Derek Chauvin Trial: Live Updates in George Floyd’s Death

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Protestors passed Minneapolis City Hall on Monday on the way to the Hennepin County Government Center, where the Derek Chauvin trial was beginning.
Credit…Aaron Nesheim for The New York Times

The 12-person jury in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin was selected from an original pool of more than 300 people from across Hennepin County. Over three weeks of jury selection, anonymous citizens sat one at a time on the witness stand and answered questions from the lawyers and judge about the political views and ability (or inability) to be impartial in the case.

Here are the jurors in the trial. After the two sides present their cases, 12 of the jurors will begin deliberations. Two others are alternates.

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Juror No. 2 A white man in his 20s who works as a chemist and said he had not seen the bystander video and had strong views that the criminal justice system is biased against minorities.

Juror No. 9 A woman in her 20s who identifies as mixed race. She has an uncle who is a police officer and said she wanted to be on the jury.

Juror No. 19 A white man in his 30s who works as a financial auditor. He has a friend in the Minneapolis Police Department and said that George Floyd being under the influence of drugs shouldn’t be a factor in the case.

Juror No. 27 A Black man in his 30s, who immigrated to the United States 14 years ago and works in information technology. He disagreed with defunding the police and told his wife that Mr. Floyd “could have been me.”

Juror No. 44 A white woman in her 50s who is a health care executive. She said Mr. Floyd’s death awakened her to “white privilege.”

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Juror No. 52 A Black man in his 30s who writes poems and coaches youth sports. He said he did not believe Mr. Chauvin intended to kill Mr. Floyd but wondered why the other three officers did not intervene.

Juror No. 55 A white woman in her 50s who took up motorcycle riding to honor her late husband. She said she had never watched the full bystander video because it disturbed her.

Juror No. 79 A Black man in his 40s who lives in the suburbs and said last year’s protests had no impact on his community.

Juror No. 85 A woman in her 40s who identifies as multiracial and works as a corporate consultant.

Juror No. 89 A white woman in her 50s who is a nurse and has worked with Covid-19 patients.

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Juror No. 91 A Black woman in her 60s who is a grandmother. Asked about the Black Lives Matter movement, she said, “I am Black, and my life matters.”

Juror No. 92 A white woman in her 40s who works in the insurance industry. She said Mr. Floyd did not deserve to die and that the officers used excessive force.

Juror No. 96 A white woman in her 50s who volunteers at homeless shelters. She said she had a “neutral” opinion of Mr. Floyd.

Juror No. 118 A white woman in her 20s who is a social worker and recently married.

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There’s something very interesting about this question that has emerged in the defense lawyer’s cross-examination of witnesses, of whether the group that confronted the police officers subduing George Floyd was an angry mob, or a gathering of concerned residents. It speaks to larger questions of how police officers see the community — are they quick to see community members as a threat? — and how the community views the police force.

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The court just heard some very short off-camera testimony from the 9-year-old cousin of Darnella Frazier, who walked with Ms. Frazier to Cup Foods on the night of the George Floyd incident. The girl described seeing a police officer with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. “I was sad and kind of mad,” she said. “It felt like he was stopping his breathing, and it was kind of, like, hurting him.” The defense lawyer asked her no questions.

Very emotional end to the testimony of Darnella Frazier, the young woman who took the widely seen video of George Floyd’s arrest. She said: “When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad. I look at my brothers. I look at my cousins, my uncles because they are all Black. I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends. And I look at that, and I look at how that could have been one of them.”

The activist Kaia Hirt sits chained to the fence erected outside of the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial is being held.
Credit…Aaron Nesheim for The New York Times

Just outside the courthouse, near a light-rail line across the street from City Hall, about two dozen protesters gathered on a corner carrying a Black Lives Matter sign, sharing coffee and blankets. They gave out hand sanitizer and masks.

One activist napped on a folding chair on a lawn just south of the courthouse. The fence outside the courthouse had activist signs, including one that called for abolishing the police.

At one point, tensions started to rise as protesters moved into the street. Police tried to move them back to the sidewalk as chants from the crowd grew. People in cars revved their engines. A man stepped out of an orange Subaru and yelled that the police were bad and that the system was racist. The atmosphere eventually calmed but the small group of activists continued to chant.

