Defense Lawyers Call Their First Witnesses in Derek Chauvin Trial

After two weeks of prosecutors’ arguments, Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer must now counter amid the backdrop of unrest over another police killing. Here’s the latest.,

LiveUpdated April 13, 2021, 11:56 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 11:56 a.m. ET

For two weeks, the prosecution built a case that George Floyd died because of Derek Chauvin’s use of force. Now his lawyer must make a counterargument amid the backdrop of unrest over another police killing.

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Watch live video of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged in the death of George Floyd. Warning: The video may include graphic images.CreditCredit…via Court TV
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April 13, 2021, 11:52 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 11:52 a.m. ET

Peter Chang, an employee of Minneapolis Park Police and a licensed peace officer, was called to testify on Tuesday for the defense in the trial of Derek Chauvin.

Mr. Chang said he was stationed at a park nearby on May 25 and responded to a call for assistance from the Minneapolis Police Department at Cup Foods.

When he responded to the scene, he said, George Floyd was in handcuffs sitting against a wall. He identified Mr. Floyd using the system in his car, he said.

One of the officers told him to monitor the car and the two other people who had been in the car with Mr. Floyd, he said.

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April 13, 2021, 11:52 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 11:52 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

It’s key for the defense that Peter Chang, the Minneapolis Park Police officer who assisted at the scene of George Floyd’s arrest, testifies that the crowd of bystanders made him concerned for the safety of the other officers. The defense has been trying to frame the bystanders as potentially dangerous or distracting. “They were very aggressive,” Chang says.

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April 13, 2021, 11:41 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 11:41 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

Peter Chang, a Minneapolis Park Police officer who came to the scene of George Floyd’s arrest, has taken the stand for the defense.

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April 13, 2021, 11:40 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 11:40 a.m. ET
Officer Rich Walker, Sergeant Anna Hedberg and Sergeant Sherral Schmidt, of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association and Minneapolis Police Department last year.
Officer Rich Walker, Sergeant Anna Hedberg and Sergeant Sherral Schmidt, of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association and Minneapolis Police Department last year.Credit…Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune, via Associated Press

As the defense began to present their case on Tuesday, Eric J. Nelson has so far been the only attorney to speak in court on behalf of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with killing George Floyd.

But Mr. Chauvin is actually backed by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, an organization of unions that has more than 10,000 members including police officers, correctional officers, dispatchers, and firefighters.

As a police officer, Mr. Chauvin was a member of the Minneapolis Police Federation, one of the unions in the association, and his defense is being paid through the association’s legal defense fund, a spokesman for the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association said.

The spokesman declined to answer questions about the funding and use of the legal defense fund, stating that it was “confidential.”

Mr. Nelson is a private lawyer with Halberg Criminal Defense and is one of 12 lawyers connected with the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, which assigns cases on a rotating basis, according to The Associated Press.

Brian Peters, the association’s executive director, told The Associated Press that four lawyers were assigned to the four officers charged in connection with George Floyd’s death, and that they have been collaborating behind the scenes.

“It may appear that it’s just Eric, but that is very far from the truth,” Mr. Peters told The Associated Press.

Mr. Nelson has also been accompanied in court by Amy Voss, a woman he identified as his assistant but who is also a licensed lawyer. She has been seated at a table behind Mr. Nelson and Mr. Chauvin throughout the trial. In addition, several other Minneapolis defense lawyers who typically represent police officers, including the attorneys for the three other officers who were on the scene when Mr. Floyd died and face aiding and abetting charges, are helping Mr. Nelson behind the scenes.

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April 13, 2021, 11:39 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 11:39 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

Shawanda Hill was called by the defense, but her sympathies clearly lie with the prosecution. She said George Floyd had no shortness of breath in the car outside Cup Foods, and was startled and scared when the police officers approached the car with their guns drawn. Just like the first two defense witnesses today, her testimony was brief.

