6 Takeaways From the First Week of the Derek Chauvin Trial

It began with tears and shaky voices, and ended with a stunning condemnation by a senior police officer. The trial of Mr. Chauvin, charged in the death of George Floyd, will resume on Monday.,

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The first week of the murder trial of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis was marked by emotional accounts from bystanders who watched Mr. Chauvin pin George Floyd to the ground for more than nine minutes in May.

The prosecution presented testimony, often accompanied by tears and shaking voices, from people who were there during the fatal arrest of Mr. Floyd, along with hours of video evidence and additional testimony from paramedics and law enforcement officials who said that Mr. Chauvin’s use of force was unnecessary.

Prosecutors also introduced the issue of Mr. Floyd’s drug use, which is expected to be a crucial part of Mr. Chauvin’s defense; Mr. Chauvin’s lawyers are expected to argue that Mr. Floyd’s death was a result of his drug use. The trial, one of the most viewed in decades, comes with the memory of last summer’s protests for racial justice fresh in people’s minds.

Here are six key points from the first week of the trial.

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Chauvin Trial: Day 1 Key Moments

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

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

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

On Monday, each side laid out its strategy in opening statements.

Eric J. Nelson, the lawyer for Mr. Chauvin, made clear on Monday that he would attempt to convince jurors that the videos of Mr. Floyd’s death did not tell the full story. The case “is clearly more than about 9 minutes and 29 seconds,” Mr. Nelson said, referring to the time that Mr. Chauvin knelt on Mr. Floyd. He signaled that he planned to argue that Mr. Chauvin had been following his training, that his knee was not necessarily on Mr. Floyd’s neck, and that Mr. Floyd’s death may have been caused by drugs.

One of the prosecutors, Jerry W. Blackwell, urged jurors to “believe your eyes, that it’s homicide — it’s murder.” Prosecutors call all of their witnesses before the defense begins to lay out its case, so the week was heavily weighted toward the prosecution’s arguments, but the strategies of both sides began to come into view.

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Chauvin Trial: Day 2 Key Moments

As the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd, continued on Tuesday in Minneapolis, the prosecution and the defense used witness testimony to focus on how the arrest unfolded.

“So tell the jury what you observed, what you heard, when you stopped to look at what was happening there at the scene.” “I heard George Floyd saying: ‘I can’t breathe. Please get off of me. I can’t breathe.’ He cried for his mom. He was in pain. It seemed like he knew. It seemed like he knew it was over for him. He was terrified.” “He’s not moving!” “You’re a bum, bro. You’re a bum, bro. You’re definitely a bum, bro.” “Check his pulse and tell me what it is.” Tell me what his pulse is right now, I swear to God.” “Bro, he has not moved, not one time.” “In over a minute!” “Why was that important for you, in terms of saying over a minute, were you worried about the length of time that this was going on?” “Yes, because I knew time was running out or that it had already.” “What do you mean by time was running out?” “That he was going to die.” “I identified myself right away because I noticed that he needed medical attention. In my memory, I tried different tactics of calm and reasoning. I tried to be assertive. I pled and was desperate.” “You heard various people calling the officers names, right?” “Yes.” “And the volume of the people in that were bystanders grew louder over time. Would you agree with that?” “Yes. More so as he was becoming more unresponsive.” “You called him bogus.” “I did.” “You called him a bum at least 13 times.” “That’s what you counted in the video?” “That’s what I counted.” “Then that’s what you got, 13.” “And that was early on, right? Those terms grew more and more angry, would you agree with that?” “They grew more and more pleading for life.”

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As the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of killing George Floyd, continued on Tuesday in Minneapolis, the prosecution and the defense used witness testimony to focus on how the arrest unfolded.CreditCredit…Aaron Nesheim for The New York Times

The trial began with powerful testimony from a series of witnesses to the arrest, many of whom broke down in tears while recounting what they saw. They included several women who were under 18 at the time of the arrest, as well as a 61-year-old man who spoke with Mr. Floyd while he was pinned to the ground. From the convenience store clerk at the Cup Foods where Mr. Floyd bought cigarettes to an off-duty firefighter who yelled at the officers as Mr. Floyd became unresponsive, they conveyed a shared sense of trauma from what they saw that day.

