Key moments from the trial of former cop Derek Chauvin over George Floyd’s killing

The case will head to the jury on Monday after closing arguments

Via AP news wire
Sunday 18 April 2021 18:19 BST
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin tells the judge that he waived his right to testify to the jury, next to his defense attorney Eric Nelson on the fourteenth day of Chauvin’s trial over the death of George Floyd
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin tells the judge that he waived his right to testify to the jury, next to his defense attorney Eric Nelson on the fourteenth day of Chauvin’s trial over the death of George Floyd (via REUTERS)
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The three weeks of testimony at a former Minneapolis police officer's trial in the death of George Floyd were filled with indelible moments, ranging from witnesses breaking down as they relived what they saw to a clinical account by one expert pinpointing on video the instant he believes Floyd died.

Derek Chauvin 45, is on trial for murder and manslaughter after pinning Floyd to the pavement last May for what prosecutors said was nine and a half minutes. The case will head to the jury on Monday after closing arguments.

Here's a look back at some of the most compelling moments of the trial:


Jurors heard testimony from several witnesses to Floyd's arrest, and many of them grew emotional as they recalled their frustration and desperation at not being able to help Floyd.

Darnella Frazier, the teenager who shot the harrowing video of the arrest that set off nationwide protests, testified through tears that Chauvin ignored bystanders’ shouts as Floyd gasped for air, pleaded for his life and finally fell limp and silent.

“It’s been nights I stayed up, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more, and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” Frazier, 18, said, adding of Chauvin: “But it’s like, it’s not what I should’ve done, it’s what he should’ve done.”

Christopher Martin, the convenience store cashier who sold cigarettes to Floyd and was handed a suspected counterfeit $20 bill, said he felt “disbelief and guilt” as he stood on the curb a short time later, his hands on his head as he watched Floyd's arrest.

“If I would’ve just not tooken the bill, this could’ve been avoided,” the 19-year-old said.

And Charles McMillian 61 — who tried to persuade a panicky Floyd to cooperate with officers trying to put him in their squad car, shouting “You can’t win!" — wept openly after watching police body camera video of the struggle.

“I feel helpless,” he said.


As part of prosecutors' effort to humanize Floyd for jurors, Floyd’s girlfriend Courteney Ross recounted how they met at a Salvation Army shelter where he was a security guard with “this great, deep Southern voice,” and how they both struggled with an addiction to opioids.

Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson drove hard at Floyd’s drug use while cross-examining Ross, then slipped in a seemingly unrelated question: What name, he asked, came up on Floyd's phone when she called him?

“Mama,” Ross answered.

With that, Nelson called into question the widely reported account of Floyd crying out for his late mother as he lay pinned to the pavement — likely part of a wider strategy to sow doubt where he could.


Dr. Martin Tobin, a lung and critical care specialist, was one of the most compelling of many medical experts called by the prosecution. He discussed the mechanics of breathing in simple terms, including loosening his tie, placing his hands on his own neck and encouraging jurors to do the same as he explained why he believes Floyd died of a lack of oxygen that damaged his brain and stopped his heart.

Tobin also narrated video of Floyd held to the pavement and pinpointed what he said was a change in Floyd’s face and a telltale leg kick that told him Floyd was dead — around 5 minutes after police began holding him down.

“You can see his eyes. He's conscious, and then you see that he isn't,” Tobin said. "That’s the moment the life goes out of his body.”


Prosecutors were mostly clinical in examining witnesses. One exception came after Nelson — trying to raise doubt about Floyd's cause of death — posed a series of hypothetical questions to a retired forensic pathologist testifying for the prosecution.

“Let’s assume you found Mr. Floyd dead in his residence. No police involvement, no drugs, right? The only thing you found would be these facts about his heart. What would you conclude to be the cause of death?” Nelson asked Dr. Lindsey Thomas, noting Floyd’s enlarged heart, high blood pressure and blocked arteries.

Thomas conceded in such a “very narrow set of circumstances," she probably would rule heart disease as the cause. She also agreed that she would certify Floyd’s death as a drug overdose if there were no other explanations. Fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in his system.

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell was sarcastic in his response.

“Aren’t those questions a lot like asking, ‘Mrs. Lincoln, if we take John Wilkes Booth out of this ...’” Blackwell began, before Nelson objected.


Prosecutors also pounced when a use-of-force expert called by the defense, former California police officer Barry Brodd, said police were justified in keeping Floyd pinned because he kept struggling instead of “resting comfortably.”

That sparked a lectern-pounding response from prosecutor Steve Schleicher: “Did you say ‘resting comfortably’?" he asked incredulously.

“Or laying comfortably,” replied Brodd, whose testimony contradicted that of authorities from inside and outside the Minneapolis Police Department who said Chauvin violated his training.

“Resting comfortably on the pavement?” Schleicher asked again.

Brodd: “Yes.”


The chief medical examiner who ruled Floyd’s death a homicide was called to the stand by prosecutors only to disagree with their carefully built case that Floyd died of asphyxia when his airway was blocked by Chauvin's knee.

Instead, Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker said Floyd’s heart gave out because of the pressure on his neck. He said Floyd's heart problems combined with the way police held him down and compressed his neck, “was just more than Mr. Floyd could take.”

Though Baker did not rule asphyxiation as a cause of Floyd's death, at one point he testified that he isn't an expert on breathing and would defer certain questions to those who are.


Nelson played a short video clip of a chaotic and noisy scene as Floyd, handcuffed and lying on his stomach, yelled and moaned in distress, then asked a prosecution witness: “Does it sound like he says, ‘I ate too many drugs?’”

That witness said he couldn't make out the hard-to-hear clip, but Nelson soon asked another witness — Senior Special Agent James Reyerson of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension — and Reyerson agreed that was what Floyd appeared to say.

It was a bad moment for the prosecution, and it took some time before they regrouped — leaving Nelson's version to linger in jurors' minds. Later in the day, they replayed a longer clip from the same video and Reyerson reconsidered his assessment, saying: “I believe Mr. Floyd was saying, ‘I ain’t do no drugs."


Later in the trial, Nelson questioned a defense witness about whether Floyd might have taken drugs as officers approached.

After showing former Maryland chief medical examiner Dr. David Fowler an image taken from a police body camera, Nelson asked: “In your review did you determine whether there was the possibility that controlled substances were ingested at the time of approach" by officers?

“Yes,” Fowler replied, saying that “in the back corner of Mr. Floyd’s mouth, you can see what appears to be a white object.”

Nelson zoomed in on the image and had Fowler use a stylus to point out the dot for jurors.

Evidence already presented at trial had revealed that remnants of a pill found in the back of the squad car contained Floyd’s DNA and tested positive for fentanyl and methamphetamine.

On cross-examination, Blackwell all but accused Fowler of jumping to conclusions and trying to confuse the jury, playing video of Floyd from inside Cup Foods that appeared to show him chewing something white.

“He could have been chewing, I don't know,” Fowler responded.

“Let's play it again because I would like for you to know,” Blackwell said.

After viewing enlarged still images of Floyd in the store, Fowler conceded that the substance in Floyd's mouth looked “very similar” to the white object he identified in Nelson's image.

But, Fowler pointed out, he'd been careful to use the word “object" in earlier testimony, not “pill.”

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