Democratic presidential nominee spoke with his family. Biden also gave an emotional taped address that played at Floyd's funeral service in June, saying that "when there is justice for George Floyd, we will truly be on our way to racial justice in America."

Biden, who had long styled himself as a law-and-order Democrat and promoted his close ties with police and first responders, said in May that there needed to be reforms that hold police officers “to a higher standard,” including holding “bad cops accountable.”

462d ago / 5:47 PM UTC

Floyd was on the ground so long, 911 dispatcher believed a TV screen had frozen

462d ago / 5:42 PM UTC

A police officer was on George Floyd's neck for so long, a 911 dispatcher thought live video footage of the scene had frozen, she told jurors. 

Jena Lee Scurry, the dispatcher, testified that she believed "something was wrong" as she watched a fixed police camera on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis showing Floyd being detained by Officer Derek Chauvin and his colleagues.

"It had not changed. They were still on the ground ....  it was long enough, long enough that I could look back multiple times," Scurry said, answering questions from Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank. "I first asked if the screens had frozen because it hadn't changed." 

Floyd had been on the ground under police for so long, Scurry called Chauvin's supervising sergeant to voice her concerns. In the call, played for jurors, Scurry acknowledged that it was beyond her normal duties and called herself a "snitch." 

"My instincts were telling me that something's wrong, something was not right. I don't know what, but something wasn't right," Scurry told jurors.

911 dispatcher called as first witness in Derek Chauvin trial

462d ago / 4:46 PM UTC

The first witness called in the trial against Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd was a Minneapolis 911 dispatcher who called police while witnessing Floyd's arrest.

Jena Lee Scurry was called by prosecutors on Monday. Scurry called police after witnessing Floyd’s arrest on a live feed police camera near the neighborhood, the prosecution said in its opening statement.

"You'll learn that what she saw was so unusual and for her so disturbing that she did something she had never done in her career — she called the police on the police," prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said in his opening statement.

Scurry was questioned for the prosecution by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank, head of the state's criminal division.

Defense argues 'no evidence that Mr. Floyd's airflow was restricted'

462d ago / 4:26 PM UTC

Derek Chauvin's defense attorney said Monday morning during opening statements that a "battle" the trial will hinge on is George Floyd's cause of death. 

Lead defense attorney Eric Nelson said Floyd displayed "none of the telltale signs of asphyxiation." 

There was "no evidence that Mr. Floyd's airflow was restricted," Nelson said. 

He said Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia caused by hypertension and coronary disease along with the presence of fentanyl, methamphetamine and adrenaline in Floyd's body.

The prosecution had said earlier that "George Floyd lived for years, day in and day out with all of these conditions," but did not die until Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes on May 25.  

Defense: 'There is no political or social cause in this courtroom'

462d ago / 4:08 PM UTC

Former police officer Derek Chauvin's attorney  urged jurors to ignore this past summer of protests, and instead focus on a few minutes outside of Cup Foods.

Floyd's death in police custody on May 25 touched off months of demonstrations across the globe, calling for an end to systemic racism. 

"Common sense tells us there are two sides of every story," defense lawyer Eric Nelson told jurors. "There is no political or social cause in this courtroom."

Chauvin defense says case hinges on more than ‘9 minutes and 29 seconds’

462d ago / 4:05 PM UTC

Derek Chauvin’s defense said Monday the evidence in the case is about more than the “9 minutes and 29 seconds” that the former Minneapolis police officer is accused of applying excessive force in the death of George Floyd.

“The evidence in this case is far greater than 9 minutes and 29 seconds,” attorney Eric Nelson said during opening statements Monday morning.

Nelson said the witness list in the case included nearly 400 people and was approaching 50,000 items in terms of documents and evidence related to the case.

“Common sense tells us that we need to examine the totality of the evidence  and how it can be applied to the questions of reasonableness of actions and reactions,” he said.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell played viral bystander video of Chauvin putting his knee to Floyd's neck and told jurors to "believe your eyes" and cast aside defense arguments that anyone other than Chauvin might have caused Floyd's death.

