Ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 in south Minneapolis. With the world watching, proceedings began March 8. He was found guilty on all counts on April 20. Three other fired officers who assisted in Floyd's 2020 arrest — J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao — are scheduled to be tried in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
Here's how the Chauvin trial unfolded.
Tuesday, April 20
Today in court:
- After less than 24 hours of deliberation, jurors returned a verdict of guilty on all counts in the Derek Chauvin trial.
- Jurors convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, who died after being pinned under Chauvin's knee for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020.
- A masked Derek Chauvin showed no visible emotion as Judge Peter Cahill read the guilty verdict on each count. Chauvin's bail was revoked and he was placed in handcuffs and taken into custody.
What to expect next: Judge Peter Cahill said sentencing would take place in roughly eight weeks. Cahill will be asked to determine whether there were aggravating factors in the case, which the prosecution can use in arguing for a higher than recommended prison term. Former MPD officers Kueng, Lane and Thao are scheduled to be tried Aug. 23 for aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death.
Monday, April 19
Today in court:
- Jurors heard closing arguments Monday about Derek Chauvin's guilt or innocence in the death of George Floyd late last spring.
- Prosecutor Steve Schleicher used 1 hour and 45 minutes to argue that Chauvin's pinning of Floyd on the pavement at 38th and Chicago robbed the 46-year-old man of oxygen until he died as a bystander recorded the restraint on her cellphone and shared it with the world on social media.
- "The only thing about the defendant's intent that we have to prove is that he applied force to George Floyd on purpose," Schleicher said. "Somebody's telling you they can't breathe and you keep doing it. You're doing it on purpose. ... How can you justify the continued force on this man when he has no pulse."
- "You can believe your eyes," the prosecutor said to the jurors. "It's exactly what you knew. It's what you felt in your gut. It's what you felt in your heart."
- Defense attorney Eric Nelson took his turn and went for more than 2½ hours until Judge Peter Cahill interrupted him and ordered a 30-minute recess for lunch at 2:10 p.m. Nelson returned to the podium at 2:44 p.m. and promised "to speed things up."
- He took another 16 minutes to conclude and said that when the jurors review the evidence and the law, "all within a thorough analysis, the state has failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt" and Chauvin should be found not guilty.
- This was an authorized use of force, "as unattractive as that may be," Nelson said after lightly pounding his hand onto the lectern to drive his point home. He said this case has "reasonable doubt."
- The prosecution exercised its option to have the last word, and Jerry Blackwell rose to say there is another witness in this case for jurors to hear from beyond the 45 who took the stand earlier. Blackwell said the 46th witness was testifying to them before they got there and will testify when they're deliberating. "That witness is 'common sense,'" he said. "It is so simple that a child could understand it," Blackwell. "In fact a child did," a reference to a 9-year-old girl who stood nearby and said to police, 'Get off of him.'"
- The prosecutor asked rhetorically, "How is that a reasonable exercise in the use of force? You can believe your eyes. It was what it was. It was homicide. ... There is no excuse for police abuse."
- After nearly six hours of closing arguments and rebuttal Monday, two alternate jurors were dismissed and the jury was led away by a deputy for deliberations.
- Before the close of court, defense attorney Eric Nelson moved for a mistrial on the grounds that jurors had likely been exposed to prejudicial content in the media during the course of the trial. Nelson said he believed the jury should have been sequestered from the outset and pointed specifically to recent comments by U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters calling for protesters to "get more confrontational" if a guilty verdict is not reached in the Chauvin trial. Judge Cahill dismissed Nelson's motion for a mistrial but said, "I'll give you that Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result on this whole trial being overturned."
What to expect next: The jury will now deliberate and return a verdict on the three counts Derek Chauvin faces: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd in south Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Jury deliberation does not follow a specific timeline and could take hours, days or even weeks. Court is in recess, "until we hear from the jury," said Judge Peter Cahill.
Thursday, April 15
Today in court:
- Derek Chauvin said in court Thursday that he will not testify in his murder trial. "I will invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege" to not risk making any self-incriminating statements, Chauvin said.
- Shortly after Chauvin said he would not testify, the defense announced it had completed its case.
- Prosecutors then called Dr. Martin Tobin as a rebuttal witness to Wednesday's defense testimony by Dr. David Fowler, who said that carbon monoxide from a nearby police squad may have played a role in Floyd's death. Tobin said he disagreed with Fowler's contention that Floyd's blood could have contained anywhere from 10 to 18% of the poisonous gas. He said autopsy results showed Floyd's blood had an oxygen saturation level of 98%, meaning, "all there was for anything else was 2%." Tobin noted that humans normally have anywhere from 0 to 3% of carbon monoxide in their blood at any given moment.
- The prosecution had intended to produce as evidence test results that specifically measured the carbon monoxide in Floyd's blood. However, Nelson objected, saying the state knew months ago that Fowler would testify about carbon monoxide, and he called it "incredibly prejudicial to the defense" to present the test results Thursday morning after Fowler has already left the state.
- Cahill ruled that Tobin could testify about how carbon monoxide could have affected Floyd, but not mention the test results, which were dug out Wednesday by Dr. Andrew Baker, the county medical examiner who did the autopsy. "If he even hints at test results the jury has not heard about, it's gonna be a mistrial, pure and simple," the judge said.
- Following the brief reappearance of Dr. Tobin, the prosecution rested. With that, Cahill said, "The evidence is now complete for this case."
What to expect next: Court will take Friday off and resume on Monday with closing arguments from both sides. "So, pack a bag" and bring it to court on Monday, the judge told the jurors, who will be sequestered throughout their deliberations. As for how long their sequestered deliberations might last, Cahill told them: "If I were you, I would plan for long and hope for short. ... Whether it's an hour or a week, it's entirely in your province."
Wednesday, April 14
Today in court:
- Defense attorney Eric Nelson called one witness to the stand today:
1. Dr. David Fowler, a former chief medical examiner who recently retired after 17 years working for the state of Maryland. Fowler served as an expert medical witness for the defense. He testified that George Floyd died of cardiac arrest combined with illicit drugs in his body and not from a lack of oxygen. He wrapped his testimony by saying he would have classified Floyd's manner of death as undetermined due to the multiple factors he cited.
Fowler said Floyd had a cardiac arrhythmia due to his heart disease while he was restrained by police, prone on the pavement at 38th and Chicago. The doctor said Floyd's fentanyl and methamphetamine use also played a significant role. He also included exposure to vehicle exhaust from a police squad close by his paraganglioma, tumors that can form near the carotid artery, and along nerve pathways in the head and neck.
"All of those combined to cause Mr. Floyd's death," Fowler said. He did not include lack of oxygen, or asphyxia, as the prosecution has contended.
What to expect next: Defense testimony is expected to resume Thursday. Judge Cahill expects the defense could finish its case tomorrow, adding that the court would likely take Friday off and resume next Monday with closing arguments from both sides. "So, pack a bag" and bring it to court on Monday, the judge told the jurors, who will be sequestered throughout their deliberations.
Tuesday, April 13
Today in court:
- The defense began presenting its case in the trial of Derek Chauvin on Tuesday. Defense attorney Eric Nelson called six witnesses to the stand today. They were:
1. Scott Creighton, a retired Minneapolis police officer who worked in narcotics, and testified about a May 2019 traffic stop during which he pointed his gun at Floyd because an agitated Floyd would not show his hands. Portions of the stop were shown to the jury through clips from Creighton's body camera.
"The passenger was unresponsive and noncompliant to my commands, I then had to physically reach in and I wanted to see his hands," Creighton testified. "In my mind his behavior was very nervous, anxious."
2. Michelle Moseng, a now retired paramedic with Hennepin EMS who was summoned to assist Floyd on the day he was detained in May 2019 at the Police Department's Fourth Precinct in north Minneapolis. Moseng said Floyd's blood pressure was extremely high, and she wanted him to go the hospital because she was concerned that he was at risk of a stroke. She said Floyd explained that "he had a history of hypertension and hadn't been taking his medication." Moseng acknowledged that Floyd was alert, obeying commands, and his respiration and pulse rates were normal. She said her records indicated he had taken about seven percocets.
"I asked why and he said it was because he was addicted," Moseng said.
