Derek Chauvin Trial Live Updates: Medical Examiner Called by Defense Blames Floyd’s Heart for His Death

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The area outside Cup Foods, where George Floyd was arrested, is now known as George Floyd Square.
Credit…Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times

The defense began presenting its witnesses on Monday, after more than 30 witnesses took the stand for the state during the first two weeks of the trial of Derek Chauvin.

Witness testimony for the defense is expected to last at least through the end of the week before the trial moves into closing arguments and, finally, jury deliberation. Mr. Chauvin, 45, faces second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd.

Judge Peter A. Cahill said this week that if the defense’s case continues ahead of schedule, the court would not convene on Friday so that closing arguments would not happen until Monday. As soon as closing arguments are finished, the jury will be sequestered and can take as long as it needs to deliver a verdict.

Jury selection — eight days of intense questioning to potential jurors about their political biases and views on racism and policing — began on March 9. Ultimately, 12 jury members and two alternates were chosen.

Both sides delivered opening statements on March 29, which were followed by the prosecution calling their witnesses to the stand. Each witness is questioned by the state, then cross-examined by the defense. Questioning goes back and forth between the state and the defense.

Each side submitted a list of potential witnesses to the judge ahead of the trial: The state submitted the names of 363 potential witnesses, and the defense listed 212, but it was unclear how many would actually appear.

Dr. Fowler, the defense medical expert, said he has eliminated asphyxia as a cause of death for George Floyd. He hasn’t exactly explained why yet. But that is the heart of the prosecution’s case — that Floyd died of asphyxia.

Dr. Fowler is now talking about studies finding that suspects being restrained by the police are not in danger when they are placed in the prone position with weight applied, as George Floyd was by Derek Chauvin. The prosecution experts were already asked to critique these studies, and said that they did not replicate real-world conditions.

A snapshot of what this moment is like right now in Minneapolis: I’m watching the Chauvin trial on a local news station, and at the bottom there is a red ticker with the breaking news that the police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright on Sunday in nearby Brooklyn Center, Minn., has been charged with second-degree manslaughter. Such an exhausting moment around the country, but especially for Twin Cities residents.

If you’re watching this medical testimony for the defense and asking, how does the carbon monoxide argument help Derek Chauvin, we hear you. We’ll have to wait for the defense’s closing arguments to hear how Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lawyer, pulls this all together as part of his theory of the case.

Dr. David Fowler, the defense’s medical expert, is advancing a theory on the stand that George Floyd was exposed to carbon monoxide from the police car’s tailpipe as he was held on the ground, contributing to his death. But he has just acknowledged that Floyd’s blood was not tested for carbon monoxide.

I’m wondering whether the jury is going to buy the defense experts’ contentions so far — that Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck was not a use of force, that if Floyd had been compliant he would have been “resting comfortably” on the street face down in handcuffs, and now this novel idea that Floyd was exposed to carbon monoxide from the squad car’s tailpipe.

A sign honoring Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by an officer, in George Floyd Square in Minneapolis on Tuesday.
Credit…Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. — The white Minnesota police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, after appearing to mistake her handgun for her Taser will be charged with second-degree manslaughter on Wednesday, a prosecutor said, following three nights of protests over the killing.

The planned charge against the officer, Kimberly A. Potter, comes a day after she and the police chief both resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department. Hundreds of people have faced off with the police in Brooklyn Center each night since Mr. Wright’s death, and residents across the region are preparing for a verdict next week in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged with murdering George Floyd.

Pete Orput, the top prosecutor in Washington County, said in an email to The New York Times on Wednesday that the complaint would be filed later on Wednesday.

Ms. Potter, 48, had served on the force for 26 years and was training other officers when they pulled Mr. Wright’s car over on Sunday afternoon, saying he had an expired registration on his car and something hanging from his rearview mirror. When officers discovered that Mr. Wright had a warrant out for his arrest and tried to arrest him, he twisted away and got back into his car.

Ms. Potter warned him that she would Tase him and then shouted “Taser” three times before firing a bullet into his chest, killing him. “I just shot him,” Ms. Potter says in body-camera footage that was released this week.

The killing has brought hundreds of people to the Brooklyn Center Police Department each night, where they have been met by Minnesota National Guard members and State Patrol troopers who have fired tear gas, rubber bullets and other projectiles at the crowd. Some of the demonstrators have launched fireworks and thrown rocks and bottles of water at the police. Officers arrested 79 people on Tuesday night. Dozens of businesses in the region were broken into earlier in the week, but there were few reports of looting on Tuesday.

The local government in Brooklyn Center, a city of about 30,000 people, has also been in crisis. The City Council gave the mayor more authority in the wake of Mr. Wright’s death and the city manager, who had previously overseen the Police Department, was fired.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, a state agency that investigated Mr. Floyd’s death in May, has led the inquiry into the killing.

