What’s Happening in Day 6 of the Chauvin Trial?

Mr. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, is accused of killing George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes. The second week of his murder trial began Monday.,


Continue reading the main story

After a week of often emotional and occasionally explosive testimony, the trial of Derek Chauvin resumed on Monday morning, with the prosecution continuing to present witnesses that they hope will support the charges of murder in the death of George Floyd.

Mr. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, is accused of killing Mr. Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes. The defense will claim that Mr. Chauvin followed his police training and that drug use may have led to Mr. Floyd’s death.

Here are some key takeaways from the opening days of the trial.

George Floyd’s cause of death is a central issue in the trial. The prosecution has already signaled that they will argue Mr. Floyd was asphyxiated by the police. To do that, they have to overcome the medical examiner’s statement that Mr. Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest,” a term they have argued is applicable to any death because it simply means that the person’s heart and lungs have stopped.

They also have to overcome the defense’s argument that Mr. Floyd had underlying heart disease that contributed to his death. They are using a witness who took the stand Monday morning, an emergency room physician who tried to resuscitate Mr. Floyd when he was brought in, to lay some of that groundwork.

Jerry W. Blackwell, a lawyer for the prosecution, asked the doctor, Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, to explain what cardiac arrest was. “So in laypeople’s terms, if we were to say cardiac arrest means the heart stopped, would that be accurate?” Mr. Blackwell asked. “Yes,” the doctor replied. Mr. Blackwell also asked if the doctor had been told there was any indication that Mr. Floyd had sustained a heart attack. Dr. Langenfeld said there was no such indication.

The strategies laid out by the defense and prosecution teams in opening statements last week could be clearly seen as they each questioned witnesses.

Eric J. Nelson, the lawyer for Mr. Chauvin, made clear 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.

Mr. Blackwell, one of the prosecutors, 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 first week of testimony was heavily weighted toward the prosecution’s arguments.

ImageThe Floyd memorial site near the Cup Foods store has been the place of protest since police killed Floyd at this location in May of 2020.
The Floyd memorial site near the Cup Foods store has been the place of protest since police killed Floyd at this location in May of 2020.Credit…Joshua Rashaad McFadden 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.”

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.

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.

Leave a Reply