Reporter's Notebook: Trial of Derek Chauvin - Day 1
Today marked the start of the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police Officer charged in the death of George Floyd after he was seen on video kneeling on Floyd's neck for roughly 9 minutes.
7a: Outside the Hennepin County Courthouse demonstrators began gathering early on the sidewalk near the south lawn. There were images of George Floyd, signs that read "Hope"; "The system was built to protect you, never us"; as well as others calling for Chauvin to be found guilty. Music played from loudspeakers as the demonstrators awaited the start of a planned rally later in the morning.
8a: The trial began with procedural housekeeping, but they would come to define the day. Inside the courtroom - that had been modified with plexiglass due to Covid-19 - early on it was announced that Chauvin's defense would seek an appeal of an earlier Appeals Court ruling regarding the possibility of adding another charge against Chauvin.
On Friday, an Appeals Court had ruled that the trial judge should reconsider whether prosecutors can add an additional 3rd degree murder charge against Chauvin, on top of the 2nd degree murder and 2nd degree manslaughter charges he's already facing. Before the trial judge made a decision, the defense announced Monday that it would appeal the Appeals Court decision to the state's Supreme Court.
That lead to a delay to the start of jury selection.
8a - 10a: Hundreds of demonstrators gather to the northwest of the courthouse. Speakers called for justice and music blared from loudspeakers. Protesters held signs calling for justice, one demonstrator repeatedly chanted "Cops get acquitted in a racist system."
Around the entire courthouse complex fencing has been constructed over the security concerns and there are members of the National Guard stationed there as well. In the midst of the demonstrations the atmosphere was not what I would call tense, but more apprehensive. I spoke to one demonstrator who said she was hopeful that justice would be served, but likened the possible outcome to the familiar rally cry: "No justice; no peace."
9:45a: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison released a statement saying prosecutors had filed a motion with the Court of Appeals asking that the trial not be allowed to proceed - including jury selection - while the issue of the possible 3rd degree charge against Chauvin remains unresolved. As Ellison said in a statement that "the district court does not have jurisdiction to conduct jury selection or hear and rule on other substantive matters in the trial."
1:30p: After a recces stemming from the earlier unresolved questions about possible additional charges for Chauvin, court resumed but almost immediately the trial judge, Peter Cahill called attorneys back to his chambers.
1:50p: Everyone returned to court and it was decided that while they await word from the Court of Appeals on the prosecution's motion requesting that the trial be halted until a decision on the 3rd degree charge can be made, Judge Cahill decided they would move forward with hearing several motions instead.
While jury selection was on hold for the time being, Defense attorney Eric Nelson did say that he and the prosecutors were able to review the first 50 potential jurors and gave the judge of list of jurors that both sides had agreed could be removed. So, there was some progress on the jury front.
3p: Court recessed for the day with Judge Cahill deciding that court would resume tomorrow morning at 8a. The first hour will be set aside for any motions and then the judge said he plans to move forward with jury selection at 9a.
"Unless the Court of Appeals tells me otherwise, we're going to keep moving," Cahill said.