A lot of very technical discussion this morning between Derek Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, and Dr. David Fowler, a medical expert for the defense. But it all seems to come back to the defense trying to make the point that drug use and a struggle with the police caused George Floyd’s heart to give out. This is a moment when the defense is trying to make this trial not about police tactics, but about medical complexities.

Dr. Fowler really tried to make a distinction for the jury between homicide, a manner of death determined by medical examiners, and murder, a criminal act as determined by the court. “There is some value to the homicide classification towards reducing the public perception that a cover-up is being perpetrated by the death investigation agency,” he said.

The prosecution in this case presented 38 witnesses. Dr. David Fowler, on the stand now, is the seventh witness — and among the last — for the defense. The burden of proof is on the prosecution; the defense does not have to “prove” that Derek Chauvin is innocent.

Still, in the trial of Jason Van Dyke, a police officer who was convicted of murder in the 2014 on-duty killing of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, the prosecution presented 24 witnesses, and the defense called 20.

Connecting the dots here on some fairly in-depth medical testimony for the defense: Dr. Fowler, Maryland’s former chief medical examiner, is saying that George Floyd’s methamphetamine use contributed to heart disease, which caused his death.

From the beginning, the death of George Floyd disrupted the field of forensic pathology in much the way it challenged policing, with critics saying that findings that his underlying conditions and drug use contributed to his death reflected racial bias.

The public outcry helped expose long-simmering tensions within the small but influential world of medical examiners, drawing in some of the experts who consulted on the case, including Dr. David Fowler, a forensic pathologist who is the first medical expert to testify for Derek Chauvin’s defense.

Dr. Fowler and others have vigorously attacked a study that said medically irrelevant information, like the race of the victim, could sway medical examiner determinations.

Dr. David Fowler, Maryland’s former chief medical examiner, testifies for the defense that George Floyd had a cardiac arrhythmia caused by his underlying health conditions while he was restrained by the police, contradicting prosecution experts who testified that Derek Chauvin’s restraint cut off Floyd’s oxygen supply, causing his heart to stop.

Fowler said Floyd’s health conditions “contributed to Mr. Floyd having a sudden cardiac arrest in my opinion. That’s how I would read it.”

The prosecution is expected to go hard after Dr. Fowler, the former chief medical examiner of Maryland testifying now for the defense. So one of the important things for Eric Nelson, Derek Chauvin’s lawyer, to do is to try to bolster Fowler’s credentials as much as possible. Some experts say establishing that George Floyd’s cause of death was something other than Chauvin’s knee on his neck is the crux of the defense case.

At the end of the court session yesterday, the defense lawyer, Eric Nelson, complained that the prosecution had just dumped a huge pile of material on him that they could potentially use to impeach his witnesses — presumably including Dr. David Fowler, the former chief medical examiner of Maryland who is now on the stand. Dr. Fowler has been criticized for some of his findings regarding previous deaths in police custody.




Defense’s Medical Expert Says Floyd Died From Cardiac Arrhythmia

Dr. David Fowler, Maryland’s former chief medical examiner, testified on Wednesday that George Floyd died from cardiac arrhythmia during police restraint caused by underlying health conditions, contradicting experts who testified Mr. Floyd died from lack of oxygen.

“Can you summarize briefly what your opinions are in this case?” “Yes, so in my opinion, Mr. Floyd had a sudden cardiac arrhythmia, or cardiac arrhythmia, due to his atherosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease — or you can write that down multiple different ways. During his restraint and subdual by the police, or restraint by the police, and then his significant contributory conditions would be — since I’ve already put the heart disease in part one, he would have the toxicology, the fentanyl and methamphetamine. There is exposure to a vehicle exhaust. So potentially carbon monoxide poisoning or at least an effect from increased carbon monoxide in his bloodstream and a paraganglioma or the other natural disease process that he has. So all of those combined to cause Mr. Floyd’s death.”

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Dr. David Fowler, Maryland’s former chief medical examiner, testified on Wednesday that George Floyd died from cardiac arrhythmia during police restraint caused by underlying health conditions, contradicting experts who testified Mr. Floyd died from lack of oxygen.CreditCredit…Still image, via Court TV

Derek Chauvin’s defense called on Dr. David Fowler, who retired as Maryland’s chief medical examiner in 2019 and has a history of involvement with high-profile police use-of-force cases, to testify on Wednesday as an expert witness.

At the request of Eric J. Nelson, a lawyer for Mr. Chauvin, Dr. Fowler said he reviewed medical, police and ambulance records, as well as toxicology reports and video footage, among other information in the George Floyd case.

Dr. Fowler explained that a death certificate includes a primary cause of death as well as other significant conditions contributing to a person’s death, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He said it was his medical opinion that Mr. Floyd suffered cardiac arrhythmia, which was contributed to by his underlying health conditions, including heart disease, drug use and exposure to carbon monoxide from the exhaust pipe during his restraint by the police.

“All of those combined to cause Mr. Floyd’s death,” he said.

