George Floyd 'popped two Percocets' before fatal encounter with police

George Floyd ‘popped two Percocets’ hours before his fatal encounter with police, Derek Chauvin’s lawyer says as he insists the black man died from drug use and heart problems, not the cop’s restraint

  • Derek Chauvin’s trial kicked off in Minneapolis on Monday morning with opening statements  
  • Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson urged the jury to look beyond the bystander video of Chauvin pinning George Floyd with his knee and consider the ‘totality’ of the case 
  • He argued that Floyd’s death was caused by his underlying heart disease, ‘adrenaline’ and drug use
  • He said the jury would hear about how Floyd ingested ‘what are thought to be two Percocet pills’ before his fatal encounter with police
  • Trial attorney Jerry Blackwell argued that Chauvin ‘betrayed the badge’ when he crushed the life out of Floyd  
  • ‘You can believe your eyes. That it’s homicide, it’s murder,’ Blackwell told the jury of the bystander video
  • Chauvin has been charged with second- and third-degree murder, manslaughter in death of Floyd on May 25

Derek Chauvin’s attorney insisted that the former Minneapolis cop was justified in his use of force against George Floyd and was not responsible for the black man’s death during his opening statement at trial on Monday. 

Defense attorney Eric Nelson delivered his opening after the jury was shown horrifying video of the moment Chauvin dug his knee into handcuffed Floyd’s neck as he cried out: ‘I can’t breathe’ on May 25, 2020.  

Nelson urged the jury to look beyond that video and consider the entire mountain of evidence, saying: ‘This case is clearly about more than 9 minutes and 29 seconds.’  

Nelson argued that Floyd’s death was caused by his underlying heart disease, ‘adrenaline’ and drug use – asserting that he had ingested ‘what are thought to be two Percocet pills’ before his fatal encounter with police. 

He said the jury will hear from two of Floyd’s friends who claimed they had trouble waking him up after he took drugs on the day he died.  

‘Mr Floyd’s friends will explain that Mr Floyd fell asleep in the car and that they couldn’t wake him up to get going,’ Nelson said. ‘They thought police might be coming. They kept trying to wake him up.’ 

It came after trial attorney Jerry Blackwell emphasized the graphic nature of the bystander video, telling jurors:  ‘You can believe your eyes. That it’s homicide, it’s murder.’ 

Blackwell argued that Chauvin ‘betrayed the badge’ when he ‘did not get up, did not let up’ for nine minutes and 29 seconds, even after Floyd stopped breathing and despite the fevered pleas from bystanders for him to release Floyd.   

Chauvin looked on, smartly dressed in grey suit, blue shirt and tie. Taking copious notes on a yellow legal pad, as he did throughout the jury selection process, he looked for all the world like co-counsel rather than the accused. 

Derek Chauvin (right) is seen with his attorney as his trial over the death of George Floyd began on Monday morning 

Defense attorney Eric Nelson (pictured) delivered his opening after the jury was shown horrifying video of the moment Chauvin dug his knee into handcuffed Floyd’s neck as he cried out: ‘I can’t breathe.’ Nelson urged the jury to look beyond that video and consider the entire mountain of evidence, saying: ‘This case is clearly about more than 9 minutes and 29 seconds.’ 

Chauvin, 45, is charged on three counts in connection with Floyd’s death: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

If convicted on the most serious count, Chauvin faces a possible 40 years in prison; if found guilty of manslaughter he faces a maximum penalty of ten years though he could be free within five.

Much hangs on the outcome of this trial – not least the likely fates of Thomas Lane, 38, J Alexander Keung, 27, and Tou Thao, 35 the three officers currently awaiting trial for aiding and abetting in Floyd’s death. 

Just before the trial opened on Monday, Floyd’s brothers Philonise and Terrence took a knee in front of Hennepin County Courthouse for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – the length of time Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck last spring. 

Reverend Al Sharpton, Floyd family attorney Benjamin Crump, Floyd’s nephew Brandon Williams and other supporters joined the brothers in the silent act of protest. 

Inside the court and speaking behind plexiglass, Nelson asserted that this case was about the ‘totality’ of everything that went before and all that came after those minutes and those seconds that Floyd was pinned by Chauvin.

He stretched out the scope of the investigation by telling the jury that over 50 law enforcement agents had investigated a case, interviewing more than 50 members of the Minneapolis Police Department and nearly 200 civilian witnesses. There are, he told them, more than 50,000 stamped pieces of evidence and documentation.