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April 13, 2021, 11:28 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 11:28 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

Shawanda Hill, who was in the car outside Cup Foods with George Floyd on the day that he died, has taken the witness stand as a defense witness. The judge advised her outside of the jury’s hearing that she may be asked whether she was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time, and that she has a Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself.

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April 13, 2021, 11:36 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 11:36 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

Hill told Eric Nelson, the defense lawyer, that Floyd was asleep in the car when the clerk from Cup Foods came to the car to complain about the suspected fake $20 bill that Floyd used to buy cigarettes. The questioning by Nelson was brief, but it looks like he is trying to suggest Floyd was asleep due to opioids, which could allow Nelson to say in his closing statement that this was a sign of an overdose.

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April 13, 2021, 11:14 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 11:14 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

The prosecution did not want the jury to hear about the 2019 arrest of George Floyd, but I’d rate it a win for them. They showed the arresting police officer approaching with his gun drawn and got him to admit that “it escalated real quick.” And the paramedic who treated Floyd at the scene emphasized that Floyd was addicted to Percoset and had been taking them every 20 minutes — not that he had swallowed them as the police approached, as the defense contends he did in May 2020 outside Cup Foods.

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April 13, 2021, 11:09 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 11:09 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

The first two defense witnesses were on and off very quickly, in line with the judge’s order that their testimony about George Floyd’s arrest in May 2019, when he had medical issues, be strictly limited. It’s hard to see how helpful it was to the defense, because the upshot is that during the May 2019 incident Floyd was taken to the hospital, and he lived.

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April 13, 2021, 11:03 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 11:03 a.m. ET

Michelle Moseng, a retired paramedic for Hennepin County Medical Center Emergency Medical Services, was called by the defense to testify on Tuesday morning.

Ms. Moseng’s testimony followed that of Scott Creighton, a retired Minneapolis police officer, who pulled him over for a traffic stop on May 6, 2019.

In court, she said she was summoned to the police precinct to care for Mr. Floyd after he had been arrested in 2019. That day, she said, Mr. Floyd told her he had been taking some form of opioid “multiple, every 20 minutes” and another as the officers approached.

She recommended that he be transported to the hospital based on his elevated blood pressure. He was ultimately brought to the hospital, she said.

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April 13, 2021, 10:57 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 10:57 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

Eric Nelson, Derek Chauvin’s defense lawyer, calls Michelle Moseng, the paramedic who treated George Floyd after his May 2019 arrest, when he had medical issues. The judge again instructs the jury that the testimony about this arrest is limited to the physical effects of opioids on Floyd, not evidence about his character.

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April 13, 2021, 10:51 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 10:51 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

The proceedings are being frequently interrupted by sidebars because the judge has placed such narrow restrictions on what can be presented about George Floyd’s 2019 arrest, and the lawyers are arguing about the boundaries. The defense wants to allow as much in as they can.

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April 13, 2021, 10:48 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 10:48 a.m. ET
Retired Minneapolis police officer Scott Creighton testifies as the first witness for the defense.
Retired Minneapolis police officer Scott Creighton testifies as the first witness for the defense.Credit…Still image, via Court TV

Scott Creighton, a retired Minneapolis police officer, was the first defense witness called to testify in the trial of Derek Chauvin.

Before he began his testimony on Tuesday, Judge Peter A. Cahill told the jury that they would hear evidence of an occurrence for the “limited purpose of showing the effects the ingestion of opioids may or may not have had on the physical well-being of George Floyd. This evidence is not to be used as evidence of the character of George Floyd.”

Mr. Creighton worked for the police department for 28 years, including 22 years as a street level narcotics investigator, he said.

The defense questioned Mr. Creighton about an incident on May 6, 2019, a traffic stop during which a passenger, who he identified as Mr. Floyd, was not responsive to his commands.

“In my mind his behavior was very nervous, anxious,” he said, noting that he turned away continuously as he asked to see his hands.

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April 13, 2021, 10:45 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 10:45 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

Prosecutors tried hard to get this video and testimony about the May 2019 arrest of George Floyd excluded, but it could actually end up helping the state. In May 2019, officers sought medical care for Floyd after he swallowed drugs, and he survived.

