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Minnesota's 'Highest-Profile Murder Case' Begins

The trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd opens Monday
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2021 6:47 AM CDT

(Newser) – Attention will once again turn to Minneapolis on Monday, where the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin begins in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd. Chauvin, 45, faces charges of second- and third-degree murder, and faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the former charge.

  • Some firsts: USA Today calls the trial "Minnesota's highest-profile murder case," and notes it's taking place in "one of the more restrictive states in the US when it comes to televising courtroom proceedings." Some changes toward that end: This will be the first criminal case that the state will televise, along with the first it will livestream, with the BBC noting the jurors won't be shown at any point. You can watch opening arguments here beginning at 10am CST.
  • The defense: The Guardian reports the defense is expected to argue that Chauvin was adhering to his police training and zero in on the autopsy's finding that Floyd had heart disease and that there were indications of "fentanyl intoxication" and "recent methamphetamine use."
  • The prosecution: Minnesota AG Keith Ellison and his team are expected to focus on the autopsy as well, as it deemed the death a homicide, with heart failure caused by "law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression." The BBC notes they must prove that Chauvin's kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly 9 minutes was a "substantial causal factor" in Floyd's death.

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  • What the focus won't be on: CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates explains "the ideas of excessive force generally, the ideas of police reform, the ideas of police accountability, the ideas of systemic injustice, the ideas of the treatment of Black victims at the hands of White defendants—those will all be touched upon and will be the elephants in the room." So if those aren't at the heart of the trial, what is? Exactly what killed Floyd, and to what degree did Chauvin know that Floyd could die?
  • The judge: The Star Tribune takes a look at the man who will preside over the trial: Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill, who became a judge in 2007. It paints a picture of Cahill as confident and capable, and writes, "A big part of Cahill's job will be to keep widespread chaos, anger and criticism about Floyd's death out of the courtroom so Chauvin can get a fair trial." Read the full piece here.
  • More on the lineup: The Washington Post takes a look at what on its face seems to be a disparity among the legal teams. While Ellison leads a 14-person team of attorneys that includes a former federal prosecutor, Chauvin will be defended by "little-known criminal defense lawyer" Eric Nelson, who is accompanied only by a legal assistant. The Post talks with those who know Nelson and speak highly of his approach, and it delves into his background and that of the players on Ellison's team. Read more here.
  • Logistics: Fox News reports the month-long trial will take place on the 18th floor of the Hennepin County Government Center. The Guardian reports additional police and national guard members will be on the city's streets during the trial.
(Read more Derek Chauvin stories.)

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