‘Reason’ he told them, ‘dictates how the evidence must be looked at. Common sense is exactly that – common sense tells us that there are always two sides to a story, common sense tell us we have to examine the totality of the evidence.

‘That’s what this case is ultimately about, the evidence. It is nothing more than that. There is no political or social cause in this court room. But the evidence is far greater than 9 minutes and 29 seconds.’

Nelson talked the jury through the events of May 25, 2020 minute by minute breaking it down into four key locations: the Mercedes Benz in which Floyd and his companions that day traveled, the Cup Foods store, the squad car into which officers tried to wrangle Floyd and Hennepin County Medical Center where attempts to revive Floyd ultimately failed.

He breadcrumbed a path that, he said, could only lead to once conclusion – that Floyd died, not because of Chauvin’s actions but due to a perfect storm partially of his own making: his pre-existing heart condition and hypertension, ingestion of opioids and the adrenaline that flooded his system as he struggled with the officers that day.

‘You will learn that Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his 19-year career. The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing,’ Nelson said.

He concluded: ‘When you hear the law and apply reason there will only be one just result. That will be to find Mr Chauvin not guilty.’ 


Chauvin, 45, (left) was charged on three counts in connection with the death of 46-year-old Floyd (right): second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter 


The court sat in silence as Blackwell played the bystander video of the May 25, 2020 incident. The distressing footage so inextricably bound to this case was being seen for the first time by at least one of the jurors

STATE OF MINNESOTA V  DEREK CHAUVIN – THE CHARGES

Second-degree murder 

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, which in Minnesota can be ‘intentional’ or ‘unintentional.’ 

The second-degree murder charge requires prosecutors to prove Chauvin caused Floyd’s death while committing or trying to commit a felony — in this case, third-degree assault. 

Prosecutors must convince the jury that Chauvin assaulted or attempted to assault Floyd and in doing so inflicted substantial bodily harm. 

Prosecutors don’t have to prove that Chauvin was the sole cause of Floyd’s death – only that his conduct was a ‘substantial causal factor.’ 

If the prosecution can prove Chauvin committed third-degree assault on Floyd, he can be convicted of Floyd’s death. 

Prosecutors are fearful that Chauvin will escape conviction for second-degree murder, that carries a maximum 40 year sentence. 

But because Chauvin does not have any prior convictions, sentencing guidelines recommend he serve no more than 25.5 years behind bars. 

Second-degree manslaughter 

The manslaughter charge has a lower bar, requiring proof that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death through negligence that created an unreasonable risk, and consciously took the chance of causing severe injury or death. 

In other words, Chauvin should have been aware that through his actions he was placing Floyd at risk of dying even though it may not have been his intent to kill him, according to prosecutors. 

If convicted of second-degree manslaughter in Minnesota, the charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. 

But sentencing guidelines for someone without a criminal record call for no more than four years behind bars.

Third-degree murder 

Third-degree murder would require a lower standard of proof than second-degree. 

To win a conviction, prosecutors would have to show only that Floyd’s death was caused by an act that was obviously dangerous, though not necessarily a felony. That would result in a maximum sentence of 25 years. 

But there are caveats. Chauvin has no criminal history, which means he will probably end up serving about 12.5 years whether he is convicted of second or third-degree murder. 

In his earlier opening statement for the prosecution, Blackwell made the argument that Chauvin violated his duty as a police officer. He told the jurors that the badge that Chauvin had worn as a Minneapolis police officer brings with it ‘a large responsibility and accountability’.

It symbolizes, the attorney said, ‘the very motto of the Minneapolis Police Department: “To protect with courage and to serve with compassion.”‘

Blackwell told jurors that ‘sanctity of life and protection of the public’ – the very essence of policing – were at the heart of the case.

These, he said, were the noble ideals that Chauvin disregarded as he squeezed the life out of Floyd for a total of 9 mins and 29 seconds: the most important numbers, he said, that they will hear in this case.

‘What you will learn is that the use of force has to be evaluated minute by minute. What may be reasonable in the first minute may not be reasonable in the fourth or in the ninth minute 29 seconds,’ Blackwell said.

‘What Mr Chauvin used was lethal force. The evidence is going to show you there was no cause in the first place to use that against a man who was defenseless, who was handcuffed, who was not resisting.’

Chauvin listened as Blackwell calmly told the jury that the prosecution would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that, though he sat there today with the presumption of innocence: ‘Mr Chauvin was anything other than innocent.’

