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What to know as Derek Chauvin becomes the first officer tried in George Floyd's death

Jury selection starts March 9. Opening statements could begin by March 29.
Credit: KARE
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

MINNEAPOLIS — Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial in the death of George Floyd is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, March 9 with jury selection – a process that could last weeks.

Floyd's death on Memorial Day 2020 sparked nationwide protests and outcries for widespread police reform.

On March 3, the U.S. House passed a sweeping reform bill named after Floyd, called the "George Floyd Justice in Policing Act." The bill would ban chokeholds and "qualified immunity" for law enforcement and create national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Floyd died after Chauvin held him on the ground with his knee to Floyd's neck for nearly nine and a half minutes. A viral video of Chauvin's actions has been shared across the world, with Floyd's words "I can't breathe" becoming a national cry for police reform and an end to systemic racism at protests across the U.S.

Our sister-station KARE says Chauvin's criminal trial will be the biggest in Minnesota's history and will be the state's first-ever to be televised and streamed live.

While jury selection starts Monday, the opening statements in Chauvin's trial are not expected to begin before March 29.

How can I watch the trial?

Our sister-station KARE will lead in-depth coverage of the trial, producing stories that can be found on 10TampaBay.com and in the free 10 Tampa Bay app.

According to The Washington Post, Court TV will have control of the only three cameras inside the courtroom and will provide its video feed to various news outlets. 

The Post says Chauvin's trial is the first time in Minnesota a judge has allowed cameras to show a full criminal trial.

10 Tampa Bay will provide live coverage on our website, free 10 Tampa Bay mobile app and smart TV apps for Roku and Fire TV. Expect the majority of that streaming coverage beginning around Monday, March 29, when the bulk of the trial gets underway.

What is Derek Chauvin charged with?

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death. 

Fellow former officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane are each charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder, as well as aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

The Associated Press says a panel of appeals court judges ruled Friday the judge must consider reinstating a third-degree murder charge he dismissed last fall. A decision on adding the charge has not been made yet and its impact on the trial is unclear at this time. Expect updates on that part soon.

Who is Derek Chauvin's defense lawyer? 

Chauvin is represented by attorney Eric Nelson. He's been involved in high-profile cases such as defending Amy Senser for vehicular homicide in 2011. Nelson is part of a group of Twin Cities attorneys who take turns representing police officers in criminal cases.

Who is prosecuting Derek Chauvin's case?

At the prosecution table, Matthew Frank and Neal Katyal will be most visible. Frank has been an assistant attorney general for 21 years. Katyal is an east-coast attorney and former acting solicitor general.  

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison may be present in the courtroom but is not expected to take part in questioning witnesses. 

Two other prosecuting attorneys will be assisting pro bono: Jerry Blackwell and Steve Schleicher. Blackwell is the founding partner of Blackwell Burke P.A. and a founder of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. Schleicher is a partner at Maslon LLP and served 13 years in the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Who is the judge?

Judge Peter Cahill will preside. He was appointed to the bench in 2007. For 10 years before that, he was one of Hennepin County's top prosecutors.

Who are the witnesses?

Derek Chauvin Trial: Key people in the courtroom

As mentioned above, three other former officers are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death: Tou Thao, J, Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. 

Their trial is not until August, but they are on the prosecution’s witness list. If called to testify, they can “plead the fifth” and avoid answering questions if they think it would hurt them in their upcoming trial.

One key witness will be Dr. Andrew Baker, Hennepin County's chief medical examiner since 2004. He performed one of the autopsies.

What is the evidence against Chauvin? 

What will likely be evidence is a viral video recorded by a 17-year-old girl and posted to Facebook that showed the world what happened to George Floyd on May 25, 2020.

Additionally, body-worn camera footage from the four officers charged will likely be presented as evidence as well.

Floyd's autopsy report and testimony from Dr. Andrew Baker, Hennepin County's chief medical examiner, will likely also be presented as evidence. Dr. Baker ruled Floyd died from cardiopulmonary arrest caused by Chauvin's restrain. He added drugs and heart disease as other significant conditions, leaving the cause of death as the most contentious issue to be argued in the trial.

How will jury selection work?

The process is scheduled to begin Monday, March 9. Each day, eight potential jurors will go to the courthouse – four in the morning and four in the afternoon – and Judge Peter Cahill, prosecutors and the defense will question each person, one at a time.

The judge and attorneys will already have some information about each person from a questionnaire, with answers reflecting their knowledge of the case, media habits and police contacts.