3. Shawanda Hill, one of the passengers in the Mercedes SUV with Floyd. She and Floyd crossed paths at Cup Foods on May 25, and he appeared normal, and was talking and alert. But when they went to his SUV after he offered to give her a ride home, "he fell asleep," she said, in her first public statements about his friend's arrest, under defense questioning. When store employees approached the vehicle about Floyd passing a fake $20 bill, according to Hill, "they were trying to wake him up, trying to wake him up over and over. He woke up, he'll say something, made a little gesture and nodded back off." She added that Floyd told her "he was tired because he had been working." Hill said Floyd woke up the second time she tried to rouse him and told him, "'The police is here. It's about the $20 bill that wasn't real.'"
She testified that she went on to tell Floyd, "'Baby, that's the police. Roll down the window.' ... The man had a gun at the window. [Floyd] instantly grabbed the wheel, and he said, 'Please, please don't shoot me.'"
4. Peter Chang, a Minneapolis Park Police officer who was stationed at a nearby park when he responded to assist. When he arrived, Floyd was handcuffed and seated on the sidewalk. He was asked to run Floyd's information on the computer. He then returned to the squad car where Lane and Keung were struggling with Floyd. They told him instead to watch Floyd's SUV. People were at every corner of the intersection, he said, testifying earlier that the crowd was "very aggressive toward the officers, yes."
Chang said he then spoke with Shawanda Hill and Morries Hall and held them in place in front of Dragon Wok. Because of the placement of Chang's squad, none of them could see what was happening to Floyd, according to his body camera video of the incident.
5. Nicole Mackenzie, a medical support coordinator for the Minneapolis police department who was also called as a prosecution witness. She was questioned about "excited delirium," a syndrome in dispute among health professionals that is taught to MPD cadets.
Mackenzie said the training points out that the syndrome leads to psychotic behavior, agitation, incoherent speech, superhuman strength and hyperthermia. She said cadets are trained to have an ambulance stage at a safe distance from the scene where a suspect might be experiencing excited delirium. She said an ambulance is needed because a "suspect can rapidly go into cardiac arrest." Mackenzie said that CPR is also taught under this situation. Floyd was not given CPR on May 25 until after he was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.
6. Barry Brodd, a use of force expert and retired police officer. He testified for the defense that he believed Chauvin's actions were reasonable.
"I felt that Derek Chauvin was justified and acting with objective reasonableness following Minneapolis Police Department policy and current standards of law enforcement in his interactions with Mr. Floyd," he said.
When asked about his opinion, Brodd brought up a scenario he taught at the academy referring to a domestic violence incident where an individual is Tased, falls to ground and strikes his head. That's not deadly force, that's an accidental death, Brodd contended.
Brodd, who for served 22 years in the Santa Rosa Police Department before his retirement in 2004, said it's important for anyone "to try to see it as the officer on the scene ... then try to put yourself in the officer's shoes. It's easy to sit in an office and judge an officer's conduct."
Brodd testified that police used force in attempting to get Floyd in the squad and getting him to the ground, but once Floyd was on the ground, Brodd said he didn't believe the "prone control" position was use of force.
What to expect next: Defense testimony is expected to resume Wednesday after motion hearings, which begin at 8:45 a.m. Nelson will call witnesses over the next several days to argue that Floyd died from serious problems with his heart and the use of the illicit drugs fentanyl and methamphetamine, rather than a lack of oxygen as the prosecution has said. Judge Cahill expects the defense could finish its case by Thursday, adding that the court would likely take Friday off and resume next Monday with closing arguments from both sides. "So, pack a bag" and bring it to court on Monday, the judge told the jurors, who will be sequestered throughout their deliberations.
Monday, April 12
Today in court:
- Before testimony resumed Monday, defense attorney Eric Nelson asked Judge Peter Cahill to immediately sequester the jurors and question them regarding what they might have learned about the civil unrest following the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright Sunday in Brooklyn Center. Nelson pointed said that he has concerns that jurors could avoid finding Chauvin not guilty out because they are worried about the potential for violence in response. Nelson also wanted Cahill to order the jurors to avoid all news media, an expansion of the judge's ruling that they only avoid coverage of this trial.
- Prosecutor Steve Schleicher opposed both defense requests. While acknowledging that the incident in Brooklyn Center also involved a citizen's death during an encounter with police, Schleicher said, "We can't have every single world event that might affect somebody's attitude or emotional state be grounds to come back and [re-examine] the jurors."
- Judge Cahill swiftly declined both requests of the defense, so sequestration will only begin upon deliberations, which the judge said he anticipates will start next Monday. He also declined to tighten his order on juror caution about avoiding news media.
- The prosecution then called three new witnesses to the stand. They were:
1. Dr. Jonathan Rich, a cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and associate professor of medicine at Northwestern University. He testified that Floyd's cause of death was "cardiopulmonary arrest caused by low oxygen levels and those low oxygen levels were induced by the prone restraint and positional asphyxia that he was subjected to." It was clear to him, he testified, that Floyd did not die because of a heart issue because his death was not sudden, nor did he die of an overdose. Repositioning him "very likely would have saved his life," Rich said.
"I believe that Mr. George Floyd's death was absolutely preventable," Rich testified.
2. Philonise Floyd, the younger brother of George Floyd, who served as the prosecution's "spark of life" witness. He described what it was like growing up in Houston with Floyd and his other siblings, playing video games and basketball. George was a mama's boy, he said, and although he hadn't seen Floyd in a couple of years, they spoke regularly on the phone.
"He was one of those people in the community when they had church outside, people would attend church just because he was there. Nobody would go out there until they seen him. He was a person everybody loved around the community, he just knew how to make people feel better."
3. Seth Stoughton, a University of South Carolina School of Law professor and former Tallahassee police officer who served as a use of force expert. He used the "reasonable officer" standard and testified that a handcuffed, non-aggressive Floyd did not constitute a threat to Chauvin, and his level of force was disproportionate. "No reasonable officer would have believed that this was an appropriate, acceptable or reasonable use of force."
"Looking at the threat analysis here, it's clear from the number of officers here and the fact that he's handcuffed and has been searched, he doesn't present a threat …Given the range of other alternatives available to the officers, it's just not appropriate to prone someone who is at that point cooperative."
What to expect next: At the end of Monday's testimony, Judge Cahill informed the jury that the defense would begin presenting its case Tuesday. He said they would likely finish all the evidence in the case by the end of the week, "possibly with even Friday off." Cahill also expects closing arguments to take place on Monday, at which point the jury will be sequestered for deliberation.
Friday, April 9
Today in court:
- The prosecution called two new witnesses to the stand. They were:
1. Dr. Lindsey Thomas, a medical examiner of 37 years who retired from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office and still works part-time as a forensic pathologist in Reno and Salt Lake City. She called the primary mechanism of Floyd's death asphyxia, or low oxygen. She said that the sheer volume of videos of Floyd's death was "absolutely unique" in that she'd never had a case so thoroughly documented, and it helped her arrive to determine how Floyd died.
"What I observed from all of these videos is this was not a sudden death," Thomas testified. "It's not like snow shoveling when someone clutches their chest and falls over. There was nothing sudden about his death."
She later said with certainty, "There's no evidence to suggest he would have died that night except for the interactions with law enforcement."
2. Dr. Andrew Baker, the chief Hennepin County Medical Examiner who performed Floyd's autopsy and stood by his ruling that Floyd's cause of death was a homicide, caused by "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression." Baker did not include a lack of oxygen, or asphyxia, a cause that three medical expert witnesses have firmly said was what killed Floyd.
The doctor tied Floyd's "very severe underlying heart disease" and enlarged heart, which needed more oxygen, combined with the stress of being pinned to the street with his face scraping the asphalt.
"Those events are gonna cause stress hormones to pour out of your body, specifically things like adrenaline, and what that adrenaline is going to do is it's going to ask your heart to beat faster," Baker testified.
"It's going to ask your body for more oxygen so that you can get through that altercation, and in my opinion, the law enforcement subdual restraint and the neck compression was just more than Mr. Floyd could take by virtue of those heart conditions."
What to expect next: The prosecution continues presenting its case Monday with testimony from another medical expert, and will likely rest soon. The defense is expected to present its case sometime next week.