Blackwell explained that the state will bring their case through a series of civilian and expert witnesses including, he said, Minneapolis Chief of Police, Medario Arradondo who, he promised them ‘will not mince his words. He will be very clear, very decisive that his was excessive force’.

They will hear from medical experts, experts in use of force and many bystanders including a trained first responder who tried to intervene only for Chauvin to pull his mace from his belt and threaten her until she stepped back. And they will hear from a little girl – a minor seen wearing a green shirt bearing the word ‘Love’ in video shown to the court this morning – who had simply gone to Cup Foods with her cousin to get snacks and candy.

The court sat in silence as Blackwell played the bystander video. The distressing footage so inextricably bound to this case was being seen for the first time by at least one of the jurors.  

As the trial progresses, through the gut-wrenching videos that the jury will watch and re-watch, Blackwell said: ‘You’ll be able to see every part of what Mr Floyd went through; from crying out, to his efforts to move his shoulder to try to breathe, you will hear his voice getting heavier, his respiration more shallow. 

‘When he’s unconscious [you will see] the uncontrollable shaking – the anoxic seizures from oxygen deficiency, the agonal breathing, the gasps, and you will hear when there’s a lack of a pulse.’

There was no doubt, Blackwell told the jury, ‘Someone pressing down on him for 9 minutes and 29 seconds is enough to take a life.’

As he told the jury all of the things that this death was not about – a heart attack, overdose or high blood pressure – Blackwell sought to tighten the jurors’ focus on those 9mins and 29 seconds. 

He said: ‘Mr Floyd lived with those conditions day in, day out for years until the day he went into the circle of the 9 minutes and 29 seconds and didn’t come out again.’ 

Trial attorney Jerry Blackwell (left) argued that Derek Chauvin ‘betrayed the badge’ when he knelt on Floyd’s neck

Blackwell presented the timeline above of the events when Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck

Following Nelson’s statement the prosecution called its first witness, 911 dispatcher Jena Scurry, who had received calls from bystanders when police were struggling with Floyd and watched video of the incident via a remote camera. 

Scurry was questioned by Matthew Frank, the head of the criminal division for the Minnesota attorney general’s office.

Jena Scurry, a 911 dispatcher who watched live video of police kneeling on George Floyd, testified about how she called the officers’ supervisor because she felt ‘something wasn’t right’

Blackwell mentioned Scurry in his opening statement and said that upon seeing live video of Floyd’s arrest: ‘She did something that she had never done in her career. She called the police on the police.’ 

On the stand Scurry testified about how she dispatched police to the Cup Foods after receiving a call about a counterfeit bill. 

Frank played video from the same camera Scurry was watching as the incident unfolded and asked her to identify which parts she had watched live. She said she missed some portions because she was busy handling other calls.  

The video, which had not previously been released publicly, showed Chauvin and fellow officers Lane and Keung perched atop Floyd next to a squad car while officer Thao looked on. 

Scurry told how she had seen surveillance footage of the incident from one of the city’s pole mounted cameras and been struck by a ‘gut instinct’ that ‘something wasn’t right’.

Scurry explained how what had seemed a routine call escalated into something that caused her concern.  

As she glanced away and back again, Scurry said she was struck that the officers hadn’t moved and asked a colleague if the screen had frozen. 

‘I first asked if the screens had frozen because it hadn’t changed. I thought something might be wrong,’ she said.

‘They had come from the back of the squad to the ground and my instincts were telling me that something was not right.

‘It was an extended period of time. I can’t tell you the exact period and they hadn’t told me if they needed any more resources but I became concerned that something might be wrong.’ 

She said that she hadn’t wanted to be a ‘snitch’ but she recognized what appeared to be use of force and stated: ‘I took that instinct and I called the sergeant.’

Frank played audio from the call, in which Scurry said: ‘I don’t know if they had to use 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 to or not but they haven’t said anything to me yet.’ 

‘You can call me a snitch if you want to,’ she added.

She said she made the call to ‘voice my concerns’ and noted that she had never made one like it to a police sergeant before.   

During cross examination, Nelson emphasized the fact that Scurry does not have police training and thus is not qualified to judge whether the officers’ acted appropriately with Floyd. 

