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Chauvin trial day 1: Prosecution witnesses describe different angles of George Floyd’s arrest, death

Derek Chauvin trial
Posted at 5:58 AM, Mar 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-29 17:51:54-04

MINNEAPOLIS — Jurors hearing the case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd heard opening arguments and from three prosecution witnesses Monday.

Chauvin is facing both second- and third-degree murder as well as manslaughter charges in Floyd's May 25, 2020 death. Three other officers who responded to the scene on that day are also facing charges and will be tried later this summer.

Widely-shared video on social media showed Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck and back for almost nine minutes before his death. The jury was shown the video from the scene Monday in court, from different angles during opening arguments and again during testimony from two witnesses who were at the scene when it happened.

The first witness called for the prosecution following opening arguments was a 911 dispatcher who established the timeline of the emergency calls and how each officer ended up out at the scene.

Below is a live blog of Monday's court proceedings.

Court TV will be the only network with cameras in the courtroom and will provide live, gavel-to-gavel coverage.
The entire trial will be on live TV as well as available online at CourtTV.com, and the Court TV app for Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android and Apple devices.

In addition to in-depth reporting and expert analysis from veteran legal journalists - most of whom are lawyers - Court TV’s extensive coverage will include new virtual recreations, and insights and discussions from attorneys, investigators and forensic experts.

UPDATE, 4:30 p.m. ET: Prosecutors call their third witness, Donald Williams, who identifies himself as an entrepreneur "and a father." He tells the court he works in "security" both for businesses, like a bouncer, and for private individuals.

Williams tells prosecutors he knows mixed martial arts, wrestling, and has worked "side-by-side" with police for more than a decade based on different security jobs he's had.

He told the court he has trained alongside police officers during MMA (mixed martial arts) training, saying "you don't always know if they are a cop or not." He also went into detail about some of the choke holds taught during MMA training, describes "air chokes" and "blood chokes."

He says he has been put in a choke hold before during training and has lost consciousness.

Williams says he went fishing with his son on May 25, 2020, and he cut the fish up when they got home. He says it had been awhile since he had seen a fish die and cut one up, and he went to Cup Foods that day to get some air. He lives nearby.

He never went inside the store, he told prosecutors the "air was off" and the energy in the area felt "off" as he walked up to the store. He saw cops responding to the store.

Williams says as he was at the store, he heard George Floyd struggling with officers, calling for his mom, saying his stomach hurt and sounding distressed. "He pleaded with them, like, 'I'm sorry' and all that."

He also described walking up and interacting with Officer Thao, who was standing near the curb, and described him as a "dictator" who was "controlling what went on from the curb."

Williams was shown an image of Derek Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck, when asked to describe what is in the image, he responded, "the only reason that he's (Chauvin) looking at me now is because I told him that was a blood choke."

Williams describes in detail how he watched Floyd die. "You could see him struggle to gasp for air. He could barely move," and he recalled pleading for Floyd's life.

"He (Thao) said 'this is what drugs do to you.' And I said, 'no, this is not what drugs do to you,'" Williams told the court.

Williams was then asked to describe little movements that former officer Chauvin is seen in the video doing, that Williams says means he is applying more pressure to Floyd's neck. Williams calls them "shimmies" as Chauvin lifts his foot, moves his shoulders, and, Williams says, applies more pressure on Floyd's neck.

Watch a replay of Monday afternoon's proceedings in the player below:

UPDATE, 3:30 p.m. ET: Prosecutors call their second witness, Alisha Oyler. She used to work at Speedway as a shift lead, she says that meant she worked the cash register as a cashier and interacts with customers. The store was across the street from where George Floyd was arrested.

Oyler said she saw police "messing with someone" on May 25, 2020 across the street from where she was working. She told the court she was "trying not to curse" describing what she saw the police doing.