Nelson said the evidence will show that Chauvin “did exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his 19 year career.”

“The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing,” he said.

Prosecution speaks about George Floyd, the person: 'He was somebody to a lot of other bodies'

462d ago / 3:55 PM UTC

Attorney Jerry Blackwell concluded his opening statement for the prosecution in former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial by speaking about George Floyd, the person.

Floyd, who lived in Minnesota by way of Houston and North Carolina, lost his security job when the pandemic began, and had survived Covid 19, Blackwell said. 

"He excelled in basketball and football, he loved shooting hoops until the end," he said.

"I want you to learn something about George Perry Floyd," Blackwell said, pointing out that his loved ones called him Perry.

"He was not just an object of excessive force. He was a real person. He was a father, a brother, a cousin, a friend to many," Blackwell told the jury. "He was somebody to a lot of other bodies in the world." 

Jurors urged to 'believe your eyes' in watching Chauvin's actions

462d ago / 3:34 PM UTC

A prosecutor told jurors to "believe your eyes" and cast aside defense arguments that anyone other than defendant Derek Chauvin might have caused George Floyd's death.

After playing jurors a 9 1/2-minute long bystander video of Floyd's final moments on earth, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell sought to pre-empt Chauvin's defense from arguing that drug use or underlying health issues led to Floyd's death in police custody last year.

"You can believe your eyes that it's homicide," Blackwell said in opening statements. "It's murder. You can believe your eyes."

 

Prosecution will call witnesses who say Chauvin’s use of force was excessive, lethal

462d ago / 3:31 PM UTC

The state of Minnesota says it plans to call multiple witnesses that will say the force Derek Chauvin used against George Floyd was excessive and “capable of killing” a human being.

During opening statements on Monday, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said witnesses will include Jody Stiger, a sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department and use of force expert. Stiger will testify that the amount of force Chauvin used against Floyd was “lethal” and “capable of killing a human or putting his or her life in danger,” Blackwell said.

“The evidence is going to show you that there was no cause in the first place to use lethal force against a man who was defenseless, who was handcuffed, who was not resisting,” Blackwell said. 

Jurors will also hear from Sgt. David Pleoger, an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, who later  arrived to the scene of Floyd’s death. Pleoger will testify that the use of force against Floyd should have ended “as soon as they put him on the ground,” Blackwell said.

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo will also testify that Chauvin’s actions were not consistent with department training and policy, Blackwell said.

“He will not mince any words, he’s very clear. He’d be very decisive that this was excessive force,” Blackwell said.

Other first responders and experts on excessive force and police training are also expected to testify.

Trial's star witness, viral video of Floyd's final moments of life, makes appearance at opening statements

462d ago / 3:06 PM UTC
Police officer Derek Chauvin kneels on the neck of George Floyd in a still from video.
Police officer Derek Chauvin kneels on the neck of George Floyd in a still from video.Darnella Frazier / via AFP - Getty Images file

It didn't take long for this trial's star witness, viral bystander video of a Minneapolis police officer putting his knee to George Floyd's neck, to make an appearance.

Just 26 minutes into opening statements, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell showed the bystander footage and reminded a dozen jurors and two alternates why they're inside a Hennepin County courtroom, sitting in judgement of the former officer and murder suspect Derek Chauvin.

"I need to to tell you ahead of time that the video is graphic, that it can be difficult to watch," Blackwell told the jurors before playing the video that set off a summer of worldwide protests against systemic racism. "It is simply the nature of what we're dealing with in this trial, ladies and gentlemen."

As the disturbing video rolled for jurors, Chauvin watched it intently and occasionally took notes.

Prosecutor: Floyd killed in 9 minutes and 29 seconds of 'excessive force'

462d ago / 3:03 PM UTC

A prosecutor accused Derek Chauvin of applying "excessive force" on George Floyd for precisely 9 minutes and 29 seconds. 

While the exact amount of time Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck has varied depending on the camera angle of video taken last May 25, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell settled on this precise 9 1/2-minute figure.