During Scurry’s testimony prosecutors aired new video showing the view she had from the dispatch center. It showed Chauvin and fellow officers Thomas Lane and J Alexander Keung on top of Floyd while officer Tou Thao looked on 

Floyd’s brother Philonise took a knee in front of Hennepin County Courthouse on Monday morning for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – the length of time Chauvin knelt on the black man’s neck last spring. From left: Floyd family attorney Ben Crump, Philonise, the Rev Al Sharpton Floyd’s nephew Brandon Williams 

Floyd family lawyer Ben Crump (left) and Rev Al Sharpton, the founder and President of National Action Network,(center) and George Floyd’s nephew Brandon Williams (right) kneel outside the Hennepin County Government Center on Monday

Floyd’s brother, Philonise, spoke to Today on Monday morning and called his brother’s death a ‘modern day lynching’ and said the family is ‘feeling good’ about what’s to come in the trial.

‘We know that this case, to us, is a slam dunk because we know the video is the proof, that’s all you need,’ he said.

‘The guy was kneeling on my brother’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, a guy who was sworn in to protect. He killed my brother in broad daylight.’ 

At a press conference before supporters took a knee outside the courthouse, family attorney Crump said: ‘Today starts a landmark trial that will be a referendum on how far America has come in its quest for equality and justice for all.’

Rev Sharpton added: ‘Chauvin is in the courtroom, but America’s on trial. 

‘What kind of venom, what kind of hatred do you have that would make you press down that long while a man is begging for his life, begging for his mother? At what point does your humanity kick in?’

Floyd’s nephew, Williams, told the crowd: ‘If this trial is hard, we got two justice systems in America — one for white America and one for Black America.’

Ahead of the opening statements and before the jury were brought in, Judge Peter Cahill (pictured) reminded both prosecution and defense that he was ‘very strict’ about not permitting any argument in opening statements

In the courtroom on the 18th Floor of Hennepin County District Court proceedings are being livestreamed and viewed across the world, as Judge Peter Cahill has permitted cameras into his court for the first time in Minnesota’s history.

Ahead of the opening statements and before the jury were brought in, Judge Cahill reminded both prosecution and defense that he was ‘very strict’ about not permitting any argument in opening statements.

To that end he made it clear that neither side could try to crawl into the mind of Floyd or Chauvin.

He said as far as Floyd was concerned the defense were permitted to use, ‘Description of appearances even to the point of saying he appeared to be not complying because someone to testify to that. But they cannot say he was resisting especially in opening.

‘Those are conclusions and inferences drawn from his behavior.’

As far as the prosecution’s presentation of Chauvin, Judge Cahill said, ‘It’s permissible to talk about the policy and how an officer has to follow this policy.’

But it is not permissible, he said, to stray into the use of the word ‘should’.

He explained: ‘For example: “Mr Chauvin should have made this evaluation”. That’s arguing. But to say: “This is the policy, this is what every officer on the scene should do.” That’s objective.’

Judge Cahill made his comments in response to the Assistant Attorney General’s request that he clarify an earlier ruling and not permit the defense to tell the jury that Floyd was, ‘trying to fight with the officers intentionally or that he was faking or malingering his medical distress’.

He asked that,’the statements about Mr Floyd have to be based on the objective reasonableness standard.’

It was a request to which Chauvin’s attorney Eric J Nelson willingly agreed.

Outside, the court and government buildings that flank it have been turned into a fortress. 

Approach roads have been blocked off and the buildings buttressed with a double layer of concrete barricades. Bails of barbed wire spiral between the blocks and steel fences loom above.

Windows are boarded up sealing the court off from public view and green tarpaulin covers the fencing by the parking lot and entrance believed to be reserved for jurors whose anonymity will be strictly guarded.

Armored vehicles and members of the National Guard stand ready, in a security effort estimated to have already cost more than $1million.

A fence is seen erected around the Hennepin County Government Center before opening statements on Monday

Photographs taken by DailyMail.com show barbed wire and metal barricades around the Hennepin County Courthouse

Members of the community participate in a prayer walk near George Floyd Square on Monday morning

Rachel Austin walks with her son Mateo and husband Butchy Austin during a prayer walk by George Floyd Square on Monday

It is ten months since Floyd, a black man, died beneath the knee of white police officer Chauvin.

Recorded by a bystander, video of Floyd, his face pressed into the asphalt outside Cup Foods on 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, quickly went viral. For nearly nine agonizing minutes Floyd begged: ‘I can’t breathe,’ and called for his mother before falling silent and still. And all the while Chauvin, blank-faced and unmoved, appeared oblivious to the man dying beneath him and the bystanders who yelled at him to check for a pulse.