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April 13, 2021, 10:49 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 10:49 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

In arguments about this before jury selection, prosecutors described attempts to admit it into evidence as “the desperation of the defense to smear Mr. Floyd’s character by showing what he struggled with, an opioid addiction like so many Americans do, is really just evidence of bad character.” So far, we have just seen the arrest of Floyd. Later we will hear from the paramedic about how Floyd’s body reacted to drugs he took during the arrest in May 2019.

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April 13, 2021, 10:44 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 10:44 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

The May 2019 arrest being focused on now by the defense was similar in many ways to George Floyd’s encounter with the police outside Cup Foods. In both cases, he apparently took drugs and said he couldn’t breathe. The judge has limited testimony about the prior incident to Floyd’s physical reaction to taking drugs and encountering the police. A paramedic will testify, and a portion of bodycam footage from May 2019 is being shown to the jury.

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April 13, 2021, 10:37 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 10:37 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

The state has officially rested its case after calling almost 40 witnesses, and Derek Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, has called his first witness to testify. He will try to demonstrate that drug use and a heart condition are to blame for George Floyd’s death, not Chauvin’s actions during his arrest.

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April 13, 2021, 10:41 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 10:41 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

The first defense witness is a Minneapolis police officer who arrested Floyd in May 2019, almost a year before he died. The judge first instructs the jury that the testimony they are about to hear is not evidence about the “character” of Floyd.

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April 13, 2021, 10:34 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 10:34 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

With the defense beginning to present its case today, one big question is whether Derek Chauvin himself will take the stand. The jury undoubtedly wants to hear what the former police officer was thinking as he restrained George Floyd for more than nine minutes. But there are many potential downsides — he could put jurors off, or open himself to a damaging cross-examination. During jury selection, Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, repeatedly stressed that jurors could not hold it against Chauvin if he did not testify.

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April 13, 2021, 10:17 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 10:17 a.m. ET
Shawanda Hill, right, near the spot where George Floyd was arrested.
Shawanda Hill, right, near the spot where George Floyd was arrested.Credit…Kerem Yucel/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The defense will begin making its case for the former officer Derek Chauvin on Tuesday, and is expected to begin with the two other people who were in the car with George Floyd when he was first approached by officers.

There have been some difficulties for the defense with these two witnesses, whose testimonies may be key to its argument that Mr. Floyd’s drug use before the arrest may have caused him to overdose.

Shawanda Hill, an associate of Mr. Floyd’s who was sitting in the back seat of the car when he was first approached by officers and arrested, has been called to testify and is expected to be the first to take the stand Tuesday, but it is unclear whether she will show up.

In police body camera footage from the arrest, Ms. Hill can be heard from the back seat telling officers Mr. Floyd had been shot previously in a similar situation, however that was never confirmed. One of the officers, Thomas Lane, can also be heard asking Ms. Hill why Mr. Floyd was being so “squirrelly.”

“He’s got a thing going on, I’m telling you, about the police,” Ms. Hill said while pointing her finger to her head and making a circular motion with her finger.

Morries Lester Hall, who was sitting in the passenger seat beside Mr. Floyd, has said through his lawyer that he plans to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Mr. Hall is currently in jail for charges unrelated to Mr. Floyd’s death.

Mr. Hall’s lawyer has said that testifying about any of his actions on May 25 had the potential to incriminate him. Judge Peter A. Cahill, who is overseeing the trial of Mr. Chauvin, ordered Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer to draft a list of questions about that day that Mr. Hall might be able to answer without incriminating himself.

Judge Cahill is expected to make a decision Tuesday on whether to allow the defense to call him to testify.

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April 13, 2021, 10:10 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 10:10 a.m. ET

Timothy Arango

Reporting from Minneapolis

Court is back in session this morning with lawyers from both sides arguing motions before the jury is brought in. The defense is expected to begin calling its first witnesses today, giving Derek Chauvin’s lawyers a chance to counter more than two weeks of extensive testimony that blame his actions for George Floyd’s death.