Here’s an update from the journalist serving as a pool reporter within the courtroom: Several jurors (who cannot be seen on camera in the live coverage of the proceedings) appear especially engaged today, taking a lot of notes. One juror in particular appeared uncomfortable and shocked during some of the testimony this morning.

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Returning to the witness stand after a break is Darnella Frazier, 18, who took the widely shared video of George Floyd’s arrest. A reporter in the courtroom said she was crying before the break as she described the scene.

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Derek Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, begins his cross examination of Ms. Frazier in a friendly manner. Unlike with Mr. Williams, the bystander and mixed-martial artist who testified this morning, he will have to tread lightly and not seem to antagonize Ms. Frazier, who appears traumatized by what she witnessed last year.

In testimony on Tuesday morning, Donald Williams II, the mixed martial artist who witnessed George Floyd’s death, described what he saw:

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Correct. Like I said before, you could see that he was going through, uh, tremendous pain and you can see it in his face from the grunting. Uh, you can see his eyes slowly, you know, rolling back up in his head and him having his mouth open, um, wide open, slowly with drool and slob and dryness on his mouth. And, uh, you can see that he’s trying to, you know, gasp for air, you know, and trying to be able to breathe, uh, as he’s down there and trying to move his face, you know, side to side so he can you know, I’m believing, I’m assuming gasp for more air there.

The court is taking a 15-minute break. When the jury returns at 11:15 Central, Darnella Frazier, who at 17 fimed the video of George Floyd’s arrest on a cellphone, bringing attention to his death, will return to the witness stand.

Ms. Frazier said the only violence she saw that day was from the police officers, a rebuttal to the defense’s portrayal of the bystanders as an angry mob that diverted the officers’ attention from Mr. Floyd.

As is so often the case, this trial is a matter of perspective. Was there an angry mob that was striking fear into the police? Or were the police threatening bystanders who were trying to get George Floyd help?

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On Tuesday, Derek Chauvin’s defense team questioned Donald Williams II, a mixed martial artist who witnessed George Floyd’s death.CreditCredit…Still image from Court TV

The defense attorney for the former police officer Derek Chauvin spent Tuesday morning discrediting Donald Williams II, a mixed martial artist who witnessed the death of George Floyd, by drawing attention to his lack of knowledge of medical aid and police training.

Eric J. Nelson spent a good deal of the morning on the second day of the trial asking Mr. Williams to outline his experience as a fighter, his knowledge of different moves and even asking him whether he ever was able to speak when he was held in chokehold during a fight.

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Mr. Williams reacted by turning to the judge on that last question, puzzled. The line of questioning suggested, as some observers have said, that Mr. Floyd would not have been able to speak had Mr. Chauvin cut off his airway by kneeling on his neck.

What began as a routine back-and-forth questioning that focused on Mr. Williams detailing his fighting experience became more pointed when Mr. Nelson began to ask him if he had threatened police as he watched Mr. Floyd be detained. Mr. Nelson attempted to paint Mr. Williams as an angry, disruptive bystander who had no medical experience with which to accurately judge the police officers’ actions. Mr. Nelson argued in his opening statement that the bystanders made the police’s job harder.

The back and forth was tense at times, with Mr. Nelson asking Mr. Williams if witnessing the situation made him want to fight the police officers.

“You can’t paint me out to be angry,” Mr. Williams said multiple times. Mr. Williams said he could see Mr. Floyd “was going through tremendous pain.’’

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One of the few times we had heard from Ms. Frazier before now was earlier this month, when she wrote on Facebook that Derek Chauvin “deserves to go down” and asked what else might have been “covered up” if no one had recorded Mr. Floyd’s arrest.

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Darnella Frazier, who was 17-years-old when she filmed video of George Floyd’s arrest, testified on Tuesday in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in Mr. Floyd’s death.CreditCredit…Still image via Court TV

The woman who recorded Derek Chauvin as he knelt on George Floyd’s neck in a video that challenged the initial police narrative and brought a wave of attention to the death of Mr. Floyd gave emotional testimony in court on Tuesday morning.

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Darnella Frazier was 17 when she recorded the cellphone video and uploaded it to Facebook in May, igniting international protests over racism and police abuse. Ms. Frazier, now 18, said in court that she feels regret for not physically engaging the officers, but that they were the ones ultimately at fault.

“It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” Ms. Frazier said. She added, seemingly referring to Mr. Chauvin, who sat with his lawyer nearby: “But it’s like, it’s not what I should have done, it’s what he should have done.”

Ms. Frazier has largely stayed out of the spotlight since Mr. Floyd’s death, but she said his death has haunted her and that she has anxiety.

“When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they’re all Black,” Ms. Frazier said. “I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends.

She added: “I look at how that could have been one of them.”

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On the day of Mr. Floyd’s death, Ms. Frazier said, she had been walking to the Cup Foods convenience store with her 9-year-old cousin to get some snacks when they came upon the arrest.

“I see a man on the ground, and I see a cop kneeling down on him,” Ms. Frazier said. She described seeing Mr. Floyd “terrified, scared, begging for his life.”

Ms. Frazier said that as a crowd of bystanders yelled more loudly at the officers, Mr. Chauvin reached for his mace. “I felt in danger when he did that,” she said.

Ms. Frazier’s voice was emotional on the stand and she cried several times during her testimony. Judge Peter A. Cahill ruled on Tuesday that Ms. Frazier and three other witnesses, two of whom are minors and one of whom is also 18, could testify off-camera. Audio of their testimony is being broadcast live.

Ms. Frazier made one of her first public comments earlier this month, as the jury was being selected, when she wrote on Facebook and Instagram that Mr. Chauvin “deserves to go down” and wondered aloud “what else got covered up if it was no evidence.”

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Ms. Frazier has been praised by Chief Medaria Arradondo of the Minneapolis Police Department and, in December, received an award for courage from PEN America, a group that promotes free expression. Spike Lee, the film director, presented her with the award during a virtual event.

Ms. Frazier is audibly emotional as she describes arriving on the scene at Cup Foods and seeing George Floyd “terrified, scared, begging for his life.”

Ms. Frazier sounds like she is holding back tears. The emotion is palpable and difficult. This is the first time we have heard what motivated her to take that now infamous video.

Darnella Frazier, who took the famous bystander video last year when she was 17, takes the stand. She turned 18 last week, and is testifying off camera.

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The judge is now telling the jury that the next four witnesses — two of whom are under the age of 18, and two of whom who were minors at the time of Mr. Floyd’s death — will not testify on camera.

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The trial ran smoothly on the first day, but a series of objections from both sides during the testimony of Donald Williams, who just left the stand, seems to have frustrated everyone — lawyers for both sides, Mr. Williams and the judge, who frequently had to break from questioning to discuss what could be asked.

This is very effective redirect from the prosecutor. He has made it clear that there are differences between how things happen in a mixed-martial arts fight versus what was happening to George Floyd. He pointed out, for instance, that MMA fights are never three against one, and that fighters are never handcuffed.

This cross-examination of Mr. Williams by Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer is giving us some of the first testy moments of the trial. When Mr. Williams looked at notes, Mr. Nelson admonished him that court rules require witnesses to testify by memory.

Mr. Nelson indicated yesterday during his opening statement that the crowd of people during the arrest of Mr. Floyd had made the officers worry for their safety. Now he is attempting to portray Mr. Williams as angry. “You can’t paint me out to be angry,” Mr. Williams said. He has indicated that his reaction was out of desperation because of what he was seeing.

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A memorial site for George Floyd near where he died in May was quiet on Tuesday morning.
Credit…Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times

Derek Chauvin faces three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Second-degree murder, also called unintentional murder or felony murder, is killing someone in the course of committing another felony — in this case, the prosecutors will argue that Mr. Chauvin was assaulting George Floyd. This charge does not require the prosecution to prove that Mr. Chauvin had any intent to kill. It carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, but Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines recommend a sentence of 10.5 years for someone who, like Mr. Chauvin, has no prior convictions.

Third-degree murder is a death that occurs when someone is acting extremely dangerously, without regard to human life and “evincing a depraved mind.” Prosecutors will argue that Mr. Chauvin knew that the restraint he used on Mr. Floyd was potentially lethal and a violation of police procedure and training. Third-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 25 years. The guideline recommendation is 10.5 years.

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Second-degree manslaughter is death by “culpable negligence,” in which the perpetrator knowingly risks causing death or serious harm. It’s punishable by up to 10 years, but under the state guidelines a likely sentence would be four years.

On the stand, Donald Williams said he called 911 after George Floyd was taken away by the ambulance. “I believed I witnessed a murder,” he said.

He is the second witness to say he called the police on the police, after watching the encounter between Mr. Floyd and the officers. He is now being cross-examined by Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson.