The protests and sporadic violence that followed Floyd’s death on May 25 defined the summer. Some marched under the banner of Black Lives Matter. Some called for the police to be defunded and disbanded. Others vowed No Justice No Peace. The actions of all were felt across the globe.

In Minneapolis the city burned. On the night of May 28, three days after Floyd’s death, the police department’s Third Precinct out of which Chauvin worked was abandoned by officers as it was overwhelmed, first by the mob and then by fire.

Stores were looted and torn apart as a tidal wave of violence swelled with each night’s curfew and crashed over the days’ righteous rage and peaceful protests.

It is hard to imagine anyone setting aside all of this and stripping away the emotion that Floyd’s death engendered for the sake of a fair hearing.

Protesters and activists march the day before opening statements in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis on Sunday

The image above shows a makeshift memorial for Floyd at the spot of his fatal arrest last May

Chauvin’s attorney Eric J Nelson has repeatedly attempted to have the trial postponed and moved out of Hennepin County arguing just this point.

But the last pre-trial motion he brought was denied. According to Judge Cahill, while some of the details might be forgotten in time, he does not believe that pretrial publicity will stop until the trial is conducted – no matter what date in the future that might be.

As for a change of venue, he said: ‘I do not think that would give the defendant any kind of a fair trial beyond what we are doing here today. I don’t think there’s any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity on this case.’

Minneapolis braces for violence: 2,000 National Guardsmen and 1,000 cops deployed to quell unrest

Officials in Minneapolis have been preparing for potential unrest surrounding Derek Chauvin’s trial for months, coming up with a plan dubbed Operation Safety Net. 

The mission of the operation is to support peaceful protests while preventing the same violence that erupted around the city in the wake of George Floyd’s death last year.   

The first phase of the operation was completed during the two weeks of jury selection. Phase two will begin on Monday with opening statements, followed by phase three during jury deliberations and phase four when a verdict is reached. 

Two thousand members of the Minnesota National Guard were called in for the operation, as well as 1,100 law enforcement officers.  

‘You will see an increased presence it will be both a combination of National Guard as well as law enforcement officers,’ Mayor Jacob Frey said.

Approach roads have been blocked off and the buildings buttressed with a double layer of concrete barricades. Bails of barbed wire spiral between the blocks and steel fences loom above.

Windows are boarded up sealing the court off from public view and green tarpaulin covers the fencing by the parking lot and entrance believed to be reserved for jurors whose anonymity will be strictly guarded.

Armored vehicles and members of the National Guard stand ready, in a security effort estimated to have already cost more than $1million. 

The city’s $27million settlement in Floyd family’s civil suit only poured oil on that fire and threatened to derail jury selection when it was announced at the end of the first week of the process.

Judge Cahill could barely conceal his fury at the timing. Two of the jurors who had already been seated had to be excused having heard the news and admitted that they could no longer be impartial. And when prosecutors brought the matter up in court again the move prompted an outburst from the bench in which Judge Cahill told everyone, in no uncertain terms, to ‘stop talking about it’.

All of the 12 jurors and three alternates ultimately seated after a rigorous selection process that lasted just over two weeks said they had formed some opinion of both Chauvin and Floyd.

One black juror observed that when he watched the video he turned to his wife and said: “It could have been me.” Only one of the jurors seated claimed not to have viewed the video at all.

But each member of the jury – made-up of two white men, four white women, three black men, one black woman and two women who identify as multi-racial – swore that they can look at Chauvin, as he sits before them, and start at ground zero; presumption of innocence.

In Minnesota law the last three jurors seated – two white women and a white man – will act as alternates.

Both the defense and the prosecution have already had a series of important victories and setbacks in a flurry of pre-trial motions that have given some sense of the direction this trial can and will take.

The most important victory for the prosecution was the reinstatement of the third degree murder charge which had originally been discarded by Judge Cahill last August.

A damaging leak in the New York Times revealed that Chauvin had been prepared to plead guilty to this in return for a ten-year sentence in a plea deal agreement that only fell apart when the then Attorney General, William Barr, rejected it.

The most important victory for the defense was another reversal of an earlier decision by Judge Cahill. This time the decision was to permit jurors to hear details of a ‘strikingly similar’ prior arrest of Floyd on May 6, 2019.

With two conflicting autopsies the most highly contested issue in this case is cause of death and according to Nelson the details of that prior arrest go to the heart of it.

An independent autopsy conducted by Doctors Michael Baden and Allecia Wilson on behalf of Floyd’s family found cause of death to be ‘mechanical asphyxiation.’