Along with prosecutors, Oyler walks through the videos she shot of the incident. She points out bystanders and others she saw or may not remember being there, ending with a video clip showing an ambulance coming to the scene and getting a gurney out.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson points out that Oyler stopped the recording several times because she was at work at the time.

Oyler says based on where she was standing, she did not see Floyd struggle with officers.

UPDATE, 2:30 p.m. ET: Defense attorney Eric Nelson picked up questioning of 911 dispatcher Jena Scurry after the court's lunch break. Nelson walks through Scurry's position as a dispatcher and the call on Mary 25, 2020.

"Fair to say you're not a police officer, have not been through the police academy?" Nelson asked Scurry. She replied that was correct.

Nelson also clarified what Scurry could hear or see from the officers, that dispatchers can only hear if an officer radios in to the call center.

Nelson also established that Scurry was multitasking at the call center, watching monitors of incidents and hearing calls at the time. Under re-questioning by prosecutors, Scurry said she has had this set-up for seven years and the arrest of George Floyd had been put up on a larger monitor.

UPDATE, 1:30 p.m. ET: After both the prosecution and defense delivered their opening arguments Monday, the state called its first witness to the stand — 911 dispatcher Jena Scurry.

Scurry testified that she was on duty on May 25, 2020, the night of Floyd's death. The area in which Floyd was arrested is known as a high-crime area, so a series of surveillance cameras are set up that have the ability to deliver live feeds to the 911 dispatch center.

During her testimony, Scurry said she handled other calls, but recalled watching Floyd's arrest as it played out live on a monitor in front of her. The prosecution played the video feed that Scurry viewed live for the court.

The video showed Floyd being pulled from the car as several officers put their weight on him — essentially an alternate feed of the viral bystander video that prosecutors played in opening statements.

Scurry recalled that on the day of the arrest, officers held Floyd on the ground for so long, that she thought the video feed had frozen.

She then testified that she called the police sergeant on duty because she had a "gut feeling" that "something wasn't right." While dispatchers are told to contact sergeants in the event of a use of force, this was the first time in her career that Scurry had called a sergeant.

During the call, which was played for the court, Scurry told the sergeant on duty that the officer had "sat on this man" and she didn't know "if they needed to or not."

UPDATE, noon ET: In opening arguments, attorney Eric Nelson laid out his defense for former police officer Derek Chauvin's use of force during the arrest of George Floyd that led to his death.

Nelson noted three main tenets of the case for Chauvin's innocence — George Floyd's interaction at a convenience store prior to his arrest, the actions during his arrest that warranted the use of force, and the findings of local coroners.

"This case is clearly more than 9 minutes and 29 seconds," Nelson said, referencing the nine-minute, 29-second bystander video that shows Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck.

Watch Monday morning's proceedings in the player below.

Nelson noted Floyd twice ignored workers at the convenience store, who asked him to return a pack of cigarettes he purchased with a counterfeit $20 bill. He also noted that Floyd initially did not respond to police commands to show his hands when they arrived on the scene.

He also added that Floyd's size was a factor in the use of force, noting that three police officers could not control Floyd and that security footage shows a police cruiser located near the incident was "rocking back and forth."

"Derek Chauvin did exactly what he was trained to do over his 19-year career," Nelson said.

He also noted that Floyd ingested drugs during the arrest to hide them from police, and said that those drugs contributed to his death of "hypertension."

UPDATE, 11:15 a.m. ET: Opening arguments for the prosecution, attorney Jerry Blackwell laid out the arguments for convicting former police officer Derek Chauvin on murder charges in connection with the death of George Floyd.

Blackwell laid out the prosecution's case, which he says will rely on bystander testimony, police testimony, testimony from medical experts.

As part of his testimony, Blackwell played the 9-minute bystander video that quickly went viral following Floyd's death on May 25. The video showed the entire eight minutes and 46 seconds in which Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck.

It was the first time the jury had been shown the viral bystander video during the trial.

