Derek Chauvin Trial Gets Underway In Minneapolis : Consider This from NPR Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial began this week. He's accused of murdering Minneapolis resident George Floyd in May of 2020, when Chauvin was recorded kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly 10 minutes.

NPR's Adrian Florido has been covering the trial and reports from Minneapolis.

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Inside The Opening Days Of The Derek Chauvin Trial

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Inside The Opening Days Of The Derek Chauvin Trial

Inside The Opening Days Of The Derek Chauvin Trial

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Jena Scurry has been a 911 dispatcher in the city of Minneapolis for seven years. She's never made a call like the one she made on May 25, 2020.

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JENA SCURRY: My instincts were telling me that something's wrong, something is not right. I don't know what, but something wasn't right.

CORNISH: On May 25, Scurry was watching the video feed from a city camera near the corner of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue. Police officers there had been holding a man on the ground for so long, Scurry thought there was a problem with the video.

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SCURRY: I first asked if the screens had frozen.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Why did you ask that?

SCURRY: Because it hadn't changed.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: OK.

CORNISH: After learning the feed had not frozen, Scurry called the police sergeant in charge that day. And at the beginning of the call, you can hear her say you can call me a snitch if you want to.

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SCURRY: I didn't know. You can call me a snitch if you want to. But we have the cameras up for 320's call. Oh, did they already put him in the - they must have already started moving him. And...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Unintelligible).

SCURRY: Three-twenty over at Cup Foods.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: OK.

SCURRY: I don't know if they have used force or not. They got something out of the back of the squad and all of them sat on this man. So I don't know if they needed you or not. But they haven't said anything to me yet.

CORNISH: That call is now Exhibit 12 presented in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Have you ever prior to that date made a call like that to a sergeant in your job?

SCURRY: No.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Your Honor, I have no further questions. Thank you.

CORNISH: CONSIDER THIS. George Floyd's death last May sparked a movement. His life and the way it ended after nearly 10 minutes under the knee of a white police officer became a global story. And the next chapter of that story is now being written in a Minneapolis courtroom. We'll hear more from inside.

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CORNISH: From NPR, I'm Audie Cornish. It's Tuesday, March 30.

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CORNISH: It's CONSIDER THIS from NPR.

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JERRY BLACKWELL: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, good morning. My name is Jerry Blackwell. And...

CORNISH: In prosecutor Jerry Blackwell's hour-long opening statement on Monday, he kept coming back to three numbers.

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BLACKWELL: Nine, two, nine - the three most important numbers in the case - nine minutes and 29 seconds.

CORNISH: That, Blackwell said, was how long police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of 46-year-old George Floyd. Nine minutes, 29 seconds - that's longer than the eight minutes and 46 seconds that was reported in the months after Floyd's death. The jury was shown video of the incident, and one juror gripped her armrest as she watched.

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BLACKWELL: You can believe your eyes that it's a homicide. It's murder.

CORNISH: Blackwell told the jurors that Floyd said he couldn't breathe 27 times and that he was unconscious, breathless or pulseless for more than four minutes while Chauvin continued to kneel on his neck.

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BLACKWELL: We're going to ask that you find him guilty of murder in the second degree, murder in the third degree and second-degree manslaughter. Thank you.

CORNISH: That was how the prosecution opened. As for the defense...

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: You not going to help us, bro.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Right. He Black. They don't care.

CORNISH: Defense attorneys for Derek Chauvin argued that the growing chorus of bystanders that day distracted police from George Floyd, who was unarmed, not resisting and cuffed on the ground.

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ERIC NELSON: They're screaming at them, causing the officers to divert their attention from the care of Mr. Floyd to the threat that was growing in front of them.

CORNISH: Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, also called attention to the mix of drugs in Floyd's system. And Nelson argued that Floyd had heart disease and ultimately died from cardiac arrhythmia.

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NELSON: All of which acted to further compromise an already compromised heart.

CORNISH: Now, we should note here, the official autopsy report from a county medical examiner ruled Floyd's death a homicide. And that report said Floyd died from cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restrain and neck compression. Also of note, on Monday, both the prosecution and defense took pains to tell the jury this case is about this case only. Here's prosecutor Jerry Blackwell...

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BLACKWELL: This case is about Mr. Derek Chauvin and is not about all policing at all.

CORNISH: ...And defense attorney Eric Nelson.

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NELSON: I agree with counsel for the state. There is no political or social cause in this courtroom.