But Hennepin County Medical Examiner gave cause of death as, ‘cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression’.

Put bluntly, Nelson will argue that Floyd was not killed by Chauvin’s knee on his neck, but by a fistful of drugs that he swallowed in the moments of his arrest, sending his blood pressure skyrocketing. Nelson will use the prior arrest as proof that this rash act was Floyd’s ‘modus operandi’ and that he had done it before under almost identical circumstances.

The progression of that earlier arrest aligns almost exactly with the events of May 25, 2020.

In May 2019 Floyd was stopped in a car by an officer who drew his weapon, just as Lane did one year later. 

In May 2019 Floyd appeared panicked and non-compliant and told officers he couldn’t breathe, just as he did one year later, though back in 2019 he was not being violently restrained.

And in May 2019 he appeared to swallow seven or eight pills that were later found to be methamphetamine and fentanyl and caused his blood pressure to spike to 216 over 160. This hypertensive emergency put him at risk of stroke or heart attack and led to him being hospitalized.

According to Nelson this is what happened in 2020. A belated search of the squad car into which officers tried to wrestle Floyd found traces of white powder and a half-chewed pill that bore his DNA and proved to be methamphetamine and fentanyl.

Toxicology tests found that Floyd had 11 nanograms of fentanyl in his blood – a potentially lethal level though perhaps not, some experts have said, to an habitual user.

But whatever doubts the defense may seek to sow in the courtroom, there is no room for any down at the scene of Floyd’s death.

There, checkpoints have been set up and barriers block off traffic to an area now known as the Free State of George Floyd.

Some activists were openly hostile to media visiting on the eve of the trial demanding to know what organisations they represented and accusing them of exploiting a tragedy for money.

Each morning community organizers meet at the former Speedway gas station across from Cup Foods and now dubbed People’s Way. They gather around a central fire pit to discuss duties of the day; self-appointed security guards and custodians of the memorial that bloomed around the scene last spring and remains, amid increasing controversy.

Mayor Jacob Frey has expressed a desire to open the area up again but nothing will be touched until after the trial is over; until then Minneapolis holds its breath.

Protesters are seen above outside the courthouse in Minneapolis on Sunday where the former officer charged in George Floyd’s death will stand trial

Police and National Guard troops stand watch outside of the Hennepin County Government Center during the demonstrations on Sunday

BREAKDOWN OF SEATED JURORS IN THE DEREK CHAUVIN TRIAL

Derek Chauvin (pictured in a Minneapolis courtroom on March 15) has been charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 2020 death of George Floyd

As of Monday, all 15 jurors who will hear the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin have been impaneled.

Twelve jurors will deliberate and three will serve as alternates. 

Alternate jurors will step in if a juror can’t continue in the trial for reasons such as illness, a family emergency, or further exposure to information on Floyd’s death that would taint their decision. 

In the middle of jury selection, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill dismissed two jurors – a white man and a Hispanic man – after they admitted their views were altered by the announced $27million settlement between the family of George Floyd and the City of Minneapolis. 

The seated jurors include six men and nine women. 

The 15 jurors seated through Monday are split by race, with nine white jurors, four black and two multiracial, according to the court. 

Juror No. 1: A white man in his 20s or 30s who works as a chemist. He told the court that he has an ‘analytical’ mind.

He claims not to have seen the infamous nine-minute clip during which George Floyd died under the ex-Minneapolis police officer’s knee. 

The juror described himself as a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, though he criticized it as ‘too extreme’ and said: ‘All lives should matter.’ 

Juror No. 2:  A woman of color in her 20s or 30s who is also related to a police officer.

The young woman from northern Minnesota described herself as ‘super excited’ to be called to be part of the jury pool in such a high profile case.

She said that she had seen the video of Floyd’s death only once and revealed that she has an uncle who is a police officer in the state, but was clear that it would not affect her ability to be fair and impartial in this case.

Juror No. 3: A white man in his 30s who works as an auditor and is friends with a Minneapolis police officer in the K9 unit.

The juror described himself as honest and straightforward.

He said that while he has seen Facebook video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck at least twice, he has not formed an opinion about the former officer’s guilt. 

The juror did acknowledge having a ‘somewhat negative’ view of Chauvin in light of the clip.

On his juror questionnaire, he wrote that Floyd had done ‘hard drugs’ and had a ‘checkered past’ – though he said he could set aside his opinions and be impartial. 

Juror No. 4: The fifth juror seated is a married IT manager in his thirties who emigrated from West Africa to the United States 14 years ago.

