Trial Focus Turns to Police Testimony Condemning Chauvin’s Actions

After emotional testimony last week from witnesses to George Floyd’s death, prosecutors will try to show that Derek Chauvin violated procedure. Here’s the latest.,

LiveUpdated April 5, 2021, 10:32 a.m. ETApril 5, 2021, 10:32 a.m. ET

After emotionally wrenching testimony last week from witnesses to George Floyd’s death, the prosecution will try to demonstrate that Mr. Chauvin violated police procedure.

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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…Court TV
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April 5, 2021, 10:24 a.m. ETApril 5, 2021, 10:24 a.m. ET

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Reporting from New York

Derek Chauvin’s lawyer says Chief Medaria Arradondo of the Minneapolis Police Department will be called by prosecutors to testify today. He fired Chauvin and three other officers the day after George Floyd died and has called Floyd’s death a “murder.”

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April 5, 2021, 10:27 a.m. ETApril 5, 2021, 10:27 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

It is highly unusual for a police chief to testify for the prosecution against a police officer, but Chief Arradondo has done it before, in the trial of Mohamed Noor, who was convicted of killing Justine Damond in 2017.

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April 5, 2021, 10:15 a.m. ETApril 5, 2021, 10:15 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

The judge announced this morning that the first witness Monday will not be on audio or video. He will explain this decision when the jury comes in. Last week, some witnesses who were minors at the time of George Floyd’s death were allowed to testify off camera, but with audio.

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April 5, 2021, 10:22 a.m. ETApril 5, 2021, 10:22 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

It now looks like there might have been some report of juror misconduct. Judge Peter A. Cahill went off camera, and when he came back on he said that he had ascertained that no juror misconduct had occurred.

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April 5, 2021, 10:23 a.m. ETApril 5, 2021, 10:23 a.m. ET

Shaila Dewan

Reporting from Minneapolis

There are two journalists serving as pool reporters in the courtroom, who will likely provide more information about what just happened off camera at the next trial break.

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April 5, 2021, 10:07 a.m. ETApril 5, 2021, 10:07 a.m. ET

Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs

Reporting from New York

Day 6 of the murder trial of Derek Chauvin has begun, with prosecutors and a defense lawyer arguing over whether certain footage from body cameras worn by police officers on the day of George Floyd’s death can be allowed as evidence. A prosecutor says some of the videos, which show officers discussing Floyd’s use of a fake $20 bill, should be excluded because they are irrelevant. Video evidence played a major role in the first week of the trial.

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April 5, 2021, 5:05 a.m. ETApril 5, 2021, 5:05 a.m. ET
Cayden Totushek affixes roses to a new art piece by Visual Black Justice placed in the courtyard outside of the Hennepin County Government Center.
Cayden Totushek affixes roses to a new art piece by Visual Black Justice placed in the courtyard outside of the Hennepin County Government Center.Credit…Aaron Nesheim for The New York Times

The second week of testimony will begin on Monday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, and the prosecution is expected to continue to call on veteran officers who were critical of Mr. Chauvin’s restraint of Mr. Floyd, including the police chief Medaria Arradondo.

On Friday, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, the longest-serving officer on the Minneapolis police force, testified that Mr. Chauvin’s actions were “totally unnecessary” and in violation of police policy. “Pulling him down to the ground facedown and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time, it’s just uncalled-for,” he said.

As the nation watched last week, witness after witness described an acute sense of lingering pain. The often tearful testimony during the trial’s opening week highlighted how the trauma of May 25, when Mr. Chauvin knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, rippled outward and left witnesses burdened with guilt and crippling self-doubt.

“It was difficult because I felt like there wasn’t really anything I could do,” testified Alyssa Funari, 18, who filmed Mr. Floyd’s arrest.

Prosecutors call all of their witnesses before the defense begins to lay out its case, so the trial’s first week was heavily weighted toward the state’s arguments. Their case was expected to be presented in three phases, focused on witness testimony, police policies and medical evidence.

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 and the emotional witness testimony did not tell the full story. He signaled that he planned to argue that Mr. Chauvin had been following his training as a police officer, that his knee was not necessarily on Mr. Floyd’s neck, and that Mr. Floyd’s death may have been caused by drugs.

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April 2, 2021, 1:42 p.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 1:42 p.m. ET
Kelly Sherman-Conroy and her son Ciaran Conroy write on a wall across from the Hennepin County Government Center on Friday.
Kelly Sherman-Conroy and her son Ciaran Conroy write on a wall across from the Hennepin County Government Center on Friday.Credit…Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Friday’s proceedings in the trial of Derek Chauvin ended with critical testimony from the longest-serving officer in the Minneapolis Police Department, who testified that Mr. Chauvin’s actions were “totally unnecessary.”

Police testimony against Mr. Chauvin, the former officer charged with killing George Floyd, could be crucial to the prosecution’s case as they move into next week. Friday’s proceedings ended early because the trial is ahead of schedule, the judge said. Here are the highlights.

  • Lt. Richard Zimmerman, who leads the department’s homicide unit, said Mr. Chauvin’s actions violated police policy. “Pulling him down to the ground facedown and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time, it’s just uncalled for,” said Lieutenant Zimmerman, who joined the department in 1985. He was one of a group of 14 veteran police officers who published a public letter last June condemning the actions of Mr. Chauvin. The officers said the letter was representative of the opinion of hundreds of police officers. “This is not who we are,” they wrote.

