Derek Chauvin trial: Opening statements, new video, 911 dispatcher testifies
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd, officially began Monday with opening statements. Court resumed at 9 a.m. The trial is being broadcast live, gavel to gavel, on FOX 9 and streaming live at fox9.com/live.
Fifteen jurors were seated during jury selection, but Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill dismissed the 15th juror before opening statements. The 14 remaining jurors will hear the whole case, but only 12 will deliberate. The two alternate jurors will step in if one of the 12 has to excuse themselves from the case. Judge Cahill has instructed the jurors to avoid any media coverage of the trial.
Opening statements are some of the most pivotal moments in the trial besides the reading of the verdict. it is a chance for the lawyers to lay out their case and build a relationship with the jury. Besides closing arguments, it is the only time lawyers will directly address the jurors.
The trial is expected to last two to four weeks.
Witness describes Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck
The last witness to take the stand Monday was Donald Williams, an MMA fighter who was on the sidewalk watching Floyd’s deadly arrest. Williams, who is trained in chokeholds, can be heard in the viral bystander video demanding officers get off Floyd, that they were killing him.
Prosecutors are limited about what Williams can testify to, in terms of a cause of death. Judge Cahill said Williams can explain what he saw in the moment, but he cannot opine freely about some conclusions he reached.
Williams recalled watching Floyd struggle on the street under Chauvin’s knee, seeing Floyd’s eyes roll back into his head and him gasping for air.
Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank played the bystander video and Williams described to the jury that he believes he saw Chauvin "shimmying" to add pressure on Floyd’s next.
"He just did it right there. His toe is pointed down, you will see a small gesture in his back foot, and that’s the pressure being pushed more down between his knee, George’s head and the concrete and it’s cutting off circulation," Williams said.
State calls 911 dispatcher as 1st witness
The state called their first witness, 911 dispatch operator Jena Scurry. Scurry is the one who saw Floyd’s arrest on a police camera and, for the first time in her career, called police on police, the state said in their opening statement.
While questioning Scurry, Frank played video from city security cameras directly across from Cup Foods, which showed the whole sequence of Floyd’s deadly arrest. It is the first time that particular video has been made public.
Scurry testified that she was watching the incident unfold on the TV monitors in the dispatch center the night of May 25, 2020 and said she became concerned that "something wasn’t right" when she did not see any movement on the screens.
Frank then played a recording of Scurry calling the Minneapolis police sergeant on duty that night.
"You can call me a snitch if you want to," she told the sergeant, before explaining that the live video showed "all of them sat on this man," referring to Chauvin and the other officers that restrained Floyd.
"I don’t know if they needed to or not. They haven’t said anything to me yet," she added.
The sergeant said he would look into the problem before the phone call ended.
9 minutes, 29 seconds key number in opening statements
Attorney Jerry Blackwell delivered opening arguments for the state. Blackwell said the key number in the case is 9:29—the length of time Chauvin kept a knee to Floyd’s neck and back. He said Chauvin "betrayed this badge" when he used excessive force against Floyd, who was unarmed and handcuffed.
"The most important numbers you will hear in this trial are nine two nine," Blackwell said.
Nine minutes and 29 seconds are more than the symbolic eight minutes and 46 seconds that has become a battle cry for activists. Ahead of opening statements, Rev. Al Sharpton and Floyd’s family took a knee outside the Hennepin County Courthouse for eight minutes and 46 in honor of George Floyd.
The prosecution is planning to call Minneapolis police sergeant David Pleoger to the stand, who Blackwell said will testify that the use of force against Floyd "should have ended" as soon as the officers put him on the ground.
"The 9:29 should not have been even a one, much less a 9:29," Blackwell said.
Eric Nelson, Chauvin's attorney, said in his opening statement the case is "clearly more than about nine minutes and 29 seconds."
Nelson said the case has an overwhelming amount of evidence, nearly 50,000 items.
"The evidence is far greater than 9 minutes and 29 seconds," he said.
Chauvin ‘does not let up, does not get up’
Blackwell repeatedly told the jury the videos of Floyd's deadly arrest show that Chauvin "does not let up, does not get up," despite the fact that Floyd was lifeless under his knee.
'This case is not about all police'
This case is not about all police or all policing, Blackwell said, it is about Chauvin and his use of force against Floyd.
Blackwell told the jury that Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo will testify in the case that police officers have difficult jobs and have to make split-second decisions, but Chauvin kneeling on Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds was not a split second decision.