"You will learn what happened in that 9 minutes and 29 seconds, the most important numbers you will hear in this trial are 9, 2, 9," Blackwell told jurors. "What happens in those 9 minutes and 29 seconds were  Mr. Derek Chauvin was applying this excessive force." 

Blackwell added, "You will be able to hear Mr. Floyd saying, 'Please, I can't breathe, please man, please,' in these 9 minutes  and 29 seconds."

Chauvin 'betrayed his badge' says prosecution in opening statements

462d ago / 2:58 PM UTC

Special prosecutor Jerry Blackwell in his opening statement for the prosecution in former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin's trial said Chauvin "betrayed this badge" when he used "used excessive and unreasonable force" against George Floyd.

The badge "carries with it a large responsibility and a large accountability to the public," Blackwell said. 

The badge "represents the very motto of the Minneapolis Police Department — to protect with courage, to serve with compassion," Blackwell said. "Compassion, sanctity of life are the cornerstone of that little badge worn over the officer's heart."

“Mr. Chauvin betrayed this badge,” he said.

462d ago / 2:43 PM UTC

Who are the 14 jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial?

462d ago / 2:40 PM UTC

The 14 jurors in the Derek Chauvin murder trial in the death of George Floyd were sworn in Monday morning ahead of opening statements. 

Fourteen jurors, including two alternates, will be present for the trial, which is expected to last around four weeks. 

The jury is made up of nine women and five men. Eight of the jurors identify as white, four as Black and two as mixed race. They range in age from the 20s to their 60s.

The 14 jurors are: two white men, one in his 20s and the other in his 30s; six white women, four in their 50s, one in her 40s and one in her 20s; two mixed-race woman, one in her 20s and the other in her 40s; three Black men, two in their 30s and one in his 40s; and one Black woman in her 60s.

15th juror dismissed in Derek Chauvin trial

462d ago / 2:33 PM UTC

The 15th and final juror chosen in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd was dismissed Monday morning as opening statements were set to begin.

The man, who is white and in his 20s, had been chosen last Tuesday during the 11th day of a jury selection process that saw 95 jurors dismissed. The 15th juror was expected to be dismissed unless one of the others was released before then.

Fourteen jurors, including two alternates, will be sworn in.

They include nine women and five men. Eight of the jurors identify as white, four as Black and two as of mixed race. They range in ages from the 20s to the 60s.

Ben Crump: George Floyd's record isn't at issue, because this is the trial of Derek Chauvin

462d ago / 2:14 PM UTC

Outside the courthouse Monday ahead of opening statements, Floyd family attorney Benjamin Crump said the defense will talk about George Floyd's record during opening arguments. 

"But his record isn't at issue," Crump said. "Because this is the trial of Derek Chauvin. Let's talk about his record. His 19 records of excessive force."

Multiple people who had run-ins with Chauvin before his deadly encounter with Floyd have accused him of using excessive force.

Floyd's family kneels for 8 minutes and 46 seconds ahead of trial opening

462d ago / 2:13 PM UTC

Civil rights leaders and the family of George Floyd took a knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds Monday morning outside the courthouse where the murder trial was set to begin for the former Minneapolis police officer who knelt on Floyd's neck for that long on May 25 of last year.

“Today starts a landmark trial that will be a referendum on how far America has come in its quest for equality and justice for all," civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said prior to the group kneeling.

Crump and Floyd's family have said that it should not be difficult for the jury to convict the former officer, Derek Chauvin.

"If this trial is hard, we got two justice systems in America — one for white America and one for Black America," said Floyd's nephew, Brandon Williams.

"Chauvin is in the courtroom, but America's on trial," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, before the group knelt in the cold, showing what nearly nine minutes of kneeling looks like. 

"What kind of venom, what kind of hatred do you have that would make you press down that long while a man is begging for his life, begging for his mother?" Sharpton asked. "At what point does your humanity kick in?"

