Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So Dream’s Chronicles Reloaded partnered with The Washington Post and New York Times to bring you coverage of the Derek Chauvin Trial.
The first day of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial included witness testimony and video footage from George Floyd’s arrest last year, laying the groundwork for court proceedings that will center on precisely what happened that day. Prosecutors played the bystander video clip of Floyd, pinned down on the street, gasping for air, which some jurors had not seen in full. Chauvin’s defense team highlighted the crowd police had to confront. And witnesses relayed what they saw, including a 911 operator who said she was “concerned that something might be wrong” at the scene.
Prosecutor Jerry W. Blackwell began his opening statement by drawing a line from the actions prosecutors say Chauvin intentionally took when detaining Floyd to his death. He also showed the jury the video and said bystanders and police officers would be put on the stand to support the case. The defense argued that it was not Chauvin’s knee but drugs and a host of surrounding conditions that were responsible for Floyd’s death. After a lunch break, prosecutors called Jena Scurry to the stand to help establish how other trained first responders saw Chauvin’s actions against Floyd kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes as alarming and unusual, seeking to undercut the defense’s opening remarks that characterized them as consistent with Chauvin’s police training.
The judge allowed details of a 2019 traffic stop of Floyd to be brought up during trial, a victory for the defense.The 12 jurors and two alternates are a mix of men and women and Black, multiracial and White people. Seven are under 40 years old. A third alternate was sent home Monday morning.
Donald Williams took the stand Monday afternoon and gave a detailed account of the physical techniques Chauvin used on Floyd while pinning him to the ground and the dangers of such actions, drawing from his experience and training in mixed martial arts and professional wrestling.
Williams, considered a relevant witness because of the vantage point he had standing in proximity to Floyd and officer Chauvin, described to the jury what unfolded before his eyes while he pleaded with Chauvin and officer Thao to check Floyd’s pulse and intervene while Floyd was still alive. At one moment, Williams said he yelled at Chauvin that what he was doing was a “blood choke,” which he explained is a maneuver to disable an opponent by stopping air circulation from the head to the rest of the body. “That was the only time he looked up and we looked at each other in the eyes,” Williams said.
As prosecutors played the video of the incident, Williams pointed at the techniques Chauvin used to tighten the choke and cut the flow of air even more, that eventually led Floyd to slowly “fade away,” he said.
“The more that his knee was on his neck… the more you see Floyd fade away, slowly fade away like a fish in the bag, and you see his eyes slowly go pale and roll to the back,” Williams said, recalling how Floyd gasped for air and begged for his life.
At some point while Williams was on the stand, the video feed broadcasting his testimony online cut out. According to a pool report, Cahill told the jurors as they filed back in at around 4:30 p.m. that there was “a major technical glitch.” He decided to send the jurors home for the day, saying they would resume Williams’s testimony on Tuesday morning. Cahill wrapped things up with a polite admonition for the jury pool, who are not set to be sequestered until they begin deliberations.“Have a good night,” he said, “and don’t watch the news.”Testimony is set to resume Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. local time.
Prosecutors called their second witness to the stand Monday afternoon as they introduced seven cellphone video clips of Floyd’s arrest that had not been made public until now. The newly-public footage was captured by Alisha Oyler, who worked at the Speedway gas station across the street from Cup Foods and filmed the series of short clips for more than eight minutes. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher asked the visibly nervous Oyler why she continued to film the interaction at length.“It’s always the police they’re always messing with people. And it’s wrong, and it’s not right,” Oyler said. Oyler testified she first saw Floyd when he was still on the corner near the Dragon Wok restaurant before police took him to the squad car in front of Cup Foods.
Through his line of questioning, Schleicher sought to establish Oyler’s perspective and her observations about the number of people on the scene at that point in the arrest a move seemingly geared toward undermining the defense’s claims about a gathering crowd it said increased pressure on the officers as they tried to subdue Floyd.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Judge Peter Cahill has strictly limited who can attend the court proceedings. One of his rules: During the trial, only one member of Chauvin’s family and one member of Floyd’s family can be present at any given moment. Under Cahill’s order, different family members are allowed to rotate through the seat.On Monday, as witness testimony got underway, George Floyd’s brother Philonise Floyd was seated in the family seat in the corner of the courtroom, according to the pool report. No one was seated in the seat for Chauvin’s family, the pool report added. Spectators in the courtroom are required to wear masks and keep six feet from others, Cahill’s order said. They are also barred from wearing clothing with any visible “image, logo, letters, or numbers” or communicating with jurors.
Derek Chauvin violated his oath as a police officer when he knelt on George Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes and ignored Floyd’s cries for help “until the very life was squeezed out of him,” a prosecutor said on Monday as testimony began in the landmark trial set to be a defining moment in the nation’s reckoning over race and policing.
In opening statements, the prosecution and defense presented vastly different pictures of the May 25 scene that ended with the 46 year old unarmed Black man unresponsive beneath the White police officer’s knee on a South Minneapolis street. Floyd’s death, captured on video, was followed by worldwide protests and weeks of civil unrest in cities across the country. Many will be closely watching to see whether the long days spent in the streets, in what many called the new civil rights movement, will result in justice not just for Floyd, but for the countless Black Americans who have been abused and killed by police.