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April 13, 2021, 10:05 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 10:05 a.m. ET

By The New York Times

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department on Monday night to protest the death of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was shot by an officer during a traffic stop. In Portland, a candlelight vigil for Mr. Wright was held at Laurelhurst Park.

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April 13, 2021, 7:50 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 7:50 a.m. ET
The lawyer Eric J. Nelson, left, and his client, the former officer Derek Chauvin. The defense will begin calling witnesses on Tuesday.
The lawyer Eric J. Nelson, left, and his client, the former officer Derek Chauvin. The defense will begin calling witnesses on Tuesday.Credit…Still image, via Court TV

Derek Chauvin’s defense team will begin calling its own witnesses on Tuesday, a key step for a trial that took on a heightened level of intensity after the fatal shooting on Sunday of a Black man by a police officer in a Minneapolis suburb.

Jurors have so far only heard from witnesses called by the prosecution, including bystanders who saw the arrest of George Floyd unfold, and medical and law enforcement experts. The defense of Mr. Chauvin, who is charged with murdering Mr. Floyd, has faced pointed rebukes from several witnesses, including an expert on the use of force who testified on Monday that the officers who arrested Mr. Floyd mishandled the situation on nearly every level.

Witnesses from the defense will take the stand as Minneapolis remains on edge, rocked by the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright on Sunday. Mr. Wright, 20, was shot by an officer who officials said meant to grab her Taser; she instead pulled her handgun and shot Mr. Wright when he re-entered his car while officers tried to arrest him for an outstanding warrant.

The shooting in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis, led to both peaceful protests and clashes with the police and looting on Sunday night. On Monday, the city, along with others in the Twin Cities region, imposed a state of emergency and a curfew to curb the likelihood of civil unrest. Hundreds of protesters violated the curfew, surrounding the Brooklyn Center Police Department and chanting at officers who stood guard in riot gear beside newly erected fencing. The crowd eventually dispersed after a few hours.

While the death of Mr. Floyd sent the country into a fierce debate over the intersection of race and policing, the fatal shooting of Mr. Wright amplified tensions as the trial moves forward.

On Monday, jurors heard from Mr. Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd, who gave tearful testimony about George Floyd’s childhood and his relationship with his mother, who died in 2018. Testimonies like that of Philonise Floyd are generally not allowed, but Minnesota courts permit them to give jurors a fuller understanding of victims’ personalities and character.

Prosecutors also called a law enforcement expert and a cardiologist, who both gave testimonies that mirrored those of other expert witnesses. The cardiologist, Dr. Jonathan Rich, said that Mr. Floyd’s death was “absolutely preventable” and that he saw no evidence that Mr. Floyd died from a drug overdose or a heart attack, as the defense has suggested.

Instead, Dr. Rich said Mr. Floyd died from a deprivation of oxygen, a conclusion reached by several other medical witnesses. “He was trying to get enough oxygen and because of the position that he was subjected to, the heart thus did not have enough oxygen,” he said.

Seth Stoughton, a law professor and use-of-force expert, testified that the prone position where Mr. Floyd was held for nine and a half minutes is meant to be transitional, typically used for applying handcuffs on a suspect. Police officers have known for decades that the prone position is dangerous if a suspect is kept there for long periods of time, he said, particularly if additional force is applied to their back or neck.

“No reasonable officer would have believed that was an acceptable, appropriate and reasonable use of force,” Mr. Stoughton said.

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April 13, 2021, 12:51 a.m. ETApril 13, 2021, 12:51 a.m. ET
A protester standing in front of police officers in Brooklyn Center, Minn., on Monday night.
A protester standing in front of police officers in Brooklyn Center, Minn., on Monday night.Credit…Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times

As midnight approached in Minnesota, a protest in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center over the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright was ebbing into a strained standoff between the police and a few lingering demonstrators.

Colonel Matt Langer of the Minnesota State Patrol told reporters early Tuesday morning that about 40 people had been arrested in Brooklyn Center on a variety of charges including violating curfew and rioting.