Floyd family lawyer, Attorney Ben Crump (L) and Rev. Al Sharpton, the founder and President of National Action Network,(C) and George Floyd's brother kneel outside the Hennepin County Government Center on Monday March 29, 2021.
Floyd family lawyer, Attorney Ben Crump (L) and Rev. Al Sharpton, the founder and President of National Action Network,(C) and George Floyd's brother kneel outside the Hennepin County Government Center on Monday March 29, 2021.Kerem Yucel / AFP - Getty Images file

'He choked me out': Others detail allegations of abuse by officer who knelt on George Floyd

462d ago / 2:03 PM UTC

In November 2013, Minneapolis police pulled over LaSean Braddock shortly after midnight as he drove home from a double shift as a mental health worker at Hennepin County Medical Center.

When he hesitated to get out of the car, the officer aggressively hit the driver's side window with a flashlight, Braddock said. Two officers then tried to pull him from the car before he got out on his own.

More than six years later, Braddock saw one of those officers again as he watched a harrowing video of George Floyd's final moments. Derek Chauvin, Braddock said, was one of the officers who had treated him roughly. A police report from that night confirms that Chauvin was one of the arresting officers.

Braddock said he believes Floyd might still be alive if the complaint he filed alleging excessive force by Chauvin the day after their encounter had been taken seriously and not dismissed.

"It's unfortunate that they didn't do anything to Derek Chauvin," Braddock said in a recent interview. "If they had done something about it, it might not have went that far."

Click here to read the full story.

462d ago / 1:24 PM UTC

George Floyd's brother says case against Derek Chauvin is 'slam dunk'

462d ago / 12:44 PM UTC

Hours before the murder trial was set to begin for the former Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on George Floyd's neck for about nine minutes, Floyd's brother said the case is a "slam dunk," and he and his family are hoping for a second-degree murder conviction.

"We’re feeling good," Philonise Floyd said on NBC's "Today" Monday morning. "We know that this case, to us, is a slam dunk because we know the video is the proof, that's all you need. The guy was kneeling on my brother's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, a guy who was sworn in to protect. He killed my brother in broad daylight."

"That was a modern day lynching," Floyd added.

Click here to read full story.

Attorneys in Chauvin trial home in on key juror question: Black or Blue Lives matter?

462d ago / 11:30 AM UTC

During the jury selection in Chauvin's trial, it was apparent that while the facts of the case were black and white for the prosecution and defense, when it came to prospective jurors, it would have more to do with Black versus blue.

Attorneys homed in on two questions on the juror questionnaire: how favorably prospective jurors view the Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements. These and other questions have helped attorneys learn where people stand on such issues as defunding the Minneapolis Police Department, whether the criminal justice system is biased against minorities and whether media coverage of police brutality "is only the tip of the iceberg."

Experts say that questions focusing on the two movements is shaping up to be a proxy for determining how valuable a prospective juror will be to either side in the case.

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Here's what to know about the Derek Chauvin trial

462d ago / 11:30 AM UTC

The death of George Floyd in police custody last summer sparked months of protests demanding racial justice in dozens of cities around the world after bystander video of his last moments went viral.

Ten months after Floyd's death, opening statements in the trial of Derek Chauvin, who was fired after the encounter, are set to begin Monday before 14 jurors, including two alternates.

The jury is made up of nine women and six men. Nine of the jurors identify as white, four as Black and two as mixed race. They range in age from the 20s to their 60s.

Here's what else to know about the charges and the people who will present the prosecution and defense cases.

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What the prosecution and the defense are expected to argue at Derek Chauvin's trial

462d ago / 11:12 AM UTC

The prosecution will argue Derek Chauvin’s restraint of George Floyd for nearly nine minutes was a “substantial” cause of his loss of consciousness and, ultimately, death in police custody.

In an amended complaint, prosecutors with the office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison state that the medical examiner listed Floyd’s cause of death as cardiopulmonary arrest “complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression” and that the manner of death was ruled a homicide.

The defense will try to sow doubt in the prosecution’s claims by offering up evidence that suggests Floyd could have died from his health maladies and use of drugs.

In a motion to dismiss the charges, the defense argued Chauvin did not assault Floyd and did not have intent to harm him.

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