Derek Chauvin Trial Live Updates: Focus on Bystander Video Challenges Defense
A day after emotional testimony from bystanders who witnessed George Floyd’s final moments, Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer may try to shift the trial in another direction.,
Emotional and sometimes combative witnesses dominated the second day of testimony Tuesday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd. Legal experts expect the conversation to shift in coming days as the trial continues.
Here is what they expect to hear more about:
The video of Mr. Floyd’s arrest touched off the biggest protests across the United States since the 1960s and focused the nation’s attention on issues of racial justice. But so far, there has been almost no mention of the topic during the trial, said Justin Hansford, a law professor at Howard University.
“How are they going to talk about the question of race?” he asked. “I know there is a feeling that by taking race out, it makes it more objective. It will be interesting to me how prosecutors discuss that because that is at the core of this. This is why the whole world is watching. I think we are trying to pretend like it’s not a factor.”
Jurors have been shown bystander videos of the arrest and nearby security footage at least three times during the trial. That’s one of the biggest hurdles Mr. Chauvin’s defense team, led by Eric Nelson, must overcome: drawing jurors’ attention away from the video.
“They want to focus the jury on more than the video,” said Mary Fan, a professor at University of Washington School of Law who was formerly a federal prosecutor. “You see that strategy because that video is so painful to watch and galvanizing for the audience. The defense wants to say, ‘Look beyond what’s captured in the video and consider the array of circumstances.'”
Mr. Chauvin’s team has employed what Ms. Fan called the “standard account” that attorneys give when justifying the use of force: that the officer was experienced and following his training in a volatile situation. They have attempted to convince the jury that “the use of force doesn’t look pretty when it’s recorded, but this is police procedure in these stressful uncertain moments,” she said.
Cause of Death
If the defense is able to shift the conversation away from the video, its next step will be to argue that Mr. Floyd’s death was caused by a drug overdose and a heart condition, not by Mr. Chauvin’s actions.
While the defense has yet to present evidence to support its theory, it may not fully exculpate Mr. Chauvin, said Chris Slobogin, the director of the Criminal Justice Program at Vanderbilt University.
“Even if the drugs contributed to his death, Chauvin can still be found guilty of homicide if he also contributed to the death,” Mr. Slobogin said. “It’s only if the death was solely caused by the drugs that the defense would have legitimate argument.”
The second day of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who is accused of killing George Floyd, was marked by emotional testimony from witnesses who recounted what they saw and how it left them feeling traumatized. Six people testified in all, including four witnesses who were younger than 18 on the day of Mr. Floyd’s arrest.
Prosecutors walked through the arrest minute by minute with the witnesses. The youngest of them testified off camera, though viewers could hear them in real time. At times, their voices wavered as they recalled the events of May 25, and attorneys gave them time between questions to collect themselves. Here are the highlights of the second day.
The testimony of the young witnesses included the grief and anger felt so profoundly by people across the country in the days and weeks after Mr. Floyd’s death. Their presence made another point as well: They have become victims themselves. The trauma of seeing a man lose consciousness while they could do nothing to stop it clearly left its mark, as made evident by their tears as they testified.
The young witnesses told consistent versions of what they saw, and all said they believed at the time that something was going horribly wrong. “I almost walked away at first because it was a lot to watch,” said one witness, a high school senior. “But I knew that it was wrong and I couldn’t just walk away, even though I couldn’t do anything about it.”
The most emotionally jarring testimony came from Darnella Frazier, who took a video of the arrest that helped ignite protests across the country. Ms. Frazier expressed regret for not physically confronting Mr. Chauvin but said she ultimately believed the former officer was at fault for Mr. Floyd’s death. “It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” Ms. Frazier said, adding that she has often reflected on the similarities of her Black family members and Mr. Floyd. She worries for their safety and her own. “I look at how that could have been one of them.”
Mr. Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, had a testy exchange with a mixed martial arts fighter who was at the scene of the arrest and testified on Monday and Tuesday. On Tuesday, Mr. Nelson argued that the witness, Donald Williams II, did not have enough medical or police training experience to analyze Mr. Floyd’s cause of death. Previously, Mr. Williams had testified that the placement of Mr. Chauvin’s knee could have caused Mr. Floyd to suffocate. The defense also highlighted the loud crowd that formed on the sidewalk and yelled at the police officers during the arrest. Mr. Williams pushed back on the attorney’s description, saying, “You can’t paint me out to be angry.”
Prosecutors continued to focus on how long Mr. Chauvin kept his knee on Mr. Floyd, pinning him to the street. While the defense may argue that use of force was necessary, prosecutors will want to convince the jury that the amount of time was unreasonable and unlawful. Even if the defense can effectively argue that force was necessary at first, prosecutors want to show that Mr. Chauvin kept Mr. Floyd pinned even after he lost consciousness.
Genevieve Hansen, a Minneapolis firefighter and emergency medical technician, also gave emotional testimony, wiping tears from her eyes as she recalled witnessing the arrest. Ms. Hansen, 27, had urged police officers to take Mr. Floyd’s pulse. She also called 911 at the time — making her the third witness who called the police on the police.
Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times
Aaron Nesheim for The New York Times
Aaron Nesheim for The New York Times
Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times
The scene outside the Hennepin County Government Center was quieter on Tuesday, the second day in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin. Across the city, protesters placed signs and public displays to George Floyd and others killed by police violence.
The 12-person jury in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin was selected from an original pool of more than 300 people from across Hennepin County. Over three weeks of jury selection, anonymous citizens sat one at a time on the witness stand and answered questions from the lawyers and judge about the political views and ability (or inability) to be impartial in the case.
Here are the jurors in the trial. After the two sides present their cases, 12 of the jurors will begin deliberations. Two others are alternates.
Juror No. 2 A white man in his 20s who works as a chemist and said he had not seen the bystander video and had strong views that the criminal justice system is biased against minorities.
Juror No. 9 A woman in her 20s who identifies as mixed race. She has an uncle who is a police officer and said she wanted to be on the jury.
Juror No. 19 A white man in his 30s who works as a financial auditor. He has a friend in the Minneapolis Police Department and said that George Floyd being under the influence of drugs shouldn’t be a factor in the case.
Juror No. 27 A Black man in his 30s, who immigrated to the United States 14 years ago and works in information technology. He disagreed with defunding the police and told his wife that Mr. Floyd “could have been me.”
Juror No. 44 A white woman in her 50s who is a health care executive. She said Mr. Floyd’s death awakened her to “white privilege.”
Juror No. 52 A Black man in his 30s who writes poems and coaches youth sports. He said he did not believe Mr. Chauvin intended to kill Mr. Floyd but wondered why the other three officers did not intervene.
Juror No. 55 A white woman in her 50s who took up motorcycle riding to honor her late husband. She said she had never watched the full bystander video because it disturbed her.
Juror No. 79 A Black man in his 40s who lives in the suburbs and said last year’s protests had no impact on his community.
Juror No. 85 A woman in her 40s who identifies as multiracial and works as a corporate consultant.
Juror No. 89 A white woman in her 50s who is a nurse and has worked with Covid-19 patients.
Juror No. 91 A Black woman in her 60s who is a grandmother. Asked about the Black Lives Matter movement, she said, “I am Black, and my life matters.”
Juror No. 92 A white woman in her 40s who works in the insurance industry. She said Mr. Floyd did not deserve to die and that the officers used excessive force.
Juror No. 96 A white woman in her 50s who volunteers at homeless shelters. She said she had a “neutral” opinion of Mr. Floyd.
Juror No. 118 A white woman in her 20s who is a social worker and recently married.