World watches as Chauvin trial begins

Jury selection was paused while the judge considers whether to reinstate a third-degree murder charge

By Paul Walsh
Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — Court proceedings began Monday in the murder case against Derek Chauvin, the fired police officer charged with killing George Floyd on a Minneapolis street corner nearly 10 months ago.

The trial opened with Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill hearing whether he should reinstate a third-degree murder charge to the counts of second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd's death last May, captured on a bystander's cellphone video and broadcast around the world.

Once that and any other legal issues are settled, jury selection is the next order of business, a meticulous task that could take up to three weeks to accomplish before an anticipated March 29 date for opening statements from the defense and the prosecution.

Chauvin's defense attorney, Eric Nelson, said he intends to ask the State Supreme Court to consider a Court of Appeals ruling Friday that indicated the third-degree murder charge should be reinstated. As a result, prosecutor Matthew Frank contended that proceedings should be delayed.

"This Court will be seating jurors for a trial about which we don't know what the exact charges are going to be yet," Frank said.

Cahill contended that the third-degree murder charge is a narrow issue and questioned whether a jury could continue to be seated before that charge is resolved.

"We want it out in the open, we don't want to wait for a condition that may not get satisfied when a jury is sitting there," Frank said. "Were not trying to delay this case, we want to try it right, and we can only try it once."

Chauvin, dressed in a navy blue suit and tie and wearing a mask, looked on intently, occasionally taking notes.

Floyd's death after the 46-year-old Black man was pinned under the knee of a white officer for roughly 9 minutes touched off days of violent demonstrations in Minneapolis, neighboring St. Paul and across the country.

At ground level outside the Hennepin County Government Center, hundreds of protesters mingled on a mild and sunny late-winter morning. Some were selling or giving away flowers. Posters with activist messages were attached to barricades and chain-link fencing that rings the building. Law enforcement personnel and heavy vehicles were obvious in their presence but modest in number.

Three other fired officers implicated in Floyd's death are scheduled for trial in August.

(c)2021 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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