Thursday, April 8
Today in court:
- The prosecution called three new witnesses to the stand. They were:
1. Dr. Martin Tobin, a physician in pulmonology and critical care at Hines VA hospital in Chicago, and Loyola University School of Medicine. In lengthy testimony, he concluded that "Floyd died from a low level of oxygen. This caused damage to his brain that we see, and it also caused a [pulseless electrical activity] arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop."
Floyd stopped breathing 23 seconds later and "didn't have an ounce of oxygen in his body" less than a minute after losing consciousness, Tobin said. He noted the moment Floyd died when shown the bystander video of his final moments. "At the beginning you can see he's conscious, you can see slight flickering and then it disappears, so one second he's alive and one second he's no longer," Tobin said. " ... That's the moment the life goes out of his body."
2. Daniel Isenschmid, a forensic toxicologist at NMS Labs in Pennsylvania. He testified that while fentanyl was found in Floyd's blood, so was norfentanyl, which is metabolized fentanyl. Overdose victims rarely have norfentanyl in their blood, he said. He testified that Floyd's ratio of fentanyl to norfentanyl was 1.96 ng/ml. This is compared to the average ratio of 9.05 in postmortem cases and 3.2 in driving under the influence cases. Floyd's level of methamphetamine, 19 ng/ml, was in the bottom 5.9% of a sample of DUI methamphetamine cases.
"Does this show Mr. Floyd was below the average and even below the median in DUI cases?" prosecutor Erin Eldridge asked. "Yes," Isenschmid said.
3. Dr. Bill Smock, a specialist in legal forensic medicine and former emergency room doctor at the University of Louisville's trauma center. He works as a police surgeon for the Louisville Police Department. He reviewed videos from Floyd's arrest and other case records and concluded that he died from a lack of oxygen and not from a fentanyl overdose. Much of what he testified supported Tobin's conclusions about Floyd's deteriorating condition and movements in his effort to keep breathing.
Smock said Floyd was not snoring, had dilated pupils, and was talking and saying "I can't breathe."
Smock testified that Floyd also showed no signs at the scene of a diagnosis called excitable delirium. He also addressed the need for CPR, "way before it was. As soon as Mr. Floyd was unconscious, he should have been rolled over. ... When they can't find a pulse, CPR should have been started."
What to expect next: Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker is expected to testify Friday. Baker performed the only autopsy on Floyd soon after he died. Court will resume tomorrow at 9:15 a.m..
Wednesday, April 7
Today in court:
- Sgt. Jody Stiger, a use of force expert with the LAPD, resumed testimony on Wednesday, saying officers' body-worn camera video from one of the officers showed Chauvin using "his right hand and appeared to use a pain compliance on Mr. Floyd's hand." Chauvin appeared to accomplish this by "squeezing fingers or bringing knuckles together, which can cause pain or pulling the hand into the cuff, which can cause pain as well." When someone cannot comply, he said, "At that point, it's just pain." He also testified that placing a person prone on the ground runs the risk of positional asphyxiation, and placing weight on that person heightens the risk.
- The prosecution then called four new witnesses to the stand. They were:
1. Special Agent James Reyerson of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and part of the agency's use of force investigation group. Reyerson testified about taking photos of Chauvin, processing videos and other evidence, including the squad and the vehicle Floyd was driving, along with items found inside the vehicle: a pill, some dollar bills, a pipe. He testified that Chauvin kept his weight on a handcuffed George Floyd's neck for minutes after Floyd was no longer talking or moving during the incident late last spring.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson also played a short clip of Floyd from Kueng's body camera during which he was pleading with the officers. Did it appear that Mr. Floyd said "'I ate too many drugs?'" Nelson asked.
"Yes, it did," Reyerson said.
When Frank later played a longer version of the video in court, Reyerson reversed course.
"Yes, I believe Mr. Floyd was saying, 'I ain't do no drugs,'" the agent said.
2. McKenzie Anderson, a forensic scientist for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. She processed both the Mercedes Benz Floyd was in and Squad 320 on the first processing of the squad, she tested eight stains, seven of them blood, that tested positive for George Floyd's DNA. She reprocessed the squad at defense attorneys' request in January and found what appeared to be a pill and other apparent remnants in the backseat of the squad. It tested positive for George Floyd's DNA.
3. Breahna Giles, a chemical forensic scientist for the BCA. She testified that the pills found inside the Mercedes contained methamphetamine and fentanyl. The partial pill and other traces of it tested positive for methamphetamine, and in the case of the largest partial pill, another substance was detected, but there was not enough of it to conclusively identify it, she said.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson asked Giles if the trace substance was fentanyl.
"I can't confirm," she said.
"You can't say it was or wasn't fentanyl?"
"Yes," she said.
4. Susan Neith, a forensic chemist at NMS labs in Pennsylvania. She tested the two pills found in the Mercedes and the partial found in the squad. All three pills contained a fentanyl concentration of less than 1%, which she said is common. The pills contained a methamphetamine concentration of 1.9 to 2.9%, which she said was atypically low.
"The majority of the time I see 90 to 100% methamphetamine," she said.
What to expect next: The prosecution is expected to call more witnesses Thursday morning. Court will resume at 9:15 a.m..
Tuesday, April 6
Today in court:
- Before the day's testimony began, attorneys made their arguments Tuesday about whether a witness to George Floyd's arrest should be compelled to testify. Morries L. Hall was with Floyd on that night late last spring, when Floyd was apprehended by police outside a corner store in south Minneapolis and pinned on the pavement under an officer's knee until dying.
- Hall has said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination and not testify as ordered in the fired police officer's trial in Hennepin County District Court. Judge Peter Cahill listened on Tuesday to points raised by Hall's attorney, Adrienne Cousins, and from the defense and prosecution before putting off any ruling on the issue until at least late in the week.
- The prosecution then called four new witnesses to testify on Tuesday. They were:
1. Sgt. Ker Yang, a Minneapolis police department crisis trainer who explained that listening is key to crisis intervention. Voice, neutrality, respect and trust are at the core of the model on how an officer should approach a crisis situation. "It is useful [and] it is practical," he said. "When it is safe and feasible, we shall de-escalate."
2. Lt. Johnny Mercil, a use of force trainer with Minneapolis Police Department. He is experienced in martial arts, particularly Brazilian Jiujitsu, a form of martial arts that results in leverage and body control. Derek Chauvin was on his training roster. He testified about "red zones, where injury tends to range from serious to long lasting and could include serious bodily injury or death. Areas included the head, neck and sternum, among others. Conscious and unconscious neck restraint should only be used in cases of active resistance and aggression, respectively, he said.
"You want to use the least amount of force necessary to meet your objective to control, if those lower uses of force do not work or are too unsafe to try you can increase your level of force against that person."
3. Officer Nicole Mackenzie, a medical support coordinator for the Minneapolis police department, responsible for CPR and other classes for officers. She said police have a responsibility to both call ambulance and render aid "if it's a critical situation." She testified that being able to talk doesn't mean you're necessarily able to breathe. She testified that agonal breathing, or a brainstem reflex that causes gasping, could be misinterpreted as breathing. "Somebody could be in respiratory distress and still be able to verbalize it," she said. "Just because they're speaking doesn't mean they're breathing adequately."
4. Sgt. Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department police officer of 28 years and use of force expert hired by the state. He reviewed the materials and deemed the use of force against Floyd "excessive." Initially when Mr. Floyd was being placed in the backseat of the vehicle, the officers were justified in trying to have him comply and sit in the backseat of the vehicle," Stiger said. "However, once he was placed in the prone position on the ground, he slowly ceased his resistance and the officers—or ex-officers I should say—should have slowed down or stopped their force.
What to expect next: Testimony resumes Wednesday with further questioning of Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Jody Stiger, an expert witness hired by the prosecution regarding use of force.
Monday, April 5
Today in court:
- Before Monday's first witness, the proceedings started with Defense attorney Eric Nelson explaining why he wants more of Chauvin's body-worn camera video from the night of the arrest. Nelson said it showed the "totality of the circumstances" of what happened after Floyd was taken in the ambulance to HCMC.