The teenager who filmed the viral video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck tearfully recalled how the Black man begged for his life and the “cold look” on the face of the police officer accused of killing him. On Tuesday in her testimony, Darnella Frazier, who was just 17 when she came across Floyd being restrained by the police, testified of the lingering anxiety and guilt she feels about Floyd’s death and not doing more to intervene. Frazier told the jury of looking at her father, her brother, her cousins and friends and the anguish she felt knowing it “could have been one of them” on the ground and how it had added to her guilt. “It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” Frazier said.
Frazier added, referring to Chauvin, who sat a few feet away in the courtroom, “It’s not what I should have done. It’s what he should have done.” Frazier was one of several eyewitnesses called to the stand Tuesday, including four girls who were under 18 when they saw Floyd being held to the ground by Chauvin and two other officers during a May 25 police investigation into an alleged counterfeit $20 bill. The jury also heard from firefighter Genevieve Hansen, who was off duty and came across the scene while on a walk. Hansen burst into tears as she recounted begging officers to check Floyd’s pulse but being rebuffed. Hours of testimony, which some jurors looked uncomfortable and shocked, the teenagers testified about their feelings of helplessness and, in some cases, fear as they confronted the Minneapolis officers detaining Floyd while he moaned and begged for his life and ultimately became unresponsive.
One of the witnesses Alyssa Funari, described how she had driven to Cup Foods, the store where the incident happened, to buy a charging cord for her phone and found Floyd moaning under the pressure of Chauvin’s knee. Like Frazier, she began filming and watched as Floyd’s eyes rolled back in his head and he stopped moving.
“It was difficult because I felt like there wasn’t really anything I could do,” Funari said tearfully, pausing several times to regain her composure. “I knew time was running out or that it had already … that he was going to die.” For a second day, the jury was presented with bystander video of Floyd’s death, including cellphone footage shot by Frazier, Funari and Hansen with Floyd’s moans punctuating the quiet downtown Minneapolis courtroom. The former officer, who is charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, often averted his eyes, but he showed no emotion as the footage was played on courtroom screens. Frazier testified that she began filming the scene because she sensed that what was happening to Floyd “wasn’t right.” She described Floyd as “terrified, scared, begging for his life.”
The girls described how as Floyd stopped moving, the small group of bystanders that had formed began yelling for Chauvin to get off Floyd and for Chauvin or one of the other officers at the scene J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane and Tou Thao to check his pulse.“(Chauvin) just stared at us, looked at us. He had like this cold look, heartless. He didn’t care. It seemed as if he didn’t care what we were saying,” Frazier testified. As the crowd became more emotional and yelled louder for the officers to check on Floyd, Chauvin reached for his mace, and two of the girls recalled feeling “scared” at what the officer might do. “I felt like I was in danger when he did that,” Frazier told the jurors, as several looked toward her sympathetically. “I felt threatened.” A few seconds later, prosecutors asked her to identify Chauvin, who stood and removed his mask so that Frazier could see him. The former officer, who looked uncomfortable, briefly glanced her way before taking his seat again. Frazier, in a choked voice barely above a whisper, described him at one point as “the officer that was kneeling on George Floyd’s neck.”
Hansen described how she became concerned when she saw Floyd unresponsive with three officers atop him. Floyd’s face looked “puffy and swollen, which would happen if you are putting a grown man’s weight on someone’s neck,” she said. She also recalled seeing what looked like fluid coming from his body and how it reminded her of patients who “release their bladder when they die.” She recalled trying to intervene and being pushed back by Thao, who expressed skepticism that she was really a firefighter. She said Chauvin ignored her pleas and kept his knee on Floyd’s neck. “In my memory, he had his hand in his pocket,” she said. “He looked so comfortable.”Chauvin’s defense successfully argued to limit Hansen from saying she could have saved Floyd’s life. But the firefighter came close, describing what she would have done if officers had “granted” her access to the scene.“I would have checked his airway. I would have been worried about a spinal cord injury because he had so much weight on his neck,” she said. “I would have checked for a pulse. And when I didn’t find a pulse, if that was the case, I would have started compressions.” Hansen testified that she was mystified at why emergency workers didn’t respond to the scene more quickly, pointing out there was a fire station three blocks away. She said she later called 911 to report the officers. “I should have called 911 immediately, but I didn’t,” she said. Under defense cross examination, she sparred with attorney Eric Nelson, who pressed her on whether it was proper for someone to interfere with the police and how she, as a firefighter, would react to someone telling her how to do her job. “I know my job, and I would be confident in doing my job, and there’s nothing anybody could do to distract me,” she shot back.
Nelson pointed out that she became “angry” at the scene which Hansen didn’t dispute, adding that she also felt “desperate” to save Floyd’s life. “I don’t know if you’ve seen anybody be killed, but it’s upsetting,” Hansen said. The tense back and forth led Hennepin County Judge Peter A. Cahill to dismiss the jury and admonish Hansen to not argue with Nelson.“You will not argue with the court,” Cahill said. “You’ll not argue with counsel. They have the right to ask questions. Your job is to answer.”Hansen’s testimony will continue Wednesday. Proceedings resumed Tuesday with the continued testimony of Donald Williams II, a former wrestler turned mixed martial arts fighter, who testified that he tried to intervene because he believed Chauvin was holding Floyd using a move called a “blood choke,” which cuts circulation to a person’s neck and can be dangerous if held too long.
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