MINNEAPOLIS – Almost a year after George Floyd died in police custody, the murder trial of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin is underway and is expected to continue for several more weeks.
The trial is taking place on the 18th floor of downtown Hennepin County Government. Jury selection in the trial took place last month, when the court selected 14 jurors – 12 to deliberate and two to sit as alternates. The judge said the trial could last four weeks.
Jurors have heard from dozens of witnesses so far – including Floyd’s girlfriend, passers-by, police and paramedics – and are expected to hear from dozens more before the trial concludes. They also saw dozens of video clips of spectators, company surveillance cameras, city cameras and police body cameras.
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Here are the answers to some of your main questions.
Will Derek Chauvin speak at his trial?
It is not known if Chauvin will speak. He has the right not to testify under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which states that a person has the right to avoid self-incrimination.
Legal observers say they doubt the defense will call Chauvin, although that depends on how the case unfolds.
Whether Chauvin ends up testifying may depend on how his defense attorney, Eric Nelson, handles cross-examination of medical experts, said Mary Moriarty, former chief defender for Hennepin County.
Medical experts will be key to the case because prosecutors claim Floyd died of Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck, while the defense argues Floyd died due to the drugs in his system and the medical conditions under -jacent.
Moriarty said it was possible for him to testify “if he can add something to their case, (like) his take on what he did.” Her testimony could end up being a last-ditch defense effort in the end, or an effort to humanize it, she said.
Joseph Daly, a professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law, said it would be “extremely risky” for Chauvin to testify. “The main danger of his testimony is that the prosecution will hand over his entire case again – through his cross from Mr. Chauvin, not to mention his bad behavior in other situations,” Daly said.
There have been 17 complaints filed with the Minneapolis Police Department about Chauvin. Prosecutors wanted to be able to brief jurors on eight of the incidents, but the judge allowed only two of them to be admitted as evidence. (It is common for judges to make such decisions about what evidence may be presented in a trial.)
Ted Sampsell-Jones, also a professor at the Mitchell Hamline School of Law in neighboring St. Paul, said Chauvin is unlikely to testify.
“It’s ultimately the customer’s decision,” Sampsell-Jones said. “Nelson will advise Chauvin on the best course, but it is ultimately Chauvin’s decision. Nobody knows what is on his mind.”
Sampsell-Jones said that “some clients really want to tell their story, some are afraid to testify, and some just do as their lawyer advises.” He said it was impossible to say which category Chauvin fell into.
Is Derek Chauvin in prison?
Chauvin is not in prison: he was released on $ 1,000,000 bail in October.
Throughout the trial, Chauvin was seated in the courtroom next to Nelson, his lawyer, wearing a face mask and appearing to take notes on a yellow legal pad.
He was also present in the courtroom during the 11 days of jury selection last month.
Chauvin was fired last year from the Minneapolis Police Department, a day after Floyd’s death, and was arrested days later.
What are the fees?
Chauvin is charged with second degree murder, third degree murder and second degree manslaughter.
Three other former officers involved are accused of aiding and abetting these crimes. They will stand trial in August.
Emotional eyewitness accounts, lots of videos:What we learned in the first week of testimony at the Derek Chauvin trial