Blackwell also laid out that the prosecution will prove that Floyd died as a result of Chauvin's actions, and not as a result of a heart attack or a drug overdose.

"You will be able to look at the video and see that he looks nothing like a person who dies of an opioid overdose," Blackwell said.

Blackwell noted that Floyd did have opioids in his system at the time of his death, but he noted that because Floyd had struggled with addiction for several years, his tolerance was higher.

UPDATE, 9:50 a.m. ET: Prior to opening arguments in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the family of George Floyd and the attorneys representing them briefed the media.

Ben Crump, the lead attorney for the group, called the upcoming trial a "landmark trial" that will be a "referendum" on where America stands in giving its citizens the opportunity to find freedom and justice for all.

Crump dismissed legal experts who claimed the state has an uphill battle in seeking to convict Chauvin of murder charges.

"If George Floyd was a white, American citizen...nobody would be saying, 'this is a hard case,'" Crump said.

Watch the Floyd family's press conference below.

He also addressed the $27 million settlement Floyd's family struck with the city of Minneapolis, calling the settlement only "partial justice."

"We have every right to get whole justice," Crump said.

Rev. Al Sharpton also spoke on behalf of the family, calling Floyd's death a "lynching by a knee." He added also called the Senate to pass a House-backed bill "George Floyd Justice in Policing Act" that would enact several police reform measures.

Following comments from other attorneys and Floyd's family members, participants all took a knee at 8:46 a.m. CT — representing the eight minutes and 46 seconds in which Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck the night of his death.

ORIGINAL STORY: Nearly a year after his initial arrest, opening arguments in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will begin Monday, marking the start of one of the most highly anticipated criminal trials in recent years.

Chauvin is charged with both second- and third-degree murder as well as manslaughter in connection with the May 25 death of George Floyd. Floyd’s death and the bystander video of the arrest the proceeded his death sparked the largest protests for social justice in a generation, dating back to the 1960s.

Several bystander videos of the arrest show Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Floyd was pronounced dead at a local hospital several hours later.

Opening arguments will begin Monday after 15 jurors — 12 regular jurors and three alternates — were selected over the span of more than two weeks earlier this month. More than 100 potential jurors were called into court and questioned. Many were dismissed after admitting to having strong views about Floyd's death.

Jury selection was disrupted in early March when the city of Minneapolis announced a $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family. The settlement led Judge Peter Cahill to dismiss a handful of jurors, saying that the agreement had swayed their opinion of the case.

The settlement also prompted the defense to request a change of venue and a delay in the trial date. Cahill denied those requests, noting that due to the high-profile nature of the case, a delay or a change of venue would do little to quell strong feelings about the defendant.

Three other former police officers charged in connection with Floyd’s death — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng — face charges of aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter. The three will stand trial at a later date following a jury’s decision in Chauvin’s case.

Floyd’s death sparked months of protests against police brutality and racial injustice. While some of those protests grew violent in the days after eyewitness video spread on social media, the vast majority of Black Lives Matter protests that took place in the following weeks and months remained peaceful.

The movement proved successful in prompting a national discussion about racial equity in the U.S., and in some places has enacted change in how cities treat policing. Just last week, New York City became the largest local government to limit a police officer’s ability to invoke “qualified immunity” — a legal statute that prevents police officers from facing lawsuits.

How can I watch:

Court TV will be the only network with cameras in the courtroom and will provide live, gavel-to-gavel coverage.

The entire trial will be on live TV as well as available online at CourtTV.com, and the Court TV app for Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android and Apple devices.

In addition to in-depth reporting and expert analysis from veteran legal journalists - most of whom are lawyers - Court TV’s extensive coverage will include new virtual recreations, and insights and discussions from attorneys, investigators and forensic experts.

How can I follow updates:

Court TV will be updating their website, CourtTV.com, as well as their social media platforms and Court TV app for Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android and Apple devices.

We will also post the latest developments on the trial on our website and social media platforms.