Like other jurors, he said that he supported the ideals of the Black Lives Matters movement but went further than his peers saying, ‘All lives matter, but black lives matter more because they are marginalized.’

He also voiced support for Blue Lives Matter and when questioned by the prosecution said he was strongly opposed to defunding the police, stating that the presence of police made him feel safer.

‘I believe our cops need to be safe and feel safe in order to protect our community,’ he said.

He told the court that he believed in the country’s justice system and wanted to serve on the jury because it was his civic duty.

‘I also believe that to make the justice system work I think we need people that are part of the community to sit as a juror,’ he said.

He said that he was not on social media but had seen the video of Floyd’s death and formed a slightly negative view of Chauvin.

All prospective jurors are asked about their views on the video showing Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck during his fatal arrest in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020

He added that he was conscious that he did not know what had happened before or after the short clips he had seen.

Chauvin’s attorney pressed the potential juror on one answer that he had written in response to the jurors’ questionnaire. He stated that, while discussing Floyd’s death with his wife, he had said, ‘It could have been me.’

Asked what he meant by that the juror explained that he used to live in the area where Floyd died and said, ‘It could have been me or anyone else. It could have been anybody. It could have been you, that’s what I mean.’ 

Juror No. 5: The single mother-of two, white and in her early 50s, described herself as being in the ‘C-class’ of executives and works in healthcare advocacy.

She admitted to knowing Attorney General Keith Ellison and having had work dealings with his office, but neither defense nor prosecutors viewed this as any impairment to her service.

In response to a jury pool questionnaire, she said she had a ‘somewhat negative’ view of Chauvin, and that she thought he held his knee to Floyd’s neck for too long.

She said she felt empathy for both Floyd and the officers, adding that ‘at the end of the day I’m sure that the intention was not there for this to happen.’ 

Juror No. 6: A black man in his 30s, works in banking, and is youth sports coach.

He said that he was keen to be a juror at a trial which he viewed as ‘historic moment.’

Answering the prospective jurors’ lengthy questionnaire he said that he did ‘not believe the defendant set out to murder anyone,’ but that, having viewed the video of Floyd’s death he was left at a loss as to what Chauvin was thinking.

He professed himself strongly in favor of Black Lives Matters – as a statement not a movement or organization. 

But his view of Blue Lives Matters was ‘somewhat negative.’

He said, ‘I think that police lives matter but I feel like the concept of Blue Lives Matter only became a thing to combat Black Lives Matter, where it shouldn’t be a competition.’    

Juror No. 7: A white single mother in her 50s who works as executive assistant for a health clinic near Minneapolis.

She wrote in her questionnaire that she could not watch the entire video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck ‘because it was too disturbing to me.’

Nonetheless, she said: ‘I’m not in a position to change the law. I’m in a position to uphold the law.’

She added: ‘[Chauvin] is innocent until we can prove otherwise.’ 

Juror No. 8: A black father of one son expressed neutrality on almost all key points though he strongly disagreed with defunding the police.

The man, who is in his early 40s, said that he had no opinion of Chauvin and only a ‘somewhat favorable’ view of Floyd based on the fact that there had been so many demonstrations in support of him.

Asked about Black Lives Matter versus Blue Lives Matter he said that he believed, ‘Every life matters but black people their lives are not valued.’ 

Chauvin’s attorneys will argue that Floyd’s death was caused by drugs in his system

He added, ‘Just because that’s what they think doesn’t mean that’s what it is but we have to respect it.’ 

Juror No. 9: A mixed-race mother of one who convinced all parties that she could be fair and impartial.

She said that she did not believe the justice system was perfect ‘because humans are involved so there’s always room for improvement where humans are involved.’

And she admitted to having formed a slightly negative view of Chauvin, though had a strong faith in the police in general. 

She said she felt ‘neutral’ about Floyd but what scant opinions she had formed she said she could set them aside and start from the ‘blank slate’ of presumed innocence. 

Juror No. 10: A white woman in her 50s who works as a registered nurse and lives alone in the Minneapolis suburb of Edina.

She said that, though she questioned why Chauvin had kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for so long, she had not formed an opinion regarding cause of death or where the responsibility for it lay. 

She was questioned over whether her medical experience, and specifically her familiarity with resuscitating patients, would impact her ability to be an impartial judge of any measures taken to save Floyd.

When asked if she could avoid using her medical expertise to act as an expert witness she gave a confident ‘yes’. 

