What you need to know about the trial of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin
Minnesota once again became the focus of international attention when jury selection in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin began March 8. Opening statements and testimony in the trial started March 29. Chauvin is currently charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd in south Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. The events that led to Floyd's death, which a bystander recorded on video and posted to Facebook, immediately drew international outrage and spurred a global protest movement.
Chauvin is the first Minnesota law enforcement officer to be tried for murder for the on-duty killing of a Black person. It will also be the first high-profile criminal trial in a Minnesota state court to be broadcast live. Three other former Minneapolis officers will face trial later in the summer. Here are answers to questions you may have about the trial and how to watch it. Read about the charges against Chauvin and what prosecutors must prove in order to convict here.
What is the schedule for the Derek Chauvin trial?
The trial officially began March 8 but jury selection was postponed until March 9 after prosecutors expressed concerns about a contested Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling that ordered District Court Judge Peter A. Cahill, who is presiding over the case, to reinstate a third-degree murder charge. Opening statements began March 29. The trial is expected to last several weeks. The court day typically begins at 9 a.m. with a discussion of pending legal issues. Jurors arrive at 9:15 a.m., testimony starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. During the trial, sessions could continue until 7:30 p.m. if the jury is sequestered, according to an order from Cahill. Sequestration is when a judge orders the jury to be kept in isolation to avoid exposure to outside influences or information. All times may be subject to change at the judge's discretion.
Where will the trial take place?
The trial will be held in a courtroom on the 18th floor of the Hennepin County Government Center at 300 S. 6th Street in downtown Minneapolis. The courtroom has been modified to comply with COVID-19 guidelines and allow for social distancing.
Who will be allowed in the courtroom?
Because of the pandemic, attendance in the courtroom will be strictly limited. Only the following will be allowed inside:
- Judge Cahill.
- The jury. Fifteen potential jurors are currently seated. The final panel will consist of 14 jurors, including two alternates. The 15th juror will be dismissed Monday if they are not needed, Cahill said.
- In order to maintain the anonymity of the jurors, they will not be visible in the video feed.
- The defendant, Derek Chauvin.
- Up to four members of the defense team. Eric J. Nelson is Chauvin's lead defense counsel.
- Up to four members of the state's prosecution team. Matthew Frank of the Minnesota Attorney General's Office is the lead prosecutor.
- A judge's clerk.
- A court reporter who will transcribe the proceedings.
- One observer for the state. This could be a member of Floyd's family or a victim witness advocate, who may assist the victim's family and help manage witnesses during testimony.
- One observer for the defense, which could be a family member or supporter of Chauvin.
- Two members of the news media: one reporter for print and one for television.
- One audio/video technician.
Where will the rest of the news media be?
The court has designated a media business center in the 625 Building, across the street from the Government Center, where up to 40 additional members of the local, national and international media will be able to watch the proceedings via video feed. Unlike the two reporters in the courtroom, those in the media center will be allowed to use their electronic devices to report news and post to social media. However, they will not be able to take photographs or record audio or video in the media center.
How can I watch the trial?
A video and audio feed of the proceedings will be provided by Court TV. The Star Tribune will offer a livestream each day on StarTribune.com. All staff coverage of the trial will be offered free of charge as a public service. You can stream the proceedings from every previous day here. Those without a cable or an internet connection can watch Court TV's coverage live on channel 11.2.
What COVID-19 precautions will be in place in the courtroom?
Far fewer seats than usual will be available in order to maintain social distancing. Face coverings will be required for the judge, staff and anyone else in the courtroom or other public areas in the Government Center. There will be plexiglass partitions between some seats in the courtroom, and hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes will be provided for trial participants.
The judge can order the removal of face coverings if other measures are available, such as face shields or plexiglass barriers. Anyone claiming they cannot wear a face covering due to a health condition must provide medical documentation, and they will be required to wear a face shield.
What measures will be in place to ensure the safety of Chauvin and other trial participants?
The Government Center will remain closed to the public, including people who work there except for those involved with the trial and a limited number of building support staff. The defendant and everyone else participating in the trial will arrive and leave through secured areas and be escorted to the courtroom. They will not park in public nor will they be seen walking into the building through public areas. The county courthouse is connected by tunnels to nearby buildings, including the county jail. Neither Chauvin, who is currently free on bail, nor his attorney will be in areas around the courthouse accessible to the public during the trial.
What security measures will be in place outside the courtroom?
City officials have placed concrete barriers and other "fortifications" around government buildings, including the Government Center, Minneapolis City Hall and police precincts.
Access to the Government Center will be tightly controlled during the trial. Only people involved with the trial and a limited number of building support staff will be allowed to enter the building. A checkpoint will be set up at the entry to the underground parking ramp on S. 3rd Avenue. A pedestrian entry checkpoint will be set up at S. 4th Avenue and S. 6th Street to access the only open entrance on the north side of the building. Skyway access will also be closed. The plazas on the north and south sides of the Government Center will be mostly open to the public.
Law enforcement and Minnesota National Guard troops are expected to maintain a visible presence in the downtown area and commercial corridors around the city, including Nicollet Mall, Hennepin Avenue, S. Washington Avenue, Lake Street and West Broadway.
Will any roads be closed during the trial?
So far the only road closure announced in downtown Minneapolis is S. 6th Street between 3rd and 4th avenues, which runs under the Government Center's two adjoining towers. It closed in early March.
What is happening at George Floyd Square during the trial?
City officials have not announced any new security measures at the intersection of S. 38th Street and Chicago Avenue, where Floyd was killed during an encounter with Chauvin and three other Minneapolis police officers last May. However, Mayor Jacob Frey said Feb. 12 that the intersection, which has become a memorial known as George Floyd Square, would continue to be closed to traffic for the duration of the trial, though it will be reopened after. The intersection will serve as a community gathering space and demonstrations and other events are expected there during the trial.
Why are cameras allowed in the courtroom?
In November, Cahill ordered video and audio of the court proceedings to be livestreamed in order to fulfill "the defendant's constitutional right to a public trial and the media's and public's constitutional rights of access to criminal trials." He cited immense global interest in the case, limited courthouse space and COVID-19 restrictions. It is the first time a high-profile trial in a Minnesota state court will be broadcast live.
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Staff writers Chao Xiong, Rochelle Olson, Liz Navratil and Abby Simons contributed to this article. It has been updated.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the date jury selection began in the Chauvin trial.