Trial of former police officer accused in George Floyd’s death gets underway

A light rail train is blocked briefly by demonstrators next to the plaza at Hennepin County Government Center on the eve of the start of the trial of Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Minneapolis. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)A light rail train is blocked briefly by demonstrators next to the plaza at Hennepin County Government Center on the eve of the start of the trial of Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Minneapolis. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP)
The Rev. Al Sharpton, left, elbow bumps a man as he arrived for a vigil for the family of George Floyd at Greater Friendship Church, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Minneapolis. Opening statements are set for Monday in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder and manslaughter in George Floyd’s death. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)The Rev. Al Sharpton, left, elbow bumps a man as he arrived for a vigil for the family of George Floyd at Greater Friendship Church, Sunday, March 28, 2021, in Minneapolis. Opening statements are set for Monday in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder and manslaughter in George Floyd’s death. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)

The trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death is underway.

The judge briefed the jurors on their duties ahead of opening statements Monday in the case that sparked waves of outrage justice across the U.S. and beyond after bystander video showed Derek Chauvin press his knee to Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes.

Legal experts said they expect prosecutors to play the video to the jury early on to remind jurors of what is at the heart of their case.

Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said outside the courthouse ahead of opening statements that the trial would be a test of “whether America is going to live up to the Declaration of Independence.”

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

A former Minneapolis police officer goes on trial Monday in George Floyd’s death, and jurors may not wait long to see parts of the bystander video that caught Derek Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck, sparking waves of outrage and activism across the U.S. and beyond.

Prosecutors have not said when they will play the video, but legal experts expect it to be early — maybe even in the prosecution’s opening statement — as they seek to remind jurors of what is at the heart of their case.

“If you’re a prosecutor you want to start off strong. You want to frame the argument — and nothing frames the argument in this case as much as that video,” said Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor and managing director of Berkeley Research Group in Chicago.

Floyd, 46, was declared dead after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes. He held his position even as Floyd’s “I can’t breathe” cries faded and he went limp as he was handcuffed and lying on his stomach. Chauvin, 45, is charged with unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Almost all of the jurors selected during more than two weeks of questioning said they had seen at least parts of the video, and several acknowledged it gave them at least a somewhat negative view of Chauvin. But they said they could set that aside.

Outside the courthouse Monday ahead of opening statements, Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said the trial would be a test of “whether America is going to live up to the Declaration of Independence.” And he blasted the idea that it would be a tough test for jurors.

“For all those people that continue to say that this is such a difficult trial, that this is a hard trial, we refute that,” he said. “We know that if George Floyd was a white American citizen, and he suffered this painful, tortuous death with a police officer’s knee on his neck, nobody, nobody, would be saying this is a hard case.”

VIDEO: George Floyd spurred broad push for change globally, activists say

The trial is expected to last about four weeks at the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis, which has been fortified with concrete barriers, fencing, and barbed and razor wire. City and state leaders are determined to prevent a repeat of damaging riots that followed Floyd’s death, and National Guard troops have already been mobilized.

The key questions at trial will be whether Chauvin caused Floyd’s death and whether his actions were reasonable.

For the unintentional second-degree murder charge, prosecutors have to prove Chauvin’s conduct was a “substantial causal factor” in Floyd’s death, and that Chauvin was committing felony assault at the time. For third-degree murder, they must prove that Chauvin’s actions caused Floyd’s death, and were reckless and without regard for human life. The manslaughter charge requires proof that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death through negligence that created an unreasonable risk.

Unintentional second-degree murder is punishable by up to 40 years in prison in Minnesota, with up to 25 years for third-degree murder, but sentencing guidelines suggest that Chauvin would face 12 1/2 years in prison if convicted on either charge. Manslaughter has a maximum 10-year sentence.

After jury instructions, prosecutors will begin with their opening statement, providing a road map of their case and telling jurors what they can expect to see at trial, said Mike Brandt, a local defence attorney who is watching the case closely. They’ll outline what’s to come, highlighting key witnesses

Chauvin’s defence attorney, Eric Nelson, will likely use his opening statement to push back on what prosecutors say, and tell jurors that medical testimony and use of force experts will show a different view. Nelson has made clear that the defence will make an issue of Floyd swallowing drugs before his arrest, seeking to convince the jury that he was at least partially responsible for his death.

The county medical examiner’s autopsy noted fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s system, but listed his cause of death as “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

Prosecutors are expected to play the bystander video early, because they will want to put the image of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd’s neck in jurors’ minds.

“It sets the stage for anything to follow,” Brandt said. “No matter what happens after that, we’re done.”

He said that while the video is key, the case is really going to be a battle of experts on authorized use of force and cause of death.

Cramer agreed the video gives the prosecutors some “firepower,” but said it’s not going to be where the case is fought. He said people know Floyd died, but the key point of dispute is going to be why it happened and whether Chauvin acted reasonably in that moment.

“Obviously the result was tragic, but were the actions reasonable at that time for that officer,” he said.

The defence, he said, only needs one juror to believe prosecutors didn’t prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Fifteen jurors will appear in court Monday when the case starts, but Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said the 15th was chosen simply to ensure that 14 would be in place once the trial begins. He’s expected to dismiss that person immediately.

Two of the remaining 14 will be alternates, but the court hasn’t made clear which ones.

The panel of 15 includes nine people who are white and six who are Black or multiracial, according to the court. Jury selection took more than two weeks, as jurors were questioned individually about their views on police, racial justice issues and pretrial publicity in the case.

On Sunday night, national civil rights leaders appeared at a prayer service alongside several of Floyd’s family members. Several dozen attendees congregated in the benches at Greater Friendship Missionary Church. The speakers called for justice in Floyd’s death, mirroring the words spoken by leaders during a protest earlier Sunday in downtown Minneapolis.

“This case to us is a slam dunk, because we know the video is the proof, it’s all you need,” Floyd’s brother Philonise said Monday on NBC’s “Today” show. “The guy was kneeling on my brother’s neck … a guy who was sworn in to protect. He killed my brother in broad daylight. That was a modern-day lynching.”

___

Steve Karnowski And Amy Forliti, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

PoliceRacial injusticeUSA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Interior Health nurse administers Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16, 2021. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
105 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

Just over 8,000 new vaccine doses administered in the region for a total of 158,000 to date

Last year’s flood season stretched from April through early July, as this picture of flooding at Cache Creek park on July 4, 2020 shows. With area snowpacks at slightly above normal, temperatures and rainfall will play a role in determining what this year’s flood season looks like. (Photo credit: Tom Moe)
Snowpacks in area slightly higher than normal as freshet starts

Temperatures and rainfall are critical flood risk factors in coming weeks

The Clinton Annual Ball went ahead in 2020, albeit in a different format and with far fewer guests than usual. (Photo credit: Clinton Annual Ball committee)
Clinton Annual Ball postponed again in 2021, but still carries on

Thanks to some creativity, ball is still the longest continually-held event of its kind in Canada

The 2020 financial statements for Cache Creek show that the village needs to look at either increasing revenues or cutting services in order to maintain a balanced budget. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Cache Creek council advised to increase revenues or cut services

Presentation also shows that continued use of Landfill Legacy Fund for operations is unsustainable

A group of outdoor enthusiasts and heritage buffs learning more about the history of the iconic 1926 Alexandra Bridge during a pre-COVID-19 tour. (Photo credit: Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning)
A group of outdoor enthusiasts and heritage buffs learning more about the history of the iconic 1926 Alexandra Bridge during a pre-COVID-19 tour. (Photo credit: Hope Mountain Centre for Outdoor Learning)
Major grant will help refurbish historic Alexandra Bridge near Spuzzum

The 1926 bridge, which last saw vehicle traffic in 1964, is major attraction on Fraser Canyon drive

A sea lion swims past the window of an empty viewing area Vancouver Aquarium is pictured Thursday, September 10, 2020. The Vancouver Aquarium has had to close its doors to the public due to the lack of visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
U.S.-based theme park company buys Vancouver Aquarium

Aquarium had to shut its doors in September due to COVID pandemic

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

A deep cut on a humpback whale is shown in this recent handout photo in the Vancouver area. A conservation organization is warning boaters to be extra careful to prevent further harm to an injured humpback whale swimming in the Vancouver area. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Ocean Wise, Vanessa Prigollini *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Boaters urged to use caution around hurt humpback off Vancouver

Ocean Wise says watchers first noticed the wound 3 days ago and believe it was caused by a vessel strike

Ron Rauch and his wife Audrey are photographed at their home in Victoria, Friday, March 5, 2021. Their daughter Lisa Rauch died on Christmas Day 2019 when a tactical officer with the Victoria Police Department shot her in the back of the head with plastic bullets after barricading herself in a room that was on fire. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. families push for changes as special committee examines provincial Police Act

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth acknowledged the need to update the legislation last year

Major-General Dany Fortin, left, looks on as Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. The Public Health Agency of Canada has set aside up to $5 billion to pay for COVID-19 vaccines. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada negotiating contracts to secure COVID-19 booster shots for next year: Anand

Most of Canada’s current vaccine suppliers are already testing new versions against variants

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Most Read