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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.

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

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'

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’

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'

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

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

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

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'

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

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.

Who are the 14 jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial?

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.