- Prosecutor Matthew Frank pushed back, saying the footage includes hearsay comments from two of the officers about what happened and is not relevant. Cahill said he would allow most of the footage, because Chauvin's statements are not offered as "the truth of the matter asserted." He said, "It shows Mr. Chauvin's demeanor and actions immediately after Mr. Floyd was removed to the hospital. I think it is relevant for the jury to see."
- The day focused heavily on officer training and how Chauvin's actions on May 25 did not comply with what he was taught, according to the prosecution. Defense attorney Eric Nelson countered with how policy wording gives officers latitude during arrests, and flexibility about how and when to provide medical attention to a suspect. The prosecution called three new witnesses to testify on Monday. They were:
1. Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, the emergency room physician at HCMC who examined Floyd and declared him dead soon after he arrived by ambulance. He said he tried various measures for 30 minutes to save his patient. He testified that Floyd never had a heartbeat "sufficient to sustain life" and he believed Floyd's cardiac arrest was due to a lack of oxygen, or asphyxia. He said he did not believe Floyd's cardiac arrest was the result of a heart attack.
"At the time it was not completely possible to rule that out," he said, "but I felt it was less likely based on the information available to us."
2. Chief Medaria Arradondo, who has served as the 700-member force's police chief for the past three years. He went on the record less than a month after Floyd died and called it "murder." On Monday, Arradondo placed the responsibility for Floyd's death on Chauvin in his testimony using terms that were just as clear but less stark.
"Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting — and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that — that should have stopped," the chief said after spelling out department policy on when to use force vs. calming a situation through de-escalation tactics.
"There's an initial reasonableness of trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds," the chief continued, "but once there was no longer any resistance, and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person proned out, handcuffed behind their back, that in no way shape or form is anything that is by policy. It's not part of our training and is certainly not part of our ethics or values."
Under cross examination by defense attorney Eric Nelson, Arradondo acknowledged that officers sometimes need to take control of a situation. "Would you agree that the use of force is not an attractive notion?" Nelson asked.
"I would say the use of force is something that most officers would rather not use," Arradondo said. The chief also agreed that department policy affords an officer flexibility under evolving circumstances for when to use force or choose to de-escalate an encounter with someone resisting arrest.
3. Inspector Katie Blackwell, the Fifth Precinct Inspector for the Minneapolis Police Department, who formerly headed up training for the department when Floyd was killed. Blackwell was shown a photo from the viral video of Chauvin on Floyd's neck and was asked whether that is a tactic the police are taught.
"I don't know what kind of improvised position this is," said Blackwell, who has known Chauvin for about 20 years, when they were both community service officers.
She also walked through records showing the various training that Chauvin received in 2016 and 2018, which included when a suspected is detained facedown and handcuffed. As heard multiple times in previous testimony during the prosecution's case, the person should be put "in the side recovery position or an upright position … as soon as possible," or run the risk of asphyxiation."
What to expect next: Court resumes Tuesday at 8:30 a.m., when one or more legal issues will be discussed before the jurors are called back in soon afterward for the resumption of witness testimony and presentation of evidence.
During that time, Morries Hall, who was with Floyd on the night of his arrest, will appear remotely from the Hennepin County jail concerning his intention to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if compelled to testify. Hall was in the SUV with Floyd outside Cup Foods when police approached to investigate Floyd passing a fake $20 bill. The judge on Monday signed an order allowing Hall to wear civilian clothes instead of jail scrubs for the court appearance. Hall is in custody on an unrelated matter.
Friday, April 2
Today in court:
- The prosecution called two new witnesses to testify during the morning-only proceedings on Friday. They were:
- Third Precinct Sgt. Jon Edwards, who was working the overnight "dogwatch" shift on May 25, the night Floyd died. Edwards was summoned to 38th and Chicago to secure the scene after Floyd was taken to HCMC. Officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng were still at the intersection. Edwards ordered them to turn on their body-worn cameras on and step out of their squad so it could be secured. The sergeant attempted to interview witnesses, but the only one, Charles McMillian, refused to give his name or speak with Edwards.
- Police Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who said it was "totally unnecessary" for Chauvin to put his knee on a handcuffed Floyd's neck during his arrest. Zimmerman, a 36-year veteran of the department and head of the homicide unit, minced no words when testifying based on his viewing video from the officers' body-worn cameras. He said, "First of all pulling him down to the ground face down and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for. I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger." Under cross examination, defense attorney Eric Nelson noted that as an investigator, Zimmerman rarely has to use force compared to a patrol officer. Zimmerman also acknowledged under questioning that situations can be fluid, and officers must quickly adapt to what he called "scene security." "So you're gonna assess, are there people watching, are there people videotaping, are those people happy or angry, etc., right?" asked Nelson. "Yes," said Zimmerman.
What to expect next: Court resumes Monday at 8:30 a.m., when legal issues will be discussed before the jurors are called back in no sooner than 9:15 a.m. for the resumption of witness testimony and presentation of evidence.
Thursday, April 1
Today in court:
- The prosecution called five new witnesses to testify on Thursday. They were:
1. Courteney Ross, George Floyd's girlfriend for the three years leading up to his death. She testified about their relationship after she met him while visiting the Salvation Army Harbor Lights shelter where he was a security guard. They both struggled off and on with opioid addiction. Both suffered chronic pain and had prescriptions when they became addicted; they then began obtaining the drugs off the street. She said Floyd typically used oxycodone and obtained them through other people's prescriptions to ensure that they were safe. Shortly before Floyd's death, they had taken a pill that acted more as a stimulant, Ross said.
"Both Floyd and I, our story is a classic story is of how we both get addicted to opioids," she testified. " ... We got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction many times." The defense has contended that illicit drug use played a role in Floyd dying and not anything Chauvin did to him on May 25.
2. Seth Bravinder, a Hennepin EMS paramedic who responded with his partner to 38th and Chicago where George Floyd lay unconscious pinned beneath the three officers. Bravinder said "there were multiple officers on top of the patient, we assumed — I assumed — there was potentially some struggle still because they were still on top of him."
Bravinder and his partner loaded Floyd into the ambulance and began working on him. He said full cardiac arrest is "not a good sign for successful resuscitation. Basically, just because your heart isn't doing anything at that moment, it's not pumping blood. It's not a good sign for a good outcome."
Defense attorney Eric Nelson's questions addressed in part the gathering crowd at 38th and Chicago and noted that Floyd was moved quickly in the ambulance to a different location before continuing on to HCMC. The defense earlier in the trial has touched on how bystanders might have created an atmosphere that was potentially threatening to the officers at the scene.
3. Derek Smith, a Hennepin EMS paramedic and partner to Bravinder. He checked Floyd's pulse at the scene and immediately noted there was no pulse and Floyd's pupils were dilated. "I looked to my partner, I told him 'I think he's dead, and I want to move this out of here and begin care in the back,' " Smith said, noting the agitated crowd of bystanders.
However, they continued to work on Floyd in the ambulance, including directing Officer Thomas Lane to deliver chest compressions while they attempted various lifesaving attempts en route to HCMC.
Smith said Floyd never regained a pulse, but they continued attempting to save him. "He's a human," Smith said. "I was trying to give him a second chance at life."
4. Capt. Jeremy Norton, a Minneapolis Fire captain who responded to 38th and Chicago, where the ambulance carrying Floyd had already left. He encountered an "agitated to distraught" off-duty firefighter Genevieve Hansen and other bystanders. He made his way to the ambulance, where Floyd was "an unresponsive body on a cot." Afterward, he called his supervisors to report what happened.
"I was worried that a man had been killed in police custody…and then I also wanted to notify my supervisor that there was an off-duty firefighter that was a witness at the scene."
5. David Pleoger, a retired Minneapolis police sergeant in the Third Precinct who was supervisor to Chauvin and the other three officers the night of Floyd's death. He fielded concerns through 911 dispatch on May 25 about possible excessive use of force by officers while detaining Floyd. He then headed to the scene while questioning Chauvin on what happened. Chauvin did not immediately tell him that he placed his knee on Floyd's neck. The officer said Floyd was going "crazy [and] wouldn't go in the back of the squad."