Hundreds of protesters assembled outside a police station in Brooklyn Center on Monday evening to demand justice over Mr. Wright’s killing. In a steady rain, they chanted “Killer cop” as officers in riot gear stood guard behind newly erected fencing.

The police declared the gathering unlawful, saying that it violated a 7 p.m. curfew imposed after the shooting on Sunday, and tried to disperse the crowd using tear gas and flash-bang grenades.

Over the next few hours, state troopers and National Guard troops were able to push the crowd several blocks away from the police station. Some businesses near the police station, including a Dollar Tree and a Boost Mobile store, were looted.

Col. Langer said that Minnesota law enforcement officers had hoped to avoid using chemical munitions against protesters, but that the calculus changed after the officers were “shelled, pretty significant, with objects by the crowd.”

“Decisions needed to be made to push that crowd back from the fence,” Col. Langer said. A few officers suffered minor injuries, he said, adding that he was not aware of any injuries to protesters.

By late Monday evening, lines of officers were guarding a perimeter they had established. Only a few dozen protesters remained, and some continued to yell at the police.

Brooklyn Center was not the only place where police officers braced for a night of civil unrest and potential violence following the fatal police shooting of Mr. Wright, who had been pulled over for a traffic violation.

In Portland, Ore., demonstrators gathered at two separate events Monday night, decrying police violence and lighting candles in honor of Mr. Wright. After sunset, a crowd of about 250 people marched to a police precinct, where some lit a fire in an overturned dumpster or threw fireworks toward officers.

The crowd in Portland chanted Mr. Wright’s name, as well as “No cops, no prisons, total abolition.”

“Every city. Every town,” they chanted at another point. “Burn the precincts to the ground.”

In Los Angeles, Sheriff Alex Villanueva girded for violence, saying at a news conference on Monday afternoon that people who “dress like tackle football, with a helmet, goggles and shields, you’re not there to protest peacefully.”

On Monday evening, Mayor Mike Elliott of Brooklyn Center told a group of protesters, “I want you all to stay a good distance from these officers while you’re expressing your voice,” according to a video of the encounter that was posted on Twitter.

“If you know me, I want you to understand that I am going to do absolutely everything in my power to make sure that justice is done,” Mr. Elliott said. “This isn’t going to get swept under the rug or anything like that.”

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April 12, 2021, 5:39 p.m. ETApril 12, 2021, 5:39 p.m. ET
The phrase “Justice for Daunte Wright” was painted on the pavement near a memorial to George Floyd at Cup Foods in Minneapolis. Credit…Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times

The third week of the Derek Chauvin trial began just hours after a crowd of protesters gathered outside Minneapolis and clashed with police officers, in protest of a fatal police shooting on Sunday.

Eric J. Nelson, the defense lawyer for Mr. Chauvin, the former police officer who is accused of murder in the death of George Floyd, argued that the shooting and subsequent protests might make the jurors more likely to issue a guilty verdict, fearing that not doing so could set off a rash of civil unrest. The judge denied a request by Mr. Nelson to sequester the jury and to re-interview each juror about the shooting and the protests.

Closing arguments in the trial of Mr. Chauvin are expected to come at the beginning of next week. On Monday, jurors heard from Mr. Floyd’s brother as well as a cardiologist — one of several medical witnesses called by prosecutors — who said he saw no evidence that Mr. Floyd died from a drug overdose or a heart attack. Here are the takeaways from Day 11.

  • The day began with the backdrop of protests that kicked off on Sunday night in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb about 10 miles north of the courthouse. Chief Tim Gannon of the Brooklyn Center Police Department said that an officer had shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, after pulling him over for a traffic violation. After the car was pulled over, the officer found that the driver had a warrant for his arrest. As the police tried to arrest him, Mr. Wright stepped back into his car, and the officer shot him. Protesters gathered on Sunday night outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department. Some of the demonstrators threw objects at police officers, who responded by firing chemical agents and rubber bullets. On Monday, Chief Gannon said the officer meant to grab her Taser, but she accidentally grabbed her pistol and shot Mr. Wright.

  • Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, gave tearful testimony about Mr. Floyd as a brother and a son. He talked about how they played video games together when they were children. “I finally beat him in a game, and I was just so happy,” he said, giving jurors some glimpse into George Floyd’s personality and family life. “Spark of life” testimonies, like that of Philonise Floyd’s, are generally not allowed, but Minnesota courts allow them as a way to present a fuller picture of victims as human beings — personalities and all. While looking at a photo of George Floyd as a toddler, sleeping while his mother cradled him and smiled, Philonise Floyd began to cry. Their mother died in 2018, and George Floyd was deeply affected, his brother said. “When we went to the funeral, George just sat there at the casket over and over again,” he said. “He would just say, ‘Mom, Mom’ over and over again.” Philonise Floyd said his brother was a talented athlete. When George Floyd was young, he would mark his height on the wall, always wanting to be taller to have an edge in sports. “He always wanted to be the best,” his brother said.

  • Dr. Jonathan Rich, a cardiologist called to the witness stand by prosecutors, said that Mr. Floyd’s death was “absolutely preventable” and that officers should have immediately begun chest compressions once they failed to find a pulse. Dr. Rich is one of several medical expert witnesses who have testified that Mr. Floyd died as a result of his interaction with police officers, not from a drug overdose or a heart attack, as the defense has suggested. Dr. Rich said Mr. Floyd died from “cardio pulmonary arrest” caused by low oxygen levels induced by the police restraint. “He was trying to get enough oxygen and because of the position that he was subjected to, the heart thus did not have enough oxygen,” he said. Mr. Chauvin had used his knee to hold Mr. Floyd handcuffed and facedown on the street for nine and a half minutes. Dr. Rich said he believed that had Mr. Floyd not been restrained in that way, he would have survived.

  • Seth Stoughton, a law professor and expert on the use of force, also testified and is expected to be the prosecution’s final witness. Mr. Stoughton said officers severely mishandled the arrest of Mr. Floyd on nearly every level. The prone position where Mr. Floyd was held for nine and a half minutes is meant to be a temporary position, he said, typically used for applying handcuffs on a suspect. In addition, he said the dangers of the prone position — that it can make it more difficult for people to breathe, particularly when there is extra weight on their back or neck — had been well known in policing for decades.

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April 7, 2021, 2:16 p.m. ETApril 7, 2021, 2:16 p.m. ET
Boarded-up walls of the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial of Derek Chauvin is taking place.
Boarded-up walls of the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial of Derek Chauvin is taking place.Credit…Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times

Midway through the second week of the trial of Derek Chauvin, more than 20 witnesses have already taken the stand for the state. Next, the defense will present their witnesses, before the trial moves into closing arguments and, finally, jury deliberation.

Witness testimony is expected to last at least through the end of next week. On Friday, Judge Peter A. Cahill dismissed court early, saying that the trial was ahead of schedule.

Jury selection — eight days of intense questioning to potential jurors about their political biases and views on racism and policing — began on March 9. Ultimately, 12 jury members and two alternates were chosen.

Both sides delivered opening statements on March 29, which were followed by the prosecution calling their witnesses to the stand. Each witness is questioned by the state, then cross-examined by the defense. Questioning goes back and forth between the state and the defense.

Each side submitted a list of potential witnesses to the judge ahead of the trial: The state submitted the names of 363 potential witnesses, and the defense listed 212, but it was unclear how many would actually appear.

Closing arguments could come as soon as the week of April 19, then the jury will begin deliberating. The jury can take as long as it needs to deliver a verdict.

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March 29, 2021, 8:49 a.m. ETMarch 29, 2021, 8:49 a.m. ET
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How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody

The Times has reconstructed the death of George Floyd on May 25. Security footage, witness videos and official documents show how a series of actions by officers turned fatal. (This video contains scenes of graphic violence.)