The call to jury duty for the trial of Derek Chauvin, the white former police officer accused of murdering George Floyd, a Black man, came with 14 pages of questions about race, policing, martial arts and podcasts.

Typically, such questionnaires include submissions from both the prosecution and the defense, with the final selections made by the judge. More than 300 questionnaires were returned. It is not clear whether the submitted answers will ever become public. But lawyers used these as a starting point when they began questioning potential jurors.

New York Times reporters reviewed the questionnaire before jury selection began to understand what lawyers for both sides would be looking for. Here is their analysis from before the process started.

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What do you know about this case from media reports?

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The goal is not to find someone who has never heard of George Floyd — anyone who makes that claim may be seen as incompetent or even dishonest. Still, lawyers will be trying to flag people who have been paying really close attention and may have already made up their minds on the case.

What podcasts do you regularly listen to?

The lawyers will be looking for ideological markers, and podcasts offer an almost infinite range of viewpoints from mainstream to niche. Generally speaking, the defense will be looking for political conservatives with pro-law-enforcement views.

Have you ever been restrained or put in a chokehold, for example, by law enforcement or during a self-defense class? ◻ Yes ◻ No If Yes, please explain:

This question gets at a tricky part of jury selection — do you want someone with a particular experience related to the case, or not? Sometimes it can be beneficial, but other times the juror may become overly focused on his or her own past.

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The section above is crucial for both sides. The defense will be looking for people favorable to law enforcement, while the prosecution wants jurors who can be critical of the justice system. Strong views are likely to result in disqualification.

One concern is that this section, along with another section that asks whether jurors believe the criminal justice system is fair, could be used to eliminate jurors of color who express agreement with statements that are objectively true, for example, the Minneapolis police are more likely to use force against Black suspects than against white ones — at seven times the rate.

11. Do you have any martial arts training or experience?

Most likely, this is a question from the defense. That side will be looking for anyone with knowledge of restraint techniques and an understanding that using them can be safe and nonlethal.

There is one big rule in jury selection: Find out as much as you can about every candidate. There’s no single litmus test or demographic profile for who makes a good juror. Lawyers have to try to round out their portraits of each person, and will often be balancing plusses and minuses.

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5. What city do you live in and how long have you lived there?

This question seems aimed at determining whether a potential juror has any personal experience with the unrest over the summer — whether, for instance, businesses in his or her community were damaged or looted.

The above section is another variation of the experience question. Doctors, police officers, forensic scientists — they may be better equipped to understand technical evidence, or they may substitute their own judgment for that of the expert witnesses giving testimony. It is unclear whether the lawyers want experts on the jury in this case.

Struggle with Drug Addiction?

This question underscores the role that drugs are likely to play in the case. We already know Mr. Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, and Mr. Chauvin’s defense is likely to argue that Mr. Floyd died of a drug overdose. Therefore, the defense will probably pay special attention to this question, and perhaps seek to strike any juror who admits to having struggled with drugs.

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14. Would any of the experiences you noted above make it difficult for you to be fair and impartial? If so, why?

The jury system depends almost entirely on the honesty of potential jurors. But often, all jurors have to do to satisfy the judge is to say that they can be impartial. If lawyers don’t believe them but cannot convince a judge to strike them for cause, they can still use one of their peremptory strikes — the prosecution has 9, the defense has 15.

3. Under our system of justice, defendants are presumed innocent of the criminal charges against them. Would you have any difficulty following this principle of law?

Conversely, jurors who don’t want to serve have an easy out: They can simply say they don’t agree with the fundamental principles of the system, or that they don’t think they can be fair.

11. Do you want to serve as a juror in this case? ◻ Yes ◻ No ◻ Not Sure

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12. Why do you feel that way about serving as a juror in this case?

This is a trick question. Anyone who answers “yes” will be suspected of having an agenda, especially if the reason involves justice, race, policing or basically anything other than simply “I’ve always wanted to serve on a jury.”

George Floyd’s family members after a court hearing in September 2020. The “8:46” mask was a reference to how long Derek Chauvin was initially said to have knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck.
Credit…Kerem Yucel/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The length of time that Derek Chauvin was initially said to have knelt on George Floyd’s neck — eight minutes 46 seconds — was put on masks, shirts and signs and became a rallying cry for months at protests in Minneapolis and across the United States.