When Chauvin did disclose later that night that he used his knee to hold down Floyd, he did not say for how long, the sergeant added. The sergeant, who reviewed officers' body-worn camera video, was asked when use of force against Floyd should have ended. He replied: "When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint."
What to expect next: Court proceedings will resume tomorrow.
Wednesday, March 31
Today in court:
- The prosecution called four new witnesses on Wednesday. They were:
1. Christopher Martin, 19, the Cup Foods clerk who sold Floyd a pack of cigarettes and suspected the $20 bill Floyd used was counterfeit. After he attempted twice to get Floyd back in the store, his manager summoned the police. Martin was seen in exterior store video footage pacing about near the arrest scene and clasping his hands atop his head. Martin said he was feeling "disbelief and guilt." Why? He was asked. "If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided."
The clerk said that when he first saw the bill, "I noticed it had a blue pigment to it, kind of like a $100 bill would have, so I found that kind of odd and assumed it was fake." Martin said store policy meant he would have to pay for any counterfeit currency he or his co-workers accepted. "I took it anyway and was willing to put it on my tab, and then I second guessed myself," he said.
2. Christopher Belfrey, 45, who was with his fiancée and picking up something to eat from Cup Food that night, when he parked behind Floyd's SUV. He began recording a video with his phone when he saw Office Thomas Lane point a gun at Floyd and pull him out of the vehicle. He then moved his car across the street to avoid "commotion" and resumed recording as the officers sat Floyd on the pavement and questioned him. "It startled me when I seen the officer raise his gun, I started recording," he said.
3. Charles McMillian, 61, who was the first witness on the scene after officers escorted Floyd from across the street, then struggled to get him into their squad car. McMillian, 61 initially encouraged Floyd to cooperate because once in handcuffs "you can't win," he testified. McMillian cried on the stand as he described feeling "helpless." He confronted Chauvin after Floyd was taken away in an ambulance.
"I think I said to him, 'Five days ago I told you at the end of the day go home to your family safe, and that the next person go home to their family safe, but today I gotta look at you as a maggot.'"
4. Lt. James Rugel, head of the Minneapolis Police Department's Business Technology Unit. He was on the stand while the state played body camera videos from officers Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Chauvin.
- George Floyd's youngest brother occupied the lone family seat in the courtroom for the afternoon session and did not watch the video when the officers were trying to get George Floyd into the squad car. Rodney Floyd stared down, his eyes wide during that video moment. When video was shown of George Floyd yelling "Mama" repeatedly and "I can't breathe," again Rodney Floyd averted his eyes while looking down and shaking his head.
- Judge Peter Cahill called an unexpected break in the morning after a female juror stood up, waved and gestured toward the door. She exited quickly once the break was called. The ailing juror eventually returned and was seated in the witness stand for a conversation with the judge. She told Cahill she was "shaky but better." She went on to say she's been having trouble sleeping. "I've been awake since 2 a.m.," she said. The woman then reassured the judge that "I think I'll be OK going forward ... I feel like there's a tension that's gone a little bit."
What to expect next: In connection with Lt. Rugel's testimony but after the jury had been sent home for the day, defense attorney Eric Nelson offered a hint of what areas he plans to address once it's the defense's turn after the prosecution rests its case, namely that he will have experts testify about "use of force considerations and medical issues." Testimony will resume tomorrow morning.
Tuesday, March 30
Today in court:
- Tuesday began with witness Donald Williams II picking up where he left off after telling how he repeatedly pleaded with Chauvin to set Floyd free. Defense attorney Nelson pressed Williams about him growing more angry and threatening the officers at the time. He explained he became irate because the officers "were not listening to anything I was telling him. I felt like I had to speak out for Floyd." He also explained why he called 911 that night: "I called the police on the police…because I believe I witnessed a murder."
- The prosecution then called five new witnesses on Tuesday. They were:
- Darnella Frazier, the teenager, now 18, who filmed the video seen worldwide of Floyd's death outside Cup Foods. "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," she said. "I have a Black father, I have Black brothers, I have Black friends. I look at them and how it could have been one of them. It's been nights I've stayed up apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life, it's not what I should have done it's what he should have done." Nelson was brief in his cross-examination, crafting his questions to set the scene as becoming increasingly hostile to the point of creating a potential threat to the officers. Frazier agreed with Nelson that bystanders were getting louder and more angry, but she added that she didn't think anyone was ever threatening to Chauvin.
- Judeah Reynolds, the 9-year-old cousin to Frazier who also witnessed Floyd pleading for his life. "I was sad and kind of mad and it felt like it was stopping his breathing and it was hurting him," she said. Defense attorney Eric Nelson did not cross-examination the girl, who was then excused.
- Alyssa Funari, who was 17 at the time she witnessed Floyd's death and began recording with her cell phone. Her previously unseen footage was played in court. "It was difficult because I felt like there wasn't really anything I could do," she said. "As a bystander I was powerless there, and I was failing to do anything."
- Kaylynn Gilbert, who was also 17 when she arrived at Cup Foods with Funari. She said she had a "gut feeling" that something was wrong. "I saw (Chauvin) digging his knee into (Floyd's) neck more. He was putting a lot of pressure into his neck that was not needed."
- Genevieve Hansen, a Minneapolis firefighter who was off-duty when she encountered the scene and attempted to render aid to Floyd, but was rebuffed by officers. "There is a man being killed, and I would have been able to provide medical attention to the best of my abilities, and this human was not provided that right," she said. Hansen, 27, a two-year member of the Fire Department, testified that Chauvin appeared "very comfortable with the majority of his weight balanced on top of Mr. Floyd" while pinning him to the pavement with his knee.
In his cross examination of Hansen, defense attorney Eric Nelson raised potential inconsistencies in her testimony compared to previous statements to investigators, such as whether Chauvin had one hand in his pocket, or whether or not she described the bystanders as comprising a "heavy crowd." He also reminded Hansen that she earlier described Floyd as a small man, despite his being roughly 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighing well more than 200 pounds.
He asked her whether she ever had a citizen yell at her or tell her she was doing her job wrong while fighting a fire. She repeatedly said that it would not faze her, because she is confident in her training. After exchanges with Nelson that grew testy at times, Judge Peter Cahill dismissed the jury for the day and admonished Hansen not to argue, and that it is Nelson's job to ask her questions.
- Before the lights went out in the courtroom, Judge Cahill summoned in a woman for a verbal reprimand for taking photos near the elevators of the 18th floor, where the trial is located. A publicist for the teenager who shot the viral video of Floyd's arrest, she took a photo of herself with state Attorney General Keith Ellison as a keepsake. Cahill told her of the ban on such camera use and ordered her to delete the image from anywhere she may have posted it online.
What to expect next: Genevieve Hansen's testimony will resume when court is back in session Wednesday morning.
Monday, March 29
Today in court:
- The morning began with nearly hourlong opening remarks by special prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, who walked the jurors through Floyd's death and said Chauvin violated the oath he took as a police officer. "You will learn that on May 25, 2020, Mr. Derek Chauvin betrayed this badge when he used excessive and unreasonable force upon the body of Mr. George Floyd, that he put his knee upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him until the very breath, no, ladies and gentlemen, until the very life was squeezed out of him," Blackwell said.
- In defense attorney Eric Nelson's 20-minute opening statement that followed, he walked the jury through the events of May 25, and explained reasonable doubt, and what can be considered a reasonable use of force by a police officer. "That's what this case is ultimately about: It's about the evidence … It is nothing more than that," Nelson said. There is no political or social cause in this courtroom."
- As required, the prosecution presented its case first. The state called three witnesses today. They were:
- Jena Scurry, the 911 dispatcher who handled the call that resulted in Chauvin and the other officers responding to the intersection where Floyd was detained. Jena Scurry detailed how she was troubled by seeing on wall-mounted dispatch screens how Floyd's arrest played out on city surveillance cameras. She said she glanced up at the screens and saw a police squad moving "back and forth" as officers dealt with Floyd, then moments later take him to the pavement. Multiple times she looked away and then back to see the same image of the officers keeping Floyd on the pavement. It was then that "something was not right. It was an extended period of time," she said. "It was a gut instinct, now we can be concerned." Scurry said she called a supervisory sergeant and reported what she saw. "I don't know, you can call me a snitch if you want to but we have the cameras up for [squad] 320's call, and … I don't know if they had to use force or not, but they got something out of the back of the squad, and all of them sat on this man, so I don't know if they needed you or not, but they haven't said anything to me yet," the dispatcher is heard by the jury saying in her call to the sergeant.