CORNISH: But of course, outside the courtroom, the case is widely viewed as a referendum on police accountability and the criminal justice system.

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AL SHARPTON: Chauvin is in the courtroom, but America is on trial.

CORNISH: That was civil rights activist Al Sharpton at a press conference in Minneapolis the day the trial began.

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SHARPTON: The law is for everybody. Policemen are not above the law. Policemen are subject to the law. And that's what's going on in this courtroom. And that's why we're here.

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CORNISH: Now, we just told you a little bit about day one of the trial, Monday. Tuesday was day two. And among the witnesses called to the stand were several bystanders who watched as Derek Chauvin held his knee on George Floyd's neck. Reporter Adrian Florido was in the courtroom. He spoke about what he heard to NPR's Ailsa Chang.

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AILSA CHANG: So I understand that these witnesses, they also talked about what they were feeling as they watched Floyd struggle to breathe under Chauvin's knee. Can you tell us a little more about what they said and who they are?

ADRIAN FLORIDO: Yeah, the witnesses today included Darnella Frazier, the teenager who filmed the cellphone video of Floyd's arrest that so much of the world has seen by now. Her 9-year-old old cousin also took the stand. But the day started with someone who first took the stand yesterday, Donald Williams. He's a young man who in the famous video can be heard pleading with Chauvin to get off of Floyd's neck. I found his questioning by defense attorney Eric Nelson interesting because Nelson has said that he's going to be arguing that Officer Chauvin felt threatened by the crowd that gathered to watch the arrest. And Donald Williams, who is Black, spent several minutes pleading with and in some instances insulting Chauvin as he pinned Floyd down. Here's the defense attorney, Eric Nelson, asking him a question.

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NELSON: It's fair to say that you grew angrier and angrier.

DONALD WILLIAMS: No, I grew professional and professional, and I stayed in my body. You can't paint me out to be angry.

FLORIDO: It was a pretty tense exchange, as was much of the questioning of Williams by the defense. Williams also testified that he called the police on the police to report that Floyd had been murdered shortly after the incident ended.

CHANG: And did you say another witness was a teenager who filmed Floyd's arrest? What did she have to say?

FLORIDO: Yeah, Darnella Frazier was 17 at the time of this incident. She and her cousin were walking up to the Cup Foods store where it all started when she noticed what was happening. She pulled out her phone to film. And here's what she said when prosecutor Jerry Blackwell asked her to describe what she saw.

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DARNELLA FRAZIER: I heard George Floyd say, I can't breathe. Please get off of me. I can't breathe. He cried for his mom. He was in pain. It seemed like he knew. It seemed like he knew it was over for him.

FLORIDO: She told the court that filming that video had changed her life.

CHANG: And how did Chauvin's defense lawyer handle this particular witness?

FLORIDO: A bit more delicately than he dealt with Donald Williams earlier. But still, defense attorney Eric Nelson put a lot of focus on what he has been characterizing as this angry crowd that gathered. Here's what he asked Frazier about that.

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NELSON: You heard various people calling the officers names, right?

FRAZIER: Yes.

NELSON: And the volume of the people in the - that were bystanders grew louder over time. Would you agree with that?

FRAZIER: Yes, more so as he was becoming more unresponsive.

FLORIDO: Meaning, Ailsa, Floyd was becoming unresponsive.

CHANG: Right.

FLORIDO: She later clarified that no one in the crowd at any point threatened or attacked Chauvin, nor did he seem afraid of the crowd according to what she saw.

CHANG: I mean, obviously, Adrian, this trial is going to include a lot of technical, medical and scientific evidence. But the prosecution here is very much going to be making an emotional appeal with their case. Can you talk a little more about that piece of it?

FLORIDO: Absolutely. The most poignant moment of the day came when Prosecutor Blackwell asked Darnella Frazier how being a witness to George Floyd's death had affected her. Listen to what she said.

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FRAZIER: When I look at George Floyd, I look at look at my dad. I look at my brothers. I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they are all Black. And I look at that and I look at how that could have been one of them. It's been nights I stayed up apologizing to George for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life. But it's like it's not what I should have done. It's what he should've done.

FLORIDO: Meaning what Officer Chauvin should have done. He was sitting right in front of her in court.

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CORNISH: That's NPR's Adrian Florido.

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CORNISH: It's CONSIDER THIS from NPR. I'm Audie Cornish.

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