George Floyd’s brutal death sparked a racial justice reckoning. One officer involved goes on trial this month. What you should know.
Minneapolis is gearing up for this month’s trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged in George Floyd’s death that sparked nationwide protests and calls for an end to police brutality last summer.
On May 25, Chauvin was seen on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd cried out that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd, who was accused of using a a counterfeit $20 bill, was handcuffed and pinned to the ground by three officers during the arrest. Chauvin continued to press his knee into Floyd’s neck minutes after he became nonresponsive as bystanders repeatedly asked officers to check for a pulse.
Chauvin and the three other officers were fired a day after Floyd’s death and were charged the following week.
Floyd’s name became a rallying cry as protests spread to more than 1,700 cities and towns in all 50 states and around the world.
In Minneapolis, thousands of people protested demanding the officers be held accountable and calling for police reform. While many demonstrations there were peaceful, on several nights businesses were looted and a police station was burned.
Last month, city officials begin solidifying security plans and establishing a security perimeter around City Hall, nearby buildings and the courthouse where jury selection begins March 8. Streets will be closed, businesses will be boarded up and National Guard troops and hundreds of law enforcement officers will be in place in anticipation of potential unrest during the trial, which begins March 29.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the trial will likely increase trauma for many, especially as the verdict draws near, and that safety will be a top priority.
“We believe it is on us to honor the magnitude of this moment and ensure that our families in this city feel safe,” Frey said.
Here’s everything you need to know about the trial of Derek Chauvin:
When does Derek Chauvin’s trial start?
Jury selection is scheduled to begin March 8. The prosecution and defense are set to start opening statements March 29.
What is Derek Chauvin charged with?
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested Friday, May 29, in the death of George Floyd. (Photo: Hennepin County Sheriff's Office via AP)
In May, Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, but he may face additional charges.
An appeals court is considering a request by prosecutors to reinstate a third-degree murder charge against Chauvin. That count was dismissed in October by Judge Peter Cahill, who said state law applies only when a defendant has put multiple people in danger and someone dies. (According to Minnesota law, third-degree murder involves “perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind.”)
The three other former officers involved – Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. They are scheduled for trial together in August.
Chauvin posted a $1 million bond in October and was released from state prison.
Derek Chauvin is also facing a federal investigation and civil suit
This is not the only time Chauvin may face legal repercussions related to Floyd’s death.
The Department of Justice launched an investigation in May into whether Chauvin and the other officers violated Floyd’s civil rights. Last week, new witnesses were called and a new grand jury was empaneled in that investigation, according to the Star Tribune and the New York Times.
And separately, attorneys representing Floyd’s family in July filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against Chauvin, the other officers and the city of Minneapolis. The lawsuit claims the officers used excessive force and violated Floyd’s constitutional rights and that the city is liable because it failed to properly train the officers.
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How to watch the trial on Court TV
Chauvin’s trial will be livestreamed on Court TV, which will be the only network with cameras in the courtroom.
Visual and audio recordings are not typically allowed in Minnesota courtrooms without authorization from a judge. Judge Peter Cahill upheld his decision to livestream the trial in December due to immense global interest in the case and limited courthouse space.
Two members of the media will be allowed in the courtroom. The USA TODAY Network is sending a team of journalists who you can follow on Twitter for updates as the trial begins: Tami Abdollah, Eric Ferkenhoff, Trevor Hughes, Clarissa Baker and N’dea Yancey-Bragg.
Where is the trial?
The trial will be held in the Hennepin County Government Center Courts Tower in downtown Minneapolis. The building, which has been the site of multiple demonstrations, has been surrounded with barbed wire and concrete barriers.
Chauvin is being tried separately to adhere to physical social distancing restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, according to an order from Cahill.
Only those with approved credentials are allowed inside the courtroom, including one member of the Floyd and Chauvin families, according to an order Cahill issued Monday.
“This has been a deeply painful and emotional year for every member of the Floyd family, many of whom intended to be in the courtroom to witness this trial,” Floyd family attorneys Ben Crump and Antonio Romanucci said in a statement Tuesday. “While they understand the judge’s reasons to limit attendance in the courtroom, the family is understandably disappointed by this ruling.”
Layers of barbed wire fence and razor wire were built in front of Hennepin County Government Headquarters in Minneapolis. The security measures were being increased before jury selection begins at the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin in George Floyd's death. March 3, 2021 (Photo: Kerem Yucel, AFP via Getty Images)
What protests are planned?
More than a dozen activist groups including Black Lives Matter Minnesota and Communities United Against Police Brutality are planning a demonstration outside the courthouse Monday starting at 8:30 a.m. CST, KARE 11 reported. The group is demanding convictions for Chauvin and all other officers charged in Floyd’s death.
“The people demand justice for all stolen lives. Convict all killer cops,” the coalition said in a release. “Derek Chauvin represents what is wrong with police in Minneapolis and in this country, and now is the time to demand due justice for George Floyd and set the precedent in seeking justice for every stolen life.”
The George Floyd Global Memorial will also hold a gathering with faith leaders at George Floyd Square at 8 a.m. CST and ending with a candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. CST, some of which will be livestreamed, according to the group’s website.
How did we get here? A timeline of events leading up to nationwide outcry after George Floyd’s death
Law enforcement officials are assuring the public that they're ready to keep Minneapolis and St. Paul safe during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged in George Floyd's death. (March 1)
Chauvin trial happening amid other high-profile killings of Black Americans
Floyd’s death was one of several high profile incidents of violence against African Americans — almost all involving police, all but one fatal — that sparked months of nationwide demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality.
Amid the protests, other police officers and chiefs have been fired, resigned or charged; states and cities announced they were cutting funding for police departments and criminalizing the use of deadly restraints; and federal lawmakers introduced a sweeping police reform bill bearing Floyd’s name.
But Chauvin’s trial comes after several grand juries have declined to bring charges against other officers accused of killing unarmed Black people.
New protests kicked off in Kentucky after none of the Louisville police officers were charged in the death of Breonna Taylor, when officers fired their weapons into her apartment last year. . In New York, grand jurors declined to bring an indictment against the officers involved in the death of Daniel Prude, the 41-year-old Black man who died while suffering a crisis in Rochester.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg
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