- Alisha Oyler, a Speedway employee at 38th and Chicago who witnessed Floyd's arrest and testified that she recorded several brief video clips of Floyd's arrest and turned them over soon after to police. Oyler said under prosecution questioning that she made the videos because "police is always messing with people ... and it's not right."
3. Donald Williams II, a witness at the scene of 38th and Chicago who urged Derek Chauvin to get off Floyd's neck and to check Floyd's pulse. Williams told the court that as a longtime mixed martial arts fighter he was familiar with how Chauvin had Floyd pinned to the pavement. Williams recognized it from his training as a "blood choke." He added it can lead to someone falling unconscious. "You see Floyd fade away like the fish in the bag," he said. "He vocalized that he can't breathe and 'I'm sorry.' His eyes rolled back in his head." As Williams watched the viral video shot by a fellow bystander, he told the court that Chauvin was shifting his weight on purpose repeatedly to tighten the hold on Floyd's neck, what the witness called a "shimmy."
What to expect next: Court recessed for the day because the video feed being viewed by Floyd family members outside the courtroom failed, prompting Judge Peter Cahill to end the day's proceedings only slightly before he would have anyway. Donald Williams II will resume his testimony Tuesday morning.
Tuesday, March 23
Today in court:
- The 15th and final juror was selected Tuesday in day 12 of Derek Chauvin's murder trial in the death of George Floyd. Proceedings are now recessed until the attorneys' opening statements scheduled for Monday. The new juror is:
- A white man in his 20s. He was selected late in the morning after a relatively brief round of questioning. He is an alternate juror and will be dismissed at the outset Monday unless someone drops out before then. He is an accountant who is married and said he is analytical thanks to his profession and could weigh the evidence fairly. He said that while he understands why athletes kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice in America, he wishes they would do so in a different manner. "I think it's more of a respect of those that have come before us and the system that we have in the United States," he said. "I have a great sense of pride in being a United States citizen." He said he has a neutral opinion of Floyd and a generally favorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement, but he believes it was "a contributing factor" in the violent unrest that followed Floyd's death. Concerning the mission behind the alternative Blue Lives Matter rallying cry on behalf of police, he wrote months ago in his juror questionnaire that it "has not done enough to enhance the conversation about other issues such as gun control."
What to expect next: Opening statements are scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday. Court is in recess until then. The trial is expected to last up to four weeks.
Monday, March 22
Today in court:
- One juror was chosen Monday as the 14th seated in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. One more is needed to fill the jury ahead of opening arguments on March 29. There are now six people of color and eight white people among the 14 jurors chosen. Nine are women, and five are men. The newest juror is:
- A white woman in her 20s. She is a newlywed and a social worker in Wright County whose clients are coping with mental health difficulties. She was unwavering in her confidence that she could judge only the evidence presented in the trial and added that her profession has provided her with the ability to be empathetic and keep an open mind about people.
- Defense attorney Eric Nelson used two discretionary strikes to excuse jurors. One was a woman who wrote in the questionnaire she filed out months back: "It was not [George Floyd's] time to die, and the incident should not have gone as far as it did."
- Nelson also dismissed a man who said in his questionnaire, "I believe Chauvin used excessive and unnecessary force." The defense attorney challenged why he had to use one of his few remaining strikes, rather than the judge excusing the man. Judge Peter Cahill made his harshest comments yet about any potential juror, calling into question his credibility and sensing that his questionnaire responses were "flippant." The judge said he might restore the defense strike should that side run out before the final juror is chosen.
- The prosecution used one of its strikes to dismiss the day's second jury candidate, a father whose passion for competitive fishing made for congenial small talk with the attorneys. The man, who is white, characterized his view of Chauvin as "neutral" on his questionnaire. Not so much for the Black Lives Matter movement, writing, "I do not think the riots helped." He doubled down on that opinion under follow-up questioning Monday.
What to expect next: Jury selection resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Judge Peter Cahill said he'll have 12 more jury candidates called in. He sounded determined to get that final juror seated from among this dozen, saying "12 or bust." Cahill also clarified that the 15th and last juror is being seated just in case another juror drops out before March 29 and will be excused next Monday when the trial starts in earnest.
Friday, March 19
Today in court:
- Judge Peter Cahill ruled against defense motions to delay the trial to allow for pretrial publicity to quiet down and denied a change of venue in order to have a better chance of finding fair and objective jurors. "Unfortunately, the pretrial publicity will continue no matter how long we continue [the trial]," the judge said.
- On two other related motions, Cahill ruled that only portions of the events surrounding Floyd's drug arrest in Minneapolis in May 2019 are admissible in this trial, namely any evidence or testimony that directly relates to his medical condition.
- Jury selection resumed, and one person was added. The jury now has 13 people, with at least two more to come. Selection resumes on Monday, with the trial slated to begin in earnest March 29. The new juror is:
- A white woman in her 50s who has worked in customer service and said she is an animal lover, "especially dogs." She said she saw the oft-mentioned bystander video of Floyd's arrest and wrote in her juror questionnaire months ago, "This restraint was ultimately responsible for Mr. Floyd's demise." That said, she pledged under defense scrutiny that she could presume Chauvin innocent as the law requires her to do.
- Through Friday, there are six people of color and seven white people among the 13 jurors chosen. They are: A multi-race woman in her 20s, a multi-race woman in her 40s, two Black men in their 30s, a Black man in his 40s, a Black woman in her 60s, four white women in their 50s, a white woman in her 40s, a white man in his 30s, a white man in his 20s.
What to expect next: Jury selection will resume Monday morning with Judge Peter Cahill saying he wants to have at least 15 jurors ready to go for the start of the trial March 29. Absent any dismissals in the coming week, the first 12 seated will decide the case.
Thursday, March 18
Today in court:
- The addition of three jurors on Thursday brings the overall jury total to 12 for the trial. The increase comes a day after two jurors were removed in the wake of high-volume publicity about the city of Minneapolis settling a lawsuit with the Floyd family for $27 million. The three new jurors include:
- A nurse who is white and in her 50s and lives in Edina. She assured the court she could judge the evidence fairly despite having seen portions of the viral video of Floyd's arrest and after hearing about the settlement. The woman said her professional training would affect how she would look at the evidence. "We all use our life experiences to make judgments," which for her duties include resuscitating patients in urgent situations and dispensing opiates while on the job. The judge interjected and pointed out that she can't be "an expert witness."
- A Black woman in her 60s who is a grandmother and retired marketing professional and volunteers helping children in need with their homework. She said she started watching the video of Floyd's arrest but stopped after four to five minutes because "it just wasn't something that I needed to see." The woman said she has not formed opinions about either Chauvin or Floyd and was firm in saying news of the settlement would not affect her commitment to be an objective juror.
- A suburban white woman who works in the insurance industry. Like others, she has viewed the bystander video and was aware of the settlement but said those would not be factors in her maintaining fairness and objectivity as a juror. The woman, who is in her 40s, wrote in her juror questionnaire months ago that she didn't believe Floyd deserved to die and police didn't need to use excessive force. However, she continued, Floyd was not completely innocent. She said she has generally positive views of police and opposes any defunding of their departments yet also believes "people of other races get treated unfairly" by law enforcement.
- During Thursday's proceedings, officials at City Hall again discussed the $27 million civil settlement. Defense attorney Eric Nelson noted for the record his motions for a continuance and a change of venue based on the announcement last week. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher said that Nelson needs to formally present his claims in an affidavit. Judge Peter Cahill promptly shut Schleicher down, noting that the prosecution has far more resources to file motions and affidavits, and that he wants no more speaking of the settlement: "I'm not gonna talk about it….I've asked Minneapolis to stop talking about it. They keep talking about it. We keep talking about it. Everybody just stop talking about it."
What to expect next: Court resumes Friday, when several key motions are expected to be ruled on. Two are connected to the settlement announcement: either delaying the trial or moving it to a different Minnesota city. Another addresses the scope of testimony from an medical expert for the prosecution and what that might lead to allowing the defense to include in its case a previous drug arrest on Floyd's record.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin on March 29. As of the end of Thursday, two more jurors are needed to hear the murder and manslaughter trial that is being watched on livestream around the world. Jury selection resumes Friday.
Wednesday, March 17
Today in court:
- Two seated jurors were dismissed on Wednesday. The unseatings came after Minneapolis leaders announced a record-setting $27 million lawsuit settlement with Floyd's family. Because of the publicity surrounding that decision, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill questioned anew the seven jurors who were seated before what he called the "unfortunate broadcast" of the settlement. Of those seven, Cahill dismissed two: a white man in his 30s and a Hispanic man in his 20s because they both said news of the payout was affecting their objectivity.
- After the unseatings, two new jurors were added to the panel, bringing the total back to nine jurors, including four people of color and five people who are white. Five are men. Four are women. Two are in their 20s, three are in their 30s. Two each are in their 40s and 50s. The two jurors added on Wednesday include:
- A married Black man who believes minorities are often arrested but disagrees with the concept of "defunding" law enforcement and said, "the police do a lot. ... I would trust the police."
- A married white woman in her 40s with a son. She is an organizational consultant who helps corporations improve personnel practices and efficiency. She said she spends a lot of time at ice hockey arenas. Asked about the settlement, the woman said it wouldn't impact her. "I don't think that declares guilt one way or the other," she said.
- The judge has been mostly calm and conversational on and off the bench amid the trial proceeding under an intense spotlight. But that was not the case early Wednesday, when he issued a harsh warning to the media. Members of a media coalition later met privately with counsel to discuss the outburst and their options. Cahill warned journalists who rotate daily in pairs into the courtroom against reporting what they see on Post-its, notepads and computer screens on the desks of the lawyers and their assistants. He also threatened the media with banishment from the courtroom if they repeat details of security measures in the building.
What to expect next: Before wrapping up Wednesday, Cahill announced that he had doled out additional discretionary strikes to the defense and the prosecution. He gave the defense three more and the state one. The defense has used 12 of 18 and the state five of 10. Jury selection resumes Thursday morning.
Significant disruption to the trial remains possible. Cahill said he would rule Friday on defense attorney Eric Nelson's request to delay the start or move proceedings to another city because of the pervasive publicity. The prosecution opposes both options.
Tuesday, March 16
Today in court:
- The record-setting $27 million civil settlement between the city and George Floyd's survivors was ever-present Tuesday during the Derek Chauvin murder trial. Judge Peter Cahill and defense attorney Eric Nelson expressed exasperation over city leaders' decision to announce the settlement just blocks from the courthouse where they are trying to seat the jury. Cahill was particularly irked by an unnamed city official's assertion to the Washington Post that Hennepin County Chief Judge Toddrick Barnette said the announcement of the settlement could proceed. In court, Cahill called that "not an accurate statement" and noted the settlement came out of a federal claim and didn't involve state courts. He pointedly added, "I think the city is trying to dump their responsibility back on the court, where it does not belong." Barnette declined to comment.
- Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is overseeing the prosecution, declined to comment when asked by a reporter whether he or the court knew that a settlement had been reached before it was announced Friday. His son Jeremiah Ellison is a Minneapolis City Council member and voted for the settlement.
- While Cahill was concerned about the settlement, he also called a leak in recent weeks about Chauvin agreeing to a plea deal to third-degree murder days after Floyd's death "particularly pernicious."
- The defense also asked Cahill to reconsider allowing details from Floyd's May 2019 arrest in Minneapolis. Cahill previously denied testimony about the arrest, but opened the door Tuesday after hearing Nelson's arguments. He said he would rule Thursday. In both May 2019 and 2020, Floyd swallowed drugs during his police encounters. In the earlier incident, captured on police body camera video, the drugs led to a "hypertensive emergency" and Floyd's hospitalization.
- The cause of Floyd's death will be a core issue at trial. Nelson will attempt to show that Floyd's ingestion of copious pills upon arrest — not Chauvin's knee on his neck — could have caused his death. Nelson said the two arrests and Floyd's behavior were "remarkably similar."
- No jurors were seated, marking the first day that the jury selection was shut out. There are nine seated jurors so far, with five more needed by the end of the month before opening statements. Judge Cahill struck five of the candidates for bias or because they said serving would create a hardship, and defense attorney Eric Nelson used his strikes on the other two.
What to expect next: Judge Cahill said he would recall the seven jurors seated last week to question them Wednesday about their knowledge of Friday's settlement. He is also expected to rule on defense requests to either move the trial or delay the trial in earnest, which is scheduled to start on March 29. Jury selection is also expected to continue Wednesday.
Monday, March 15
Today in court:
- Jury selection resumed Monday morning in the second week of Derek Chauvin's trial in the killing of George Floyd, but not before the defense rose to condemn the timing of last week's announcement by the city that it had reached a $27 million civil court settlement with Floyd's family.
- Defense attorney Eric Nelson asked for the case to be continued in the wake of the settlement coming during jury selection. He said he was "gravely concerned with the news that broke on Friday related to the civil settlement. He said the settlement's timing was "very suspicious" and "has incredible propensity to taint the jury pool" against his client.
- Nelson went so far as to point out that Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office is leading the case against Chauvin, is the father of Jeremiah Ellison, who joined with all of his fellow council members in signing off on the payout. It didn't take long for Keith Ellison to enter the courtroom and say during a break in the proceedings something along the lines of "is there anything else someone would like to not accuse me of?"
- Prosecutor Steve Schleicher argued for jury selection to continue uninterrupted, adding, "We cannot control the civil aspect of the case, we cannot and do not control the Minneapolis City Council, and we certainly cannot and do not control the news cycle."
- Judge Peter Cahill said he intends to bring back the seven jurors selected last week and have them quizzed about their knowledge of the suit. "I wish city officials would stop talking about this case so much," the judge said. "At the same time, I don't find any evil intent that they were trying to tamper with this case. ... The timing is not related to this case."
- The impact of the settlement was immediately felt during scrutiny of Monday's first jury candidate, who said she "gasped" when she heard of the amount of the settlement and could not be impartial. She was promptly dismissed.
- Two new jurors were seated today, bringing the number of jurors to nine. Today's new jurors include:
- A Black man in his 30s who said he has seen the widely viewed bystander's video of Floyd's arrest and said in court that "I don't think [Chauvin] had any intention of harming anybody, but somebody did die." When pressed about assessing Chauvin's intent, the man said he could still "definitely look at [the case] from an objective point of view."
- A white woman in her 50s who lives outside Minneapolis and works as an executive assistant in a clinical health care setting. She said she has viewed the bystander's video, but she wrote in her questionnaire filled out months ago, "I couldn't watch it in full, because it was too disturbing to me." That said, she pledged that "I'm not in a position to change the law. I'm in a position to uphold the law. ... He's innocent until we can prove otherwise."
- With five more jurors yet to be chosen, the panel currently consists of four people of color and five people who are white. More specifically: one multiracial woman in her 20s, two Black men in their 30s, one Hispanic man in his 20s, two white women in their 50s, a white man in his 20s and two white men in their 30s.
What to expect next: The case resumes at 8 a.m. Tuesday, with further discussions about whether Cahill will grant any defense motions, among them: a continuance, an immediate sequestration of the jury or a motion to have the trial moved to somewhere else in the state, where pretrial publicity might not have as deep an impact on prospective jurors.
Jury selection also resumes Tuesday morning. A total of 14 jurors, including two alternates, will be selected. The defense has used nine of its 15 peremptory strikes, while the prosecution has used five of its nine.
Friday, March 12
Today in court:
- Five prospective jurors were questioned and one was seated, bringing the number of jurors to seven. Today's new juror is:
- A single mother who works as a high-level executive in the nonprofit sector focused on healthcare. She took the unusual step of summoning her own attorney to the courthouse. At one point, the judge halted the live video feed and cleared the courtroom of everyone except trial participants out of unspecified privacy concerns. The woman said the bystander video left her with a somewhat negative view of Chauvin, explaining that "a man died, and I am not sure that's procedure. ... Not all police are bad, but the bad-behavior police need to go." At the same time, she acknowledged sympathy for Floyd and the officers at the scene that night, saying, "Everyone's lives are changed by this incident ... and it's not easy for anyone."