The woman said she would like to know more about what training Chauvin had in ‘de-escalation and restraint’ and wanted to know if Floyd was armed, stating that would make a difference to the decisions she might expect an officer to make. 

Juror No. 11: A black grandmother-of-two thought to be in her 60s who grew up in the south Minneapolis neighborhood where Floyd died.  

The woman retired from her job in child psychology about five years ago and now volunteers with youth to ‘help them find their way.’ 

She said she had seen the video of Floyd’s death only once and had turned it off after four or five minutes because ‘it just wasn’t something I needed to see.’

She has a relative in the Minneapolis Police Department and said she was ‘proud’ of them but insisted she had never to them about Floyd’s death or their job in law enforcement.  

The woman said she was aware of the settlement between the city and Floyd’s family but said it did not impact her view of the case ‘at all.’

The woman said she was ‘neutral’ about Chauvin and also had ‘no opinion of [Floyd] one way or another.’ 

She wrote in her juror questionnaire that she agreed with Black Lives Matter because ‘I am black and my life matters’ and responded that she ‘somewhat agrees’ that black and white people are often treated differently. 

Juror No. 12: The third juror selected Thursday – and number 12 out of 14 confirmed – is a white female thought to be in her 30s who works in commercial insurance. 

The woman, who has a bachelor’s degree in communications, said she had seen the video of Floyd’s death four to five times and had spoken to friends about it. 

She also said she had heard about the settlement but said it did not affect her opinion or ability to sit on the jury. 

The woman had written in her juror questionnaire that she had ‘somewhat negative’ views on both Floyd and Chauvin.

‘The media painted Mr Chauvin as an aggressive cop with tax problems,’ she wrote. 

‘George Floyd’s record wasn’t clean but he abused drugs at some point.’ 

The woman said she would be ‘terrified’ if the police department was defunded and dismantled and has a strong respect for police officers but she also agreed that ‘it is obvious change needs to happen’.  

She said she supported Black Lives Matter but does not get involved in protests. 

But she said she was able to set aside everything she already knows about the case and on both Chauvin and Floyd and make a decision based only on the evidence presented in court.   

When asked by the prosecution if her opinion of Floyd could differ if she was told he struggled with addiction to illegal drugs, she replied: ‘Quite honestly maybe.’  

‘It doesn’t make them a bad person… but it would make me more cautious,’ she said.

Juror No. 13: The white female juror, who is believed to be either in her 40s or 50s, described herself as a dog-lover who enjoyed walks in nature and an advocate for homelessness and affordable housing said that her reaction, on opening the prospective juror packet for the case was, ‘Go big or go home.’

She said that she had a slightly negative view of Chauvin who she viewed as having a ‘leadership’ role in the incident that led to Floyd’s death but she didn’t assign more responsibility to him for that.

She went onto say that she believed police treat black and white people equally and disagreed that officers are more likely to use force when dealing with a black suspect. 

She did, however, express the belief that the criminal justice system is bias against black and racial minorities – a view she said she based on economic disparities. 

Juror No. 14: The juror, a white woman in her 20s who works as a social worker, said that she didn’t think her opinion would be affected by the $27million settlement between Minneapolis and Floyd’s family.

She said she was neutral on both Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter and does not support ‘defunding the police’ or doing away with the Minneapolis Police Department.

‘I believe black lives matter as much as Latina, police etc,’ the woman said. 

Juror No. 15: The final juror, a white man in his 20s who works an accountant, was on chosen Tuesday, wrapping up a process that took more than two weeks.

The final juror chosen is a married accountant who said he initially formed a somewhat negative opinion of Chauvin, saying it seemed like the length of his restraint on Floyd was longer than necessary. 

But he said he would be able to put that aside and weigh the case based on the evidence.

He said Floyd’s death sparked discussions about racism at work, and he decided to educate himself by reading a book about the subject. 

He said he has a healthy respect for police and views Black Lives Matter somewhat favorably. 

However, he said some of the frustrations boiled over and may have been a factor in violent unrest in Minneapolis.

He also said he understands that professional athletes who kneel during the national anthem are trying to start a dialogue on race, but ‘I would prefer if someone would express their beliefs in a different manner.’    

 

 

Minneapolis has been preparing for unrest surrounding the trial for weeks, calling in up to 2,000 National Guard members and 1,100 other law enforcement officers to patrol the streets. 

Sunday’s protest marked the first of many anticipated in the coming weeks at the courthouse, which has been adorned with concrete barriers and barbed-wire fencing.  

 

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