  • The first witness of the day, Sgt. Jon Edwards, was sent to the Cup Foods convenience store after the arrest to secure the crime scene. Mr. Edwards said he followed protocol by telling officers who were still on the scene to turn on their body cameras and identify the areas where they interacted with Mr. Floyd. He also asked them to try and find witnesses, though most people had already left. Sergeant Edwards did find at least one witness, Charles McMillian, who gave an emotional testimony earlier this week. At the scene that night, Mr. McMillian asked Sergeant Edwards if he was under arrest. When Sergeant Edwards said that he wasn’t, Mr. McMillian said he wanted to leave.

  • Additional testimony from police officers will be an important tool for prosecutors, who are seeking to show that Mr. Chauvin violated use of force policies and that his actions were unnecessary and unlawful. Eric J. Nelson, Mr. Chauvin’s defense attorney, used his cross-examination of Lieutenant Zimmerman to temper those ideas. Mr. Nelson asked the lieutenant whether people can become combative after waking up from being unconscious. Lieutenant Zimmerman also said police officers are trained to kneel on people’s shoulders, in some circumstances, when they handcuff a person. Throughout the trial, Mr. Nelson has suggested that Mr. Chauvin’s knee was on Mr. Floyd’s back or shoulder, not on his neck.

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April 2, 2021, 1:30 p.m. ETApril 2, 2021, 1:30 p.m. ET
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo speaking at a news conference during jury selection for the trial of Derek Chauvin.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo speaking at a news conference during jury selection for the trial of Derek Chauvin.Credit…Nicholas Pfosi/Reuters

George Floyd’s death vastly compounded public anger at the Minneapolis Police Department. But conflict was present before officers ever came in contact with Mr. Floyd — so much so that the department’s own chief, Medaria Arradondo, the first Black person to hold the position, had once filed a lawsuit accusing it of tolerating racism.

Only about 20 percent of Minneapolis residents are Black, but about 60 percent of use-of-force incidents with the Minneapolis police involve Black people, according to a New York Times analysis. The city’s police officers use force against Black people at seven times the rate of white people.

Body-weight pinning, which Derek Chauvin used on Mr. Floyd, is one of the most popular use-of-force mechanisms in Minneapolis, and it, too, is employed in a racially disparate way. Since 2015, Minneapolis officers have used it about 2,200 times against Black people, more than twice as many times as they have used it against white people.

The influence of the city’s police union, the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, has made reforming the department a struggle, some analysts say. But since Mr. Floyd’s death, there have been some limited changes.

In December 2020, the Minneapolis City Council voted to divert $8 million dollars — almost 4.5 percent — from a proposed $179 million police budget. The diverted funds will go to the city’s Office of Violence Prevention, with the goal of building a team of mental health professionals and city workers to respond to crises and process minor complaints without police involvement.

Before Mr. Floyd, numerous others had reported abuse at the hands of Mr. Chauvin, including Zoya Code, who said Mr. Chauvin had forced her to the ground with his knee on her after he answered a call in a domestic dispute. Over almost 20 years with the police department, Mr. Chauvin had at least 22 complaints or internal investigations, but only one resulted in discipline.

That pattern is common: Since 2012, only 1 percent of adjudicated complaints against Minneapolis police officers resulted in disciplinary action, according to city records.

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April 1, 2021, 7:22 p.m. ETApril 1, 2021, 7:22 p.m. ET

By Matt Furber

A barricade outside the Third Police Precinct in Minneapolis last month.
A barricade outside the Third Police Precinct in Minneapolis last month.Credit…Kerem Yucel/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In the South Minneapolis neighborhood where protesters burned the Third Precinct police station and numerous commercial properties in the wake of George Floyd’s death last year, two longtime residents, Phillip Cox and Mario Pacheco Jr., described complicated feelings about the destruction and about the trial of Derek Chauvin.

It was difficult to see the wreckage of their local shopping area, Mr. Pacheco, an antique and collectibles merchant, said on Thursday. But, he added, “It’s sad when you miss the Arby’s that was destroyed more than you miss the precinct.”

Since last summer’s unrest, some properties have been gutted and renovated. The police station is surrounded by fences, and stacked concrete barriers block the melted front entrance. At many smaller establishments and damaged residences, restoration has yet to begin. Even a nearby post office is still in ruins.

Mr. Cox, a machinist, said he had been watching the trial of Mr. Chauvin, the former police officer charged with murder in Mr. Floyd’s death, on television.

“I’m catching the trial here and there,” he said. “I’m glad they didn’t move it out of the county and that everyone can see it. Hopefully that will help change things about policing everywhere, not just in Minneapolis.”

The men said they didn’t support calls to abolish the police, but described the neighborhood as a tough place to grow up and recalled being treated roughly by local officers.

Both men said it had been hard to watch the footage of Mr. Chauvin’s treatment of Mr. Floyd.

“I never met George Floyd, but he seemed like a regular guy, like us,” Mr. Pacheco said.

Mr. Cox said, “As I think about the trial more, I am ashamed of my local law enforcement for not putting a stop to this kind of behavior and policing practices.”

“There are good police,” Mr. Pacheco said. “I don’t wish harm upon no one. But with Chauvin, I really hope they do make an example, so then the next policeman will take this trial into consideration.”

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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
The Derek Chauvin trial plays on a television at a gym in Georgia on Monday.
The Derek Chauvin trial plays on a television at a gym in Georgia on Monday.Credit…Nicole Craine 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 are reserved for reporters, and various journalists, including from The New York Times, are 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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