Derek Chauvin murder trial
Opinion
April 20, 2021

The Derek Chauvin trial is over, and the verdict is guilty on all charges. The former Minneapolis police officer has been convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for the killing of George Floyd. The video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds while Floyd begged that he could not breathe and then went limp sparked probably the largest protest movement in American history.

This is a huge victory for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who orchestrated the prosecution. He made the unusual decision to add the second-degree murder charge, selected the legal team, and worked on the case personally. Prosecuting police officers is notoriously difficult in the United States, because of the wide deference typically granted to law enforcement in trials. Indeed, this is only the second time in Minnesota history that a police officer has been convicted of murder over an on-duty incident, and the first time for a white officer.

Ellison was previously a prominent progressive member of Congress before he resigned to run for the state attorney general position. Since taking office, he has recommended sweeping reforms to address police brutality, and was under a lot of pressure to deliver a fair prosecution of Chauvin. By all accounts Ellison got the job done. Chauvin had his day in court, with experienced legal representation, and a jury of his peers judged him according to the evidence.

Speaking after the verdict was announced Tuesday, Ellison said, "[W]e need true justice, that's not just one case, that's a social transformation that means nobody's below the law and nobody's above it." Ryan Cooper

April 13, 2021

After nearly two weeks, the prosecution on Tuesday morning rested its case against former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, and the defense began calling its witnesses, including a former police trainer who said Chauvin was justified in using a prone restraint against George Floyd.

Chauvin, a 45-year-old white man and 19-year police veteran, is facing murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black man who died while being arrested on suspicion of using a fake $20 bill. A bystander recorded the arrest, and the video shows Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.

The prosecution called to the stand several use-of-force experts, police officers, and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo to testify about Chauvin's actions during the arrest, with Arradondo saying he "absolutely" violated department policy, adding, "that is not what we teach."

One of the first witnesses the defense called on Tuesday, former police trainer Barry Brodd, testified that Floyd was resisting officers, and as such, Chauvin was justified in using a prone restraint. Officer Peter Chang, who responded to the scene of Floyd's arrest, also testified that the crowd gathered nearby was "very aggressive," and he was "concerned for the officers' safety, too."

The defense argument is that Floyd's underlying heart disease and the fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system led to his death, not having Chauvin's knee on his neck for more than nine minutes. Several prosecution witnesses testified earlier in the trial that Floyd died due to low oxygen levels, with cardiology expert Dr. Jonathan Rich asserting that it was "truly the prone restraint and positional restraints that led to his asphyxiation." Catherine Garcia

April 12, 2021

Use-of-force expert Seth Stoughton testified on Monday that no "reasonable" officer would have done what former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin did during the arrest of George Floyd last May.

Chauvin, a 45-year-old white man and 19-year police veteran, is facing murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black man who died while being arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill. Video recorded by a witness shows Floyd facedown, with Chauvin's knee on his neck for more than nine minutes.

Stoughton, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, said that "no reasonable officer would have believed that that was an appropriate, acceptable, or reasonable use of force." There were several times during the arrest where Chauvin should have been aware that Floyd was in distress, Stoughton said, and it was unreasonable for the officers at the scene to think Floyd could escape or cause them harm once he was handcuffed and on the ground.

Dr. Jonathan Rich, a cardiology expert from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, testified that Floyd died due to low oxygen levels, saying it was "truly the prone restraint and positional restraints that led to his asphyxiation." The defense has theorized that Floyd's death could have been the result of his high blood pressure and narrowing arteries, plus methamphetamine and fentanyl found in his system.

The prosecution also called to the stand Floyd's younger brother, Philonise Floyd, who provided "spark of life" testimony, sharing stories about their bond as a way to show the jury Floyd was a person, not just a victim. He talked about how they played football together, and called his brother "a leader in our household." George Floyd was also charismatic, Philonise said, and people would attend their church because he went there. "He just was like a person everybody loved around the community," Philonise added. "He just knew how to make people feel better." Catherine Garcia

April 7, 2021

During the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin on Wednesday, Jody Stiger, a use-of-force expert, testified that Chauvin used his body weight to pin George Floyd's neck to the ground for more than nine minutes.

Chauvin, 45, is facing murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black man who died on May 25, 2020, while being arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill. A bystander recorded the arrest, showing Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck as Floyd is heard repeatedly saying he can't breathe.

Stiger, a sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department and a witness for the prosecution, testified on Tuesday that Chauvin's use of force was excessive. In Wednesday's testimony, he said Chauvin was pressing down on Floyd with most of his body weight from the time Floyd was pinned to the ground to when paramedics arrived at the scene.

Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, asked Stiger if images of the arrest showed that Chauvin's knee was actually sometimes on Floyd's shoulder blade area or the base of his neck. Stiger replied that it still looks like Chauvin's knee was near Floyd's neck, but Chauvin's weight could have shifted at times.