But the actual time was even longer — nine minutes 29 seconds — a prosecutor noted in court on Monday during the opening statements in the murder trial of Mr. Chauvin.

“The most important numbers you will hear in this trial are nine, two, nine,” Jerry W. Blackwell, one of the prosecutors, said in his opening statement. “What happened in those nine minutes and 29 seconds when Mr. Derek Chauvin was applying this excess force to the body of Mr. George Floyd.”

Shortly after Mr. Floyd’s death on May 25, prosecutors in Hennepin County indicated the length of time was eight minutes 46 seconds. Then, in June, they revised that time downward, to seven minutes 46 seconds, a move that they declined to explain or discuss in response to inquiries from The New York Times and other news outlets who showed that the time was incorrect.

In August, The Times determined, based on newly released body camera footage, that the correct time was about nine minutes 30 seconds. It was not until Monday that prosecutors offered the same number.

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As the length of time has fluctuated, many Minneapolis residents and activists have said that the exact number is less important than the effect of Mr. Chauvin’s actions.

“It makes no difference,” Jamar Nelson, who works with families of crime victims in Minneapolis, said in June. “The bottom line is, it was long enough to kill him.”

Court is back in session with Donald Williams, the mixed martial arts fighter who witnessed George Floyd’s arrest, back on the stand. His testimony yesterday was interrupted when the court’s livestream feed went down.

Beginning the second day of the trial, Judge Peter A. Cahill rules that four younger witnesses may testify off-camera, but that audio of their testimony will be broadcast live. Two of the witnesses are children, and two were minors at the time of George Floyd’s death but have since turned 18.

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Notably, this includes the 18-year-old woman who took the widely seen bystander video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd. She was 17 at the time. A lawyer representing a media coalition that includes The New York Times had objected to allowing her to testify off-camera, noting that she has spoken publicly about the case.

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The Derek Chauvin trial aired at Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta on Monday.
Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd, enters its second day on Tuesday with a clearer view of the strategies of both the prosecution and the defense.

Since Mr. Floyd’s death in May, public perception has been largely based on the video that showed Mr. Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd for more than nine minutes. But it was made clear on Monday that the defense wants jurors to consider more.

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A lawyer for Mr. Chauvin said that he also wanted the jurors to take into account Mr. Floyd’s size, the drugs that were found in his system and the agitated crowd that stood on the sidewalk — which he said distracted Mr. Chauvin.

Prosecutors hoped to bring jurors’ attention back to the video that led to protests against police brutality in towns and cities across the nation.

The defense’s tactic has been used to defend other police officers at the center of damning videos, including in the cases of Rodney King and Laquan McDonald. The officers who were seen kicking and beating Mr. King with batons were acquitted on state charges but convicted on federal civil rights charges. The officer who fatally shot Mr. McDonald was convicted of second-degree murder, the most serious charge that Mr. Chauvin is now facing.

While the video will undoubtedly play a major role in this trial, so will Mr. Floyd’s precise cause of death.

On Monday, prosecutors said they would present seven additional medical experts to show that he died from asphyxia, which would pin the blame more definitively on Mr. Chauvin. The defense argued that Mr. Floyd died of hypertension, heart disease, drug ingestion and “the adrenaline flowing through his body.”

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As the trial proceeds this week, the nervous energy that pervaded downtown Minneapolis on Monday is likely to linger. Several government buildings, including the courthouse, have been encased with concrete slabs and metal fencing.

On a lawn just south of the courthouse, members of Mr. Floyd’s family and their lawyers pointed to earlier cases in which video evidence was not enough to secure a conviction against a police officer.

“They say trust the system,” said Terrence Floyd, one of Mr. Floyd’s brothers. “Well, this is your chance to show us we can trust you.”

Police officers standing guard in Minneapolis on May 29 after a night of protests fueled by the death of George Floyd.
Credit…Scott Olson/Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS — The sacred intersection where George Floyd died beneath the knee of a police officer has seen such an increase in violence that food delivery drivers are afraid to venture there. There have been gun battles, with bloodied shooting victims dragged to ambulances because of barricades keeping the police and emergency vehicles away.

“Having no police: This is the experiment right here,” said P.J. Hill, a leader of Worldwide Outreach for Christ, a church that has been on that corner in Minneapolis for almost 40 years. “This is their one-block experiment.”

Residents all over town still complain of officers using excessive force, like during a recent confrontation in which a white officer appeared to wind up and punch a Black teenager. And officers accuse some community members of antagonizing them, like in a recent dispute over a homeless encampment that erupted into a melee with punches and pepper spray.

