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

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.”

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

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

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'

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.