By highlighting the emotional trauma Mr. Floyd’s arrest caused witnesses, prosecutors seemingly hoped to convince jurors that Mr. Chauvin’s actions had been clearly excessive to people who saw them in real time. One witness, Darnella Frazier, now 18, testified that she has been haunted by what she saw, sometimes lying awake at night “apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life.”

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Watch live coverage of the trial of Derek Chauvin. Warning: The video may include graphic images.CreditCredit…Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times

For the first time, the final moments before Mr. Floyd’s arrest were shown in detail. Surveillance video from Cup Foods, along with testimony from the store clerk, showed Mr. Floyd walking around the store, chatting and laughing with customers, and eventually buying a pack of cigarettes with a $20 bill that the clerk suspected was fake.

Footage from police body cameras then replayed the arrest from beginning to end. It showed an officer approach Mr. Floyd with his pistol drawn, and captured audio of Mr. Floyd’s fearful reaction: “Please, don’t shoot me,” he said. Mr. Floyd appeared terrified, first of the pistol, then of being held in a police car. As Mr. Chauvin pinned him to the ground, the footage captured the moments when the officers checked for a pulse and found none, but took no action.

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George Floyd’s Girlfriend Recalls Relationship in Emotional Testimony

Courteney Ross, who was dating George Floyd for nearly three years before his death in May, delivered tearful testimony on Thursday about their shared struggle with an opioid addiction.

“He asked me if he could get my number, and we had our first kiss in the lobby. And that’s when our relationship started.” “And after that, how close did you become?” “We were very close. We went out to eat a lot.” “Why?” Because Floyd loved to eat a lot. He’s a big man and it’s, you know, it took a lot of energy to keep him going. And he loved food.” “I have to ask you if your drug use was a part of that relationship?” “Yes.” “And what kind of drug use was a part of that relationship?” Floyd and I both suffered with an opiate addiction. We, we got addicted and tried really hard to break that addiction many times.” “And were you each aware of each other’s struggles with opioids?” “Yes, eventually in our relationship, we shared that.” “And did you work together on that?” “Absolutely.”

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Courteney Ross, who was dating George Floyd for nearly three years before his death in May, delivered tearful testimony on Thursday about their shared struggle with an opioid addiction.CreditCredit…Court TV still image, via Associated Press

On Thursday, jurors heard from Courteney Ross, Mr. Floyd’s girlfriend at the time of his death. Through stories of their first kiss, their dates and his hobbies, prosecutors used Ms. Ross’s testimony to show Mr. Floyd’s humanity as a father, partner and friend.

Ms. Ross’s testimony also brought one of the most important aspects of the trial to the forefront: Mr. Floyd’s drug use. The role that drugs did or did not play in Mr. Floyd’s death is expected to be a crucial element of Mr. Chauvin’s defense, and prosecutors called Ms. Ross to the stand to get in front of the claims of Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer.

Ms. Ross said that she and Mr. Floyd had first been prescribed painkillers to ease chronic pain, but that when the prescriptions ran out, they continued to buy the pills from others. They had begun a battle for sobriety, sometimes avoiding the drugs before they relapsed again. In the weeks before Mr. Floyd’s death, Ms. Ross said, she suspected that he had begun using again.

Prosecutors sought to show that Mr. Floyd had built up a high tolerance of the drugs, making it less likely that he died of an overdose; Mr. Floyd had methamphetamine and fentanyl in his system at the time of his death, according to a toxicology report.

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Paramedic Testifies on George Floyd’s Death

On Thursday, Seth Bravinder, a paramedic, testified that George Floyd was unresponsive when an ambulance arrived at Cup Foods, and that the medical team was unable to revive him.