A pledge by most City Council members in June to defund and dismantle the Police Department and create a new system of public safety met fierce resistance. It has since given way to a grab bag of efforts that have yet to prove their effectiveness and have left the city fractured.

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Looming over everything is a palpable unease over what the 12 jurors will decide in the trial of Derek Chauvin, who is facing second- and third-degree murder charges, as well as manslaughter, after being captured on video kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes in May.

Many worry that an acquittal could set back the work that has been done to reform public safety and to attempt healing, and put the city right back where it was last summer with buildings ablaze and the streets roiling with anger.

John Eligon, a New York Times national correspondent, has reported on the death of George Floyd, the protests it set off across the nation, and the weeks leading up to the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of killing Mr. Floyd. In the videos below, Mr. Eligon breaks down Day 1 of the courtroom proceedings and what might emerge during the trial in the coming weeks.

Ten months after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis set off nationwide protests, the first day of the murder trial against former police officer Derek Chauvin drew interest from across the country.

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Chauvin Trial: Day 1 Key Moments

The murder trial for Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd, began on Monday in Minneapolis. The prosecution and defense focused on the cause of Mr. Floyd’s death and Mr. Chauvin’s use of force.

“You will see that his respiration gets shallower and shallower, and finally stops when he speaks his last words, ‘I can’t breathe.’” “So how do we begin to analyze and organize this evidence? I suggest that you let common sense and reason guide you.” “We have two objectives in this trial, ladies and gentlemen — the first objective is to give Mr. Chauvin a fair trial. And a second objective, ladies and gentlemen, is to bring you the evidence.” “The first thing that Officer Chauvin sees is Officers Kueng and Lane struggling with Mr. Floyd.” “Mr. Chauvin’s conduct was not consistent with Minneapolis Police Department training. Was not consistent with Minneapolis Police Department policy, was not reflective of the Minneapolis Police Department. We are bringing this case, this prosecution against Mr. Chauvin for the excessive force he applied on the body of Mr. George Floyd, for engaging in behavior that was imminently dangerous, and the force that he applied without regard for its impact on the life of Mr. George Floyd. So we learn here that Mr. Floyd, at some point, is completely passed out. Mr. Chauvin continues on as he had, knee on the neck, knee on the back. You will see he does not let up. And he does not get up.” “The first call, officers called for paramedics to arrive, Code 2, because Mr. Floyd had a nose injury. He was bleeding from the nose — that occurred during the struggle. Mr. Floyd banged his face into the plexiglass partition of the squad car. The evidence will show that Mr. Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia that occurred as a result of hypertension, coronary disease, the ingestion of methamphetamine and fentanyl and the adrenaline flowing through his body.”

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The murder trial for Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd, began on Monday in Minneapolis. The prosecution and defense focused on the cause of Mr. Floyd’s death and Mr. Chauvin’s use of force.CreditCredit…Kerem Yucel/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

One of the most closely watched court cases in decades got underway on Monday as the murder trial began for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who is being charged with murder in the death of George Floyd.

A long day in court began with the prosecution’s opening remarks, focusing the jury’s attention on the bystander video of Mr. Floyd’s death — all nine minutes and 29 seconds of it — and ended with the testimony of a mixed martial arts fighter who was on the scene and said he believed Mr. Chauvin was killing Mr. Floyd. In between, the defense laid out its theory of the case, vowing to prove over the course of the trial that Mr. Floyd died of a drug overdose and heart condition.

Here’s what happened.

  • The trial began with opening statements from both sides, laying the groundwork for both teams as they make their case to the jury pool. Prosecuting attorney Jerry W. Blackwell aimed to focus the jurors’ attention on the famous video of Mr. Floyd’s arrest, which sparked a wave of protests across the country this summer. The video, taken by a bystander, showed Mr. Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck, where he remained for about 9 minutes and 30 seconds. “You can believe your eyes, that it’s homicide — it’s murder,” Mr. Blackwell said, adding that the trial was “about Derek Chauvin,” not the police in general.

  • Defense attorneys for Mr. Chauvin laid out their strategy as well — one that will ask jurors to consider heaps of evidence outside of the video itself. Eric Nelson, the lawyer for Mr. Chauvin, said there are more than 50,000 items in evidence and told jurors that the case “is clearly more than about 9 minutes and 29 seconds.”