"This case is not about split-second decision making," Blackwell said. "In nine minutes and 29 seconds there are 479 seconds and not a split second among them. That’s what this case is about."
Derek Chauvin charges
Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder, second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death last May.
Judge Cahill reinstated the third-degree murder charge against Chauvin during the first week of the trial.
Chauvin trial streaming and TV information
The Chauvin trial will be live streamed, gavel to gavel, at fox9.com/live and the FOX 9 News App. You can also find the FOX 9 stream on Tubi through connected TVs. When the trial itself begins March 29, FOX 9 will broadcast it live on FOX 9 for the duration, including a quick recap of the day when court adjourns, followed by the FOX 9 News at 5.
Who is in the courtroom?
- Trial Judge Peter Cahill
- 1 judge's clerk
- 1 court reporter
- Derek Chauvin, the defendant
- The jury. The empaneled jury will consist of 12 jurors and 2 alternates.
- Up to 4 lawyers or staff for the prosecution, led by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank.
- Defense attorney Eric Nelson and up to 2 staff from his law firm
- 1 witness at a time in the courtroom
- 1 George Floyd family member
- 1 Derek Chauvin family member
- 2 members of pooled media - 1 print and 1 broadcast or digital media
- 1 broadcast technician
The Derek Chauvin trial is being held in Courtroom 1856 of the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis. Court will begin at 9 a.m. and will adjourn at 4:30 p.m. most days.
Opening statements in the trial are scheduled to begin on March 29. A verdict is not expected until mid to late April.
QUICK READ: Derek Chauvin trial essential info and FAQs
Who are the selected jurors?
- Juror No. 2: White man in his 20s
- Juror No. 9: Mixed/multiracial woman in her 20s
- Juror No. 19: White man in his 30s
- Juror No. 27: Black man in his 30s
- Juror No. 44: White woman in her 50s
- Juror No. 52: Black man in his 30s
- Juror No. 55: White woman in her 50s
- Juror No. 79: Black man in his 40s
- Juror No. 85: Mixed/multiracial woman in her 40s
- Juror No. 89: White woman in her 50s
- Juror No. 91: Black woman in her 60s
- Juror No. 92: White woman in her 40s
- Juror No. 96: White woman in her 50s
- Juror No. 118: White woman in her 20s
- Juror No. 131: White man in his 20s
READ MORE: Who are the selected jurors?
Jurors will only be referred to by a random, previously assigned number because Judge Cahill has ordered their identities to remain a secret for the duration of the trial. At the conclusion of the trial, Judge Cahill will decide when the jurors’ identities can be made public.
The jury will be partially sequestered during the trial and fully sequestered while they are deliberating, which means they cannot go home until they reach a verdict or the judge determines they are hung. However, the judge can order full sequestration of the jury at any time if the partial sequestration proves ineffective in keeping the jurors free from outside influence.
Courtroom 1856 was renovated specifically for the Derek Chauvin trial to maximize capacity and maintain COVID-19 social distancing standards. The courtroom is located on the 18th floor of the Hennepin County Government Center.
Judge Cahill has ordered certain behavior in the courtroom:
Jurors, attorneys, witnesses and support staff must wear masks and keep six feet from other people.
Masks can be removed when giving testimony, examining witnesses, giving opening statements or closing arguments. Attorneys must conduct all witness examinations and arguments from the lectern.
Any sidebar conferences will be conducted over wireless headsets. Chauvin will be outfitted with a headset to listen to these conferences, which will be off-the-record.
Jurors will be escorted to courtroom each day by deputies or security. No one can have contact with jurors except the judge, court personnel and deputies. Any attorney contact is limited to the jury selection process when court is in session.
Jurors will only be referred to by a randomized number.
Death of George Floyd
George Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020 while being detained by Minneapolis police officers Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane at the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. The intersection has remained closed to traffic since Floyd's death and has been dubbed George Floyd Square.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 17: People participate in a demonstration on August 17, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Community members came together for a rally to protest the city's potential forceful reopening 38th Street and Chicago Ave, an unofficial
A widely-shared video taken by a bystander showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he repeatedly cried, "I can’t breathe."
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo announced the firing of all four officers the following day. Chauvin was arrested and charged with Floyd’s death on May 29 and the three others were arrested and charged with aiding and abetting on June 3.
TIMELINE: George Floyd's death to Derek Chauvin's trial
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's report ruled the death of George Floyd a homicide. The updated report stated that George Floyd experienced a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement.