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

Sooke plans to begin construction of the $4.9-million Church Road corridor project this summer. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)
Sooke hopes to start Church Road Corridor project this summer

Road upgrade includes a roundabout, sidewalks, bike lanes and boulevards

The site of the proposed rental housing development at 2197 Otter Point Rd. (District of Sooke)
District of Sooke approves development with 77 rental units

New parking lot for John Phillips Memorial Park included in project

Traffic is backed up due to a crash on Highway 1. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)
Traffic backs up on Highway 1 westbound in View Royal after crash

First responders are reportedly on the scene in View Royal

Police are looking for the driver of this truck after it nearly hit a group of kids in Esquimalt on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Police)
Victoria police looking for driver of truck that nearly missed kids before crashing in Esquimalt

The truck’s driver, a man, fled the scene after the truck crashed into a house’s fence

A driver stopped by Saanich police following a road rage incident on April 15 was found to be impaired, in violation of a license restriction and in a damaged vehicle. They received a 90-day driving prohibition and a 30-day vehicle impound. (Saanich Police Traffic Safety Unit/Twitter)
Driver stopped on Pat Bay Highway after road rage reports fails breathalyzer test: police

Several witnesses reported driver to Saanich police, school officer intercepted

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

The District of Sooke will continue to flower with Communities in Bloom. (Pixabay)
Sooke will bud but not bloom in provincial competition

Council scales back participation in Communities in Bloom

An armed officer walks outside Cerwydden Care on Cowichan Lake Road near Skinner Road Wednesday, April 14 around 5:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Officers surround building as homeowner held in apartment for nearly four hours by adult son

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour Pacific Rim highway closures planned in the next 6 weeks

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

Most Read