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  • The state also made clear another point: that Mr. Floyd’s exact cause of death will prove to be one of the most crucial points of this trial. In its opening statement, the prosecution (not the defense, as previously reported) said it would call seven medical experts, in addition to the Hennepin County medical examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, who performed the only autopsy on Mr. Floyd and classified it as a homicide.

  • Witnesses, including a cashier at a gas station across the street who filmed the encounter and a 911 dispatcher, also described their actions during the time that Mr. Floyd was arrested. “My instincts were telling me that something’s wrong,” said Jena Scurry, the 911 dispatcher, who alerted a supervising sergeant about what was happening. But she was circumspect about what exactly she thought was wrong; she said she thought officers may have needed reinforcements.

  • Outside the courthouse, the amount of public interest in the trial was laid bare, as protesters gathered and a helicopter whirled overhead. Temporary concrete and metal barricades encircled some of the government buildings downtown, while national guard members and state police officers stood by. Ben Crump, a lawyer for Mr. Floyd’s family, told supporters on Monday that “the whole world is watching.”

The video of police beating Rodney King in March 1991 was one of the first capturing abuse by an officer. The videos have become key to trials where officers have been accused of misconduct.
Credit…George Holliday/KTLA Los Angeles, via Associated Press

The trial of Derek Chauvin is the latest in a string of high-profile police misconduct cases in which the events were recorded on video, dating back to the beating of Rodney King in 1991. The graphic video of George Floyd’s death last year was seen by millions of people and was at the center of the prosecution’s case on Monday.

But similar evidence has not always guaranteed a conviction of police officers, said Dave Rudovsky, a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s law school with 50 years of experience in civil rights, including cases tied to police misconduct. Prosecutors are usually hesitant to take on these cases, and jurors tend to be sympathetic toward officers who they believe made split-second decisions when facing danger, he said.

Mr. Rudovsky called the video in the Chauvin case “very powerful.” But he cautioned that a conviction was not guaranteed, “even if these videos seem to show a high level of misconduct and no justification. None of these are sure things with jurors.”

Here are some of the most famous cases involving police officers caught on video and the outcomes:

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  • Rodney King: The grainy, black-and-white video of police beating Rodney King in 1991 is the first memory people have of police misconduct on tape. Three of the officers involved were acquitted and a jury was unable to reach a verdict on the fourth, sparking violent clashes in Los Angeles that left dozens dead in 1992.

  • Eric Garner: In 2014, a white officer in New York held Eric Garner in a chokehold, which was filmed by a bystander. Mr. Garner died and some of his final words, “I can’t breathe,” helped galvanize a movement against police brutality. Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who choked him, was eventually fired, but both state and federal investigators declined to charge him.

  • Laquan McDonald: A police dashboard camera recorded Chicago police shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014. That video, which wasn’t released for 13 months after his death, prompted a series of state and federal cases against the officers involved. Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot Laquan, was convicted of second-degree murder.

  • Walter Scott: A former police officer, Michael T. Slager, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the death of Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C. Mr. Slager shot Mr. Scott, who was unarmed, in the back in 2015. A video of the shooting, which was taken by a bystander, was crucial in the trial.

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The Derek Chauvin trial plays on a television at a gym in Georgia on Monday.
Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

The trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd will be unusual for many reasons: It will be livestreamed from Minneapolis, attendance will be severely limited because of the coronavirus, and the public’s interest in the case may make this one of the highest-profile trials in recent memory.

The trial can be watched on nytimes.com, via a livestream provided by Court TV, which is also airing the trial in full. Witness testimony and lawyers’ presentation of evidence should last several weeks before the jury begins to deliberate over the verdict.

Among the people allowed in the courtroom, on the 18th floor of the Hennepin County Government Center, are the judge, jurors, witnesses, court staff, lawyers, Mr. Chauvin, and only a handful of spectators. The judge, Peter A. Cahill, wrote in an order on March 1 that only one member of Mr. Floyd’s family and one member of Mr. Chauvin’s family would be allowed in the room at any time. Two seats will be reserved for reporters, and various journalists, including from The New York Times, will rotate throughout the trial.

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The lawyers, spectators, jurors and witnesses will be required to wear masks when they are not speaking. Spectators are prohibited from having any visible images, logos, letters or numbers on their masks or clothing, according to Judge Cahill’s order.





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