It’s a Monday evening in Minneapolis. Police respond to a call about a man who allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Seventeen minutes later, the man they are there to investigate lies motionless on the ground, and is pronounced dead shortly after. The man was 46-year-old George Floyd, a bouncer originally from Houston who had lost his job at a restaurant when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Crowd: “No justice, no peace.” Floyd’s death triggered major protests in Minneapolis, and sparked rage across the country. One of the officers involved, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The other three officers have been charged with aiding and abetting murder. The Times analyzed bystander videos, security camera footage and police scanner audio, spoke to witnesses and experts, and reviewed documents released by the authorities to build as comprehensive a picture as possible and better understand how George Floyd died in police custody. The events of May 25 begin here. Floyd is sitting in the driver’s seat of this blue S.U.V. Across the street is a convenience store called Cup Foods. Footage from this restaurant security camera helps us understand what happens next. Note that the timestamp on the camera is 24 minutes fast. At 7:57 p.m., two employees from Cup Foods confront Floyd and his companions about an alleged counterfeit bill he just used in their store to buy cigarettes. They demand the cigarettes back but walk away empty-handed. Four minutes later, they call the police. According to the 911 transcript, an employee says that Floyd used fake bills to buy cigarettes, and that he is “awfully drunk” and “not in control of himself.” Soon, the first police vehicle arrives on the scene. Officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng step out of the car and approach the blue S.U.V. Seconds later, Lane pulls his gun. We don’t know exactly why. He orders Floyd to put his hands on the wheel. Lane reholsters the gun, and after about 90 seconds of back and forth, yanks Floyd out of the S.U.V. A man is filming the confrontation from a car parked behind them. The officers cuff Floyd’s hands behind his back. And Kueng walks him to the restaurant wall. “All right, what’s your name?” From the 911 transcript and the footage, we now know three important facts: First, that the police believed they were responding to a man who was drunk and out of control. But second, even though the police were expecting this situation, we can see that Floyd has not acted violently. And third, that he seems to already be in distress. Six minutes into the arrest, the two officers move Floyd back to their vehicle. As the officers approach their car, we can see Floyd fall to the ground. According to the criminal complaints filed against the officers, Floyd says he is claustrophobic and refuses to enter the police car. During the struggle, Floyd appears to turn his head to address the officers multiple times. According to the complaints, he tells them he can’t breathe. Nine minutes into the arrest, the third and final police car arrives on the scene. It’s carrying officers Tou Thao and Derek Chauvin. Both have previous records of complaints brought against them. Thao was once sued for throwing a man to the ground and hitting him. Chauvin has been involved in three police shootings, one of them fatal. Chauvin becomes involved in the struggle to get Floyd into the car. Security camera footage from Cup Foods shows Kueng struggling with Floyd in the backseat while Thao watches. Chauvin pulls him through the back seat and onto the street. We don’t know why. Floyd is now lying on the pavement, face down. That’s when two witnesses begin filming, almost simultaneously. The footage from the first witness shows us that all four officers are now gathered around Floyd. It’s the first moment when we can clearly see that Floyd is face down on the ground, with three officers applying pressure to his neck, torso and legs. At 8:20 p.m., we hear Floyd’s voice for the first time. The video stops when Lane appears to tell the person filming to walk away. “Get off to the sidewalk, please. One side or the other, please.” The officers radio a Code 2, a call for non-emergency medical assistance, reporting an injury to Floyd’s mouth. In the background, we can hear Floyd struggling. The call is quickly upgraded to a Code 3, a call for emergency medical assistance. By now another bystander, 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, is filming from a different angle. Her footage shows that despite calls for medical help, Chauvin keeps Floyd pinned down for another seven minutes. We can’t see whether Kueng and Lane are still applying pressure. Floyd: [gasping] Officer: “What do you want?” Bystander: “I’ve been –” Floyd: [gasping] In the two videos, Floyd can be heard telling officers that he can’t breathe at least 16 times in less than five minutes. Bystander: “You having fun?” But Chauvin never takes his knee off of Floyd, even as his eyes close and he appears to go unconscious. Bystander: “Bro.” According to medical and policing experts, these four police officers are committing a series of actions that violate policies, and in this case, turn fatal. They’ve kept Floyd lying face down, applying pressure for at least five minutes. This combined action is likely compressing his chest and making it impossible to breathe. Chauvin is pushing his knee into Floyd’s neck, a move banned by most police departments. Minneapolis Police Department policy states an officer can only do this if someone is, quote, “actively resisting.” And even though the officers call for medical assistance, they take no action to treat Floyd on their own while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Officer: “Get back on the sidewalk.” According to the complaints against the officers, Lane asks him twice if they should roll Floyd onto his side. Chauvin says no. Twenty minutes into the arrest, an ambulance arrives on the scene. Bystander: “Get off of his neck!” Bystander: “He’s still on him?” The E.M.T.s check Floyd’s pulse. Bystander: “Are you serious?” Chauvin keeps his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost another whole minute, even though Floyd appears completely unresponsive. He only gets off once the E.M.T.s tell him to. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, according to our review of the video evidence. Floyd is loaded into the ambulance. The ambulance leaves the scene, possibly because a crowd is forming. But the E.M.T.s call for additional medical help from the fire department. But when the engine arrives, the officers give them, quote, “no clear info on Floyd or his whereabouts,” according to a fire department incident report. This delays their ability to help the paramedics. Meanwhile, Floyd is going into cardiac arrest. It takes the engine five minutes to reach Floyd in the ambulance. He’s pronounced dead at a nearby hospital around 9:25 p.m. Preliminary autopsies conducted by the state and Floyd’s family both ruled his death a homicide. The widely circulated arrest videos don’t paint the entire picture of what happened to George Floyd. Crowd: “Floyd! Floyd!” Additional video and audio from the body cameras of the key officers would reveal more about why the struggle began and how it escalated. The city quickly fired all four officers. And Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder. Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting murder. But outrage over George Floyd’s death has only spread further and further across the United States.