- The prosecution and defense each exercised one of their strikes Friday. Chauvin's defense struck a woman who said she could be impartial, but admitted that she reacted negatively to the bystander video of Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck and had participated in a Black Lives Matter protest in Duluth. The prosecution struck a husband and father who served in the Army Reserve for eight years and was deployed to Iraq. He was questioned extensively about whether he could give equal weight to the testimony of police officers vs. bystanders at the scene. "Being in the military, it's easy for bystanders to say how they would react in that situation," the man said, while insisting he would not give law enforcement an edge in credibility.
- The defense has exercised eight of its 15 peremptory strikes, while the prosecution has exercised five of nine.
- The jury so far includes one multiracial woman in her 20s, one Black man in his 30s, one Hispanic man in his 20s, a white woman in her 50s, and three white men, two in their 30s and one in his 20s.
What to expect next: Jury selection resumes Monday morning. Ultimately 14 jurors, including two alternates, will be selected. The charges against Chauvin now include second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder.
Thursday, March 11
Today in court:
- Judge Peter Cahill reinstated a count of third-degree murder against Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd after a series of appellate rulings. Cahill had dismissed it last fall.
- Seven potential jurors were questioned and one juror was seated Thursday. A number of rejected candidates were clear on their juror questionnaire responses and in comments in court that watching the viral bystander video left them troubled with how Chauvin handled Floyd.
- As of the end of today, six jurors have been seated, including one multiracial woman, one Hispanic man, one Black man and three white men. A total of 14 jurors must be seated, including two alternates. Today's court session saw the addition of one juror:
- A married Hispanic man, who is a route driver for an unspecified business who acknowledged that missing work for a month would be a financial burden, but one he could endure, saying "If I am a good fit and can help, I'm OK." As for the case itself, the man said he's seen the viral arrest video in its entirety and in news reports. "Obviously, if [Floyd] would have complied, that wouldn't have happened," he said, but added that "there is more that happened than just that. ... I am willing to see all the evidence and witnesses."
What to expect next: Jury selection resumes Friday morning. Ultimately 14 jurors, including two alternates, will be selected. The charges against Chauvin now include second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Wednesday, March 10
Today in court:
- One of the pretrial motions discussed before jurors arrived Wednesday focused on what "spark-of-life" testimony Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill would allow in the trial of Derek Chauvin. "Spark-of-life" testimony would allow witnesses to testify to the personal character of the victim, George Floyd.
- Jury selection was well into its second day when the Minnesota Supreme Court said without elaboration that it would not hear Chauvin's argument to overturn an appeals court ruling that said a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin was improperly dismissed by District Judge Peter Cahill. Cahill said the matter will be addressed Thursday morning before selection resumes.
- Seven potential jurors were questioned and two more were seated, bringing the total of seated jurors to five. The jurors selected on Tuesday were two white men and a woman of color. Today's new jurors are:
- A white man who is a college educated father and scheduled to be married in May. He works in sales management and uses logic in his profession, eliminating emotion as much as possible. He said he is willing to delay his wedding if the trial is still ongoing by then. "I took a step back and went 'Whoa, this is a big deal,'" he said when he learned he was a potential juror in the Chauvin trial. "The magnitude of this case is what struck me." He watched the viral video of Floyd's death and had a somewhat negative opinion of what he saw. When it comes to disparities in the criminal justice system, he said there is a "systematic issue at hand, and I wish our country and world would get better at that." He also said, "When you look at the phrase Black Lives Matter, yes they do matter and I don't see why anyone would be against that movement." He called the police-supporting blue lives matter movement "not offensive but short-sighted." However, he does support law enforcement in general.
- A Black man who immigrated to the United States 14 years ago. He went to school in Nebraska and moved to Minnesota in 2012. He works in Information Technology and lives with his wife and dog. He speaks multiple languages, including French. Learning that he was in the jury pool made him "surprised and anxious," but he realizes it's his civic duty. While relating to Floyd's death and thinking "it could be anybody, it could have been you," he also said, "I believe that I will be impartial." He believes people have the right to protest, but at the same time, he realizes that businesses are shut down and damaged, and his wife is unable to make it to work. His father called worried, asking if he was OK after last summer's unrest in the wake of Floyd's death. He wants to serve on the jury because "it is a service to my community and our country."
What to expect next: Jury selection resumes Thursday morning. Ultimately 14 jurors, including two alternates, will be selected. The parameters of the "spark-of-life" testimony and the number of "spark-of-life" witnesses will be discussed further when the trial begins.
Tuesday, March 9
Today in court:
- Jury selection began this morning on the second day of Derek Chauvin's trial in the killing of George Floyd. Nine prospective jurors were questioned by Judge Peter Cahill, defense attorney Eric Nelson and prosecutor Steve Schleicher. Three were selected. Among them:
- A man from Minneapolis who works as a chemist. He is white, according to pool reports. Because of his profession, he said, "I consider myself a pretty logical person…I rely on facts and logic and what's in front of me. Opinion and facts are important distinctions for me." He said he has a generally favorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement but added that "I think all lives matter equally" and that the "Blue Lives Matter" message among police advocates is a counter viewpoint that isn't necessary. He has not viewed the bystander video of George Floyd's death. He has visited 38th and Chicago where Floyd was killed because he and his fiancé considered moving to the area.
- A woman who appears to be of color, according to pool reports, originally from northern Minnesota. She said she was "super excited" to receive her jury summons because she believes it's her civic duty. She said she was eager to serve regardless of the case, but especially in Chauvin's trial, given the gravity of it. "It's a very important case, not just for Hennepin County…but nationwide," she said. "It's just something everyone's heard about, talked about…No matter the decision, people are still going to talk about it." She said viewing the video of Floyd's death left her with a "somewhat negative" impression of Chauvin. "No one wants to see someone die," she said. The woman also said she sees racial disparity in the justice system. In connection with that belief, she added that she agrees somewhat that Minneapolis police officers at times use too much force against Black suspects. She considers herself a "go with the flow" type, and assured that she can be open minded about the evidence. She is the niece of a Brainerd police officer.
- A white man who works as an auditor and was chosen for the jury after expressing confidence that he could be fair. He served in a jury five years ago and was dismissed as an alternate. "I was slightly disappointed after hearing the process," he said. "…I think it's an important part of our society." He said he saw at least portions of the video of Floyd's death and had a somewhat negative view of Chauvin because "someone died, and that's obviously not a positive thing." At the same time, the man continued, he said he can examine the evidence "from a viewpoint of the law" before deciding whether or not the defendant is guilty.
What to expect next: Jury selection resumes Wednesday morning. A total of 14 jurors, including two alternates, will be selected.
Monday, March 8
Today in court:
- Before jury selection began, Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson said he would ask the Minnesota Supreme Court to review last week's Court of Appeals opinion that Judge Peter Cahill erred in throwing out third-degree murder charges against Chauvin. The state's high court now has to decide whether to hear the case.
- Prosecutor Matthew Frank argued that jury selection must now be placed on hold while the petition to the Supreme Court to review the case is pending, because Judge Peter Cahill lacks jurisdiction at that point. Defense attorney Eric Nelson said he was willing to proceed while the issue was unresolved.
- Cahill initially said he would start jury selection with the third-degree murder issue unresolved, because it was a narrow issue. Cahill then reversed course and said he wants to hear from the Court of Appeals before proceeding. The potential jury pool was sent home and was expected to return Tuesday.
- During the afternoon, the defense and prosecution hashed out a litany of motions involving several topics. Among them: sequestration of witnesses, the dramatic reduction of the current list of 350-400 potential witnesses, and a rekindled push by the defense to reference at trial a 2019 arrest of Floyd in Minneapolis that bore similarities to the one that led to his death.
What to expect next: Cahill said that unless he hears otherwise from the Court of Appeals, jury selection will begin Tuesday morning. Finding an impartial panel is sure to be a meticulous task that could take up to three weeks to accomplish before an anticipated March 29 date for opening statements from the defense and the prosecution.
Star Tribune staff writers Rochelle Olsen and Chao Xiong contributed to this report.