Stiger also said that when Floyd was handcuffed and pinned to the ground, Chauvin used a "pain compliance technique" that involves squeezing a suspect's fingers and manipulating their hands; once the suspect complies with orders, the pain is reduced. Chauvin appeared to keep squeezing, despite Floyd no longer resisting, and "then at that point, it's just pain," Stiger said. Catherine Garcia

April 6, 2021

Lt. Johnny Mercil, the Minneapolis Police Department's use-of-force instructor, testified on Tuesday at former Officer Derek Chauvin's trial that when officers are taught ways to restrain aggressive suspects, they are shown how to place their knee on a back or shoulder and told to "stay away from the neck when possible."

Chauvin, 45, is facing murder and manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed Black man who died on May 25, 2020, while being arrested in Minneapolis on suspicion of using a fake $20 bill. A bystander recorded Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, and Floyd is heard in the video saying he cannot breathe. Chauvin's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, has argued in court that Chauvin was doing "exactly what he had been trained to do over his 19-year career."

Records submitted to the court on Tuesday show that in 2016, Chauvin took a 40-hour course on how to de-escalate situations involving people in crisis, and in 2018 underwent training in the use of force. Mercil said officers who attended that training were told they needed to use the least amount of force required to get a suspect to cooperate.

Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, also testified on Tuesday as a prosecution use-of-force expert. Stiger said when Floyd was resisting efforts to get him into a squad car, officers were justified in using force, but once he was on the ground and no longer resisting, officers "should have slowed down or stopped their force as well." After watching video of Floyd's arrest, Stiger said his "opinion was that the force was excessive."

Several members of the Minneapolis Police Department, including Chief Medaria Arradondo, echoed this sentiment during earlier testimony. On Monday, Arradondo testified that Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for nine minutes "absolutely" violated department policy, adding, "This is not what we teach." Catherine Garcia

March 29, 2021

With all 12 jurors and three alternates selected, the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin gets started with opening statements Monday. On Sunday, civil rights groups and the family of George Floyd, the Black man who died after being asphyxiated under Chauvin's knee, held rallies and vigils in Minneapolis. Chauvin, who is white, is charged with unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. His high-profile trial is expected to last about four weeks.

After a rally downtown Sunday afternoon, national civil rights leaders and a few dozen supporters joined Floyd's family held a prayer vigil at Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. "We're trying to get on the front end of all of this to prepare peoples' minds and hearts for what's about to happen," said Rev. Billy G. Russell, the church's pastor. "Everybody's on edge right now."

Floyd's brothers asked for justice, civil or divine. "My brother complied," Philonise Floyd said during the service, which also included prayers and song. "He said 'I can't breathe.' He said 'mama.' He said 'tell my kids I love them.' ... Nobody should have to go through that, nobody should have to endure that."

Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network, said "the criminal justice system is on trial tomorrow," noting that police officers in several previous deaths of Black people faced no charges at all. "Chauvin is in the court room, but America is on trial." He added that Sunday's vigil was also to support the Floyd family. "I wanted them to know we're with them," Sharpton said. "We will be there with them until the end." Peter Weber

March 19, 2021

The murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is set to continue, as a judge has declined to delay it or move it to a new location.

An attorney for Chauvin, the former police officer facing murder and manslaughter charges over the death of George Floyd in May 2020, had requested Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill delay and move the trial after it was announced that the city of Minneapolis had reached a $27 million settlement with Floyd's family. The attorney argued this news could "taint the jury pool." But on Friday, Cahill denied the motion, NBC News reports.

The judge concluded that "the pretrial publicity in this case will continue no matter how long we continue it." He also determined that "as far as change of venue, I do not think that that would give the defendant any kind of a fair trial beyond what we are doing here today," as there isn't "any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity on this case."

Cahill, however, previously dismissed two jurors who had been seated, as they said hearing about the settlement would make it difficult for them to remain impartial. One juror told the judge, for example, that the "sticker price" of the settlement "obviously shocked me and kind of swayed me a little bit."

The judge on Friday also ruled that the jury will be able to hear some evidence concerning Floyd's 2019 arrest, though only as it pertains to his cause of death, The Associated Press reports.

According to NBC, 12 jurors have been selected for the case, and opening statements are set to begin on March 29. Brendan Morrow

March 17, 2021

In the wake of the city of Minneapolis' settlement with George Floyd's family, a judge has dismissed two seated jurors from Derek Chauvin's murder trial.

Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, is facing murder and manslaughter charges over the killing of Floyd in May 2020, and last week, it was announced that Minneapolis had reached a $27 million settlement with Floyd's family. On Wednesday, Judge Peter Cahill dismissed two jurors from Chauvin's trial after questioning those who had been previously seated about news of the settlement, NBC News reports.

One of the jurors reportedly told the judge the settlement would make it difficult for him to be impartial in the case and confirmed "my opinion that I already had." Meanwhile, another juror said that the "sticker price obviously shocked me and swayed me a little bit" and suggested to him that "the city of Minneapolis felt that something was wrong and they wanted to make it right." Seven jurors remained seated in the trial after these two were dismissed.

Chauvin's attorney had previousy requested that the trial be delayed and moved to a new location in light of the settlement announcement, arguing it has "incredible potential to taint the jury pool." The judge at the time reportedly agreed that the news could potentially impact the case and promised to re-interview the jurors, also saying he wishes city officials "would stop talking about this case so much," though he added that "I don't find any evil intent that they're trying to tamper with this criminal case." Brendan Morrow

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