During the questioning, either side can ask Judge Cahill to dismiss the juror "for cause" – if there is a clear reason that they cannot be a fair juror for this case.

If a potential juror is not dismissed "for cause," then each side will have to decide whether they want to use one of their "peremptory challenges" to strike that person. Prosecutors have nine peremptory challenges, and Chauvin's defense team has 15.

If the other side suspects a peremptory challenge has been used to discriminate based on race, ethnicity or sex, they can issue what's called a "Batson challenge." The judge will then decide whether the juror should stay or not. There is no limit on the number of times this challenge can be raised.

Once 16 potential jurors have been questioned and passed through without a challenge, then they are seated as the jury for the murder trial – 12 jurors and four alternates.

No matter how quickly jury selection goes, testimony for Chauvin's trial will not begin before March 29.

The identities of the jurors will stay secret throughout the trial, and remain so until a later date when Judge Cahill decides it is safe for them to be revealed.

How long will the trial last?

That's really unclear. No matter how quickly jury selection goes, opening statements for Chauvin's trial will not begin before March 29. So, the trial will go into April at least.

Some experts have speculated the main section of the trial could last about four weeks, which would mean the jury deliberations could be underway in May.

Timeline from George Floyd's death to the Derek Chauvin trial

CHAUVIN CASE TIMELINE

A video recorded by a 17-year-old girl and posted to Facebook showed the world what happened to George Floyd on May 25, 2020.

At about 8 p.m., a worker at Cup Foods at 38th and Chicago calls 911 to report someone passing a fake $20 bill. Rookie officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng respond - and confront George Floyd sitting in the driver's seat of a car outside the store.

During the interaction, the officers try to put Floyd in their police car. At that point, Officer Derek Chauvin and his partner Tou Thao arrive. Chauvin suggests putting Floyd onto the ground, where he holds him with his knee to Floyd's neck for nearly 9 and a half minutes.

Bystanders grow more and more concerned. Lane suggests rolling Floyd over, and Chauvin says no. Kueng eventually checks for a pulse and can't find one.

9:25 p.m. - Floyd is pronounced dead at HCMC.

12:41 a.m. - MPD puts out a statement saying that Floyd had "physically resisted officers" and then "appeared to be suffering medical distress" after he was put in handcuffs.

But people who watched the video are angry – and plan a protest that afternoon.

2 p.m. on May 26 - MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo fires the four officers.

That night, protests escalate at the police precinct, and officers use tear gas.

On Wednesday, May 27, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey calls on Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman to charge Chauvin.

Anger grows among protesters centered near the MPD Third Precinct. By early evening, the protests devolve into looting, beginning at Target; and soon rioting starts as people burn down several businesses, mostly centered at Lake Street. One person is shot and killed by a pawn shop owner.

Thursday, May 28 - Looting spreads to St. Paul. That night, rioters burn down MPD's Third Precinct, among several other businesses.

Friday, May 29 - Governor Tim Walz boldly proclaims that the National Guard will help prevent further rioting.

11:44 a.m. - Officials announce the arrest of former Officer Chauvin.

By 1 p.m. - County Attorney Freeman announces charges.

Protests continue despite an 8 p.m. curfew set in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Police, troopers and National Guard soldiers are not able to prevent what turns into another night of widespread rioting.

By the end of the weekend, the unrest comes to an end, but not before a horrifying moment where a semi barrels down I-35, coming within feet of hitting protesters on the bridge. The driver is later charged.

Anger about police conduct and racial justice spreads throughout the country, where similar protests and riots begin. 

Monday, June 1 - Attorney General Keith Ellison takes over prosecution duties from Freeman at the urging of Floyd's family. Two days later, former officers Thao, Lane and Kueng are also charged.

In the months that follow, dozens of court filings lead to Chauvin facing trial alone, first, with the biggest criminal trial in Minnesota history also becoming the first-ever to be televised and streamed live.

Will there be protests?

On March 7, the day before jury selection is set to begin in Chauvin's trial, demonstrators in Minneapolis mourned George Floyd and called for justice.

Organizers for the "'I Can't Breathe' Silent March For Justice" asked attendees to bring flowers and signs for the march, which started Sunday afternoon at the Hennepin County Government Center. 

A group of Minnesota faith leaders said they met at the Government Center Sunday afternoon to pray ahead of the trial. Pray for MN, the group behind the prayer gathering, said speakers led prayers "for justice, safety in our city, unity across racial lines and integrity of the judicial system."

10 Tampa Bay's sister-station KARE contributed to this story.

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