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The Times has reconstructed the death of George Floyd on May 25. Security footage, witness videos and official documents show how a series of actions by officers turned fatal. (This video contains scenes of graphic violence.)

On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, after a convenience store employee called 911 to report that Mr. Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Mr. Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life.

By combining videos from bystanders and security cameras, reviewing official documents and consulting experts, The New York Times reconstructed in detail the minutes leading to Mr. Floyd’s death. Our video shows officers taking a series of actions that violated the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department and turned fatal, leaving Mr. Floyd unable to breathe, even as he and onlookers called out for help.

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March 29, 2021, 8:15 a.m. ETMarch 29, 2021, 8:15 a.m. ET
Live coverage of the trial is shown on a phone outside of the courthouse where Derek Chauvin's trial is being held in Minneapolis.
Live coverage of the trial is shown on a phone outside of the courthouse where Derek Chauvin’s trial is being held in Minneapolis.Credit…Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times

The trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd is unusual for many reasons: It is being livestreamed from Minneapolis, attendance is severely limited because of the coronavirus and the public’s interest in the case may make this one of the highest-profile trials in recent memory.

The trial can be watched on nytimes.com, via a livestream provided by Court TV, which is also airing the trial in full. Witness testimony and lawyers’ presentations of evidence should last several weeks before the jury begins to deliberate over the verdict.

Among the people allowed in the courtroom, on the 18th floor of the Hennepin County Government Center, are: the judge, jurors, witnesses, court staff, lawyers, Mr. Chauvin and only a handful of spectators.

The judge, Peter A. Cahill, wrote in an order on March 1 that only one member of Mr. Floyd’s family and one member of Mr. Chauvin’s family would be allowed in the room at any time. Two seats that are reserved for reporters and various journalists, including from The New York Times, will be rotating throughout the trial.

The lawyers, spectators, jurors and witnesses are required to wear masks when they are not speaking. Spectators are prohibited from having any visible images, logos, letters or numbers on their masks or clothing, according to Judge Cahill’s order.

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