“Did the code level of that call change at some point?” “It did, about a minute and a half after we got it, I believe.” “And what was the change?” “We got a note saying Code 3, so upgraded to lights and sirens, emergency response to the scene.” “And what did you see when you got out of the ambulance in terms of the patient’s condition at that point?” “I was standing a little ways away, so I couldn’t get — my partner would have a more accurate description of his condition at that point. But from what I could see where I was that I didn’t, I didn’t see any breathing or movement or anything like that.” “Did he appear to be unresponsive to you at that point in time?” “From what I could tell, just standing from a distance, yes.” “And even though there was, when he first arrived, he was in asystole. At some point later, there was PEA. At any point, did he regenerate a pulse or come to — was he revived?” “No.”

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On Thursday, Seth Bravinder, a paramedic, testified that George Floyd was unresponsive when an ambulance arrived at Cup Foods, and that the medical team was unable to revive him.CreditCredit…Court TV

Two paramedics who responded to the scene both testified that they saw no signs of life from Mr. Floyd upon their arrival. One of them, Derek Smith, felt Mr. Floyd’s neck while police officers were still on top of him, and said he found no pulse. Mr. Smith’s attempts to revive him, including the use of a defibrillator and a machine that provides chest compressions, did nothing to improve Mr. Floyd’s condition. Though the paramedics did not address what exactly killed Mr. Floyd, their testimony seemed to support prosecutors’ claim that Mr. Chauvin’s actions resulted in his death.

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George Floyd Died Before Medics Arrived, Paramedic Says

Derek Smith, one of the paramedics called to the scene of George Floyd’s arrest, testified in court on Thursday that when he arrived it appeared that Mr. Floyd was already dead.

When you approached, he said he was in handcuffs as you approached him to inspect further, were the officers still on top of him? The officers were still on him when I approached. And what did you do when you approached? I was assessing the scene, running through what? No cure may be needed. And did you take some initial steps, like checking for a pulse? I checked for a pulse. And did you also check with the individual, Mr Floyd’s pupils? I did. And what did you determine at that point? They were large, dilated. So you determined that his pupils were larger, dilated? What about a pulse? I did not get a pulse. When you say pop, it is that you didn’t feel or detect a desire to take the pulse. And what did his condition appear to be to you overall in lay terms? I thought he was dead. So what did you do next? I kind of get a look for my partner and told them. I think he’s dead. And I want to move this out here, ok? And I will begin caring about.

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Derek Smith, one of the paramedics called to the scene of George Floyd’s arrest, testified in court on Thursday that when he arrived it appeared that Mr. Floyd was already dead.CreditCredit…Still image via Court TV

On Friday, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the longest-serving officer in the Minneapolis Police Department, offered scathing condemnation of Mr. Chauvin’s use of force. He said Mr. Chauvin violated police policy and called his actions “totally unnecessary.” Putting a knee on someone’s neck while they are handcuffed in a prone position, he said, qualifies as “deadly force.”

“If your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill them,” Lieutenant Zimmerman said, adding that people who are handcuffed generally pose little threat to officers. Mr. Zimmerman’s testimony, bolstered by his more than 35 years on the force, could be a major setback for a crucial aspect of Mr. Chauvin’s defense — that his actions were not only legal, but within the bounds of his training.

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‘Deadly Force’: Minneapolis Police Officer Describes Chauvin’s Actions

Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who responded to the scene of George Floyd’s arrest after he was taken away in an ambulance, testified in court that Derek Chauvin did not follow police protocol.

“Have you ever in all the years you’ve been working for the Minneapolis Police Department, been trained to kneel on the neck of someone who is handcuffed behind their back in a prone position?” “No, I haven’t.” “Is that, if that were done, would that be considered force?” “Absolutely.” “What level of force might that be?” “That would be the top tier, the deadly force.” “Why?” “Because of the fact that if your knee is on a person’s neck that can kill him. Once a person is cuffed, you need to turn them on their side or have them sit up. You need to get them off their chest.” “Why?” “Because of the — as I mentioned earlier, your muscles are pulling back when you’re handcuffed. And if you’re laying on your chest, that’s constricting your breathing even more.”

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Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who responded to the scene of George Floyd’s arrest after he was taken away in an ambulance, testified in court that Derek Chauvin did not follow police protocol.CreditCredit…Still image, via Court TV
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