While he was chief medical examiner of Maryland, Dr. Fowler ruled that the death of Anton Black, a Black teenager who was killed during an interaction with the police in 2018, was an accident, The Baltimore Sun reported. No one was charged.

In December, Mr. Black’s family filed a federal lawsuit against Dr. Fowler, the officers involved in the incident and others.

“Two years before George Floyd died after being restrained and pinned down by police, 19- year-old Anton Black (‘Anton’ or ‘Decedent’) was killed by three white law enforcement officials and a white civilian in a chillingly similar manner on Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” the lawsuit reads.

According to the lawsuit, officers restrained Mr. Black in a prone position for around six minutes after he had been Tasered and handcuffed as he “struggled to breathe, lost consciousness and suffered cardiac arrest.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, which is part of the plaintiffs’ legal team, released a statement Wednesday. “Under Dr. Fowler’s leadership, the Maryland Office of the Medical Examiner has been complicit in creating false narratives about what kills Black people in police encounters,” it said. “The medical examiner blamed Anton for his own death — peppering its report with false claims about laced drugs, a heart condition, and even Anton’s bipolar disorder — instead of the police who killed him. The family was forced to pay for outside experts’ help to understand what really killed Anton.”

In 2015, Dr. Fowler’s office issued a homicide ruling in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man from Baltimore who died of a spinal cord injury after a widely circulated cellphone video showed him being dragged screaming into a police transport van.

In that case, six officers were initially charged with crimes including manslaughter and murder; the first trial ended in a hung jury, and three more officers were acquitted after trials before a judge.

Dr. Fowler was also an adjunct associate professor of pathology and pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and has taught at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and other universities around Maryland. He serves as the National Association of Medical Examiners representative for the Forensic Science Standards Board. He also serves as a forensic pathology consultant for the Forensics Panel, a national organization that performs peer review for cases.




Witness With George Floyd Before His Arrest Will Not Take the Stand

Morries Lester Hall, who was in a car with George Floyd before his arrest, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he was called to testify on Wednesday in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial.

“Mr. Hall cannot answer any of the questions that defense put forward, and I’m happy to expand on the reasons why he can’t answer any of those questions.” “Let’s just focus on how Mr. Floyd looked in the S.U.V. because that was the very limited group of questions that I thought might not incriminate him.” “Absolutely, Judge. And if you look at the list that defense proposed, I think that really starts getting into that topic at Question 7. So Question 7 proposed by the defense was, ‘After conducting your business in Cup Foods, did you return to the vehicle with Mr. Floyd?’ Mr. Hall cannot answer that question. Mr. Hall cannot put himself in that car with Mr. Floyd. Again, this was a car that was searched twice and drugs were recovered twice. If Mr. Hall puts himself in that car, he exposes himself to constructive possession charges of the drugs that were found in that car.” “You’ve had a chance to look at the questions that were proposed by both sides?” “I have.” “Would you be willing to answer those if I were to put you on the stand and swear you in as a witness?” “No, I’m not.” “OK, and why would you not answer those?” “I’m fearful of criminal charges going forward. I have open charges that’s. not settled yet. I’ve got personal stuff.” “So basically, you are invoking your Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination?” “Yes, sir. All right. Thank you, sir. You can have a seat.”

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Morries Lester Hall, who was in a car with George Floyd before his arrest, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he was called to testify on Wednesday in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial.CreditCredit…Still image, via Court TV

Morries Lester Hall, who was in a car with George Floyd outside of Cup Foods in Minneapolis moments before the police pulled Mr. Floyd out of the car and later pinned him to the ground for more than nine minutes, invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when he was called to testify on Wednesday.

Mr. Hall’s lawyer, Adrienne Cousins, said testifying about his actions, or even about being in the vehicle with Mr. Floyd on May 25, could potentially incriminate him.

“If he puts himself in that car, he exposes himself to possession charges,” Ms. Cousins said Wednesday, noting that drugs were found in the car in two searches.

Judge Peter A. Cahill granted Mr. Hall’s invocation of the Fifth Amendment right, calling his reasoning valid.

Judge Cahill had ordered Derek Chauvin’s lawyer to draft a narrow list of questions that Mr. Hall might be able to answer without incriminating himself. Like Tuesday’s questioning of Shawanda Hill, who was also in the car with Mr. Floyd when he was arrested, the defense had hoped to ask about Mr. Floyd’s demeanor and behavior right before the arrest to bolster its argument that a drug overdose caused his death.

But Ms. Cousins said even answering those questions had the potential to incriminate him, and Judge Cahill agreed.

In her testimony, Mr. Floyd’s former girlfriend, Courteney Ross, said she and Mr. Floyd had purchased drugs from Mr. Hall in the past.

Mr. Hall has appeared in body camera footage throughout the trial, and on Tuesday, newly released footage showed him standing alongside Ms. Hill after Mr. Floyd had been taken away by officers.

According to a Minnesota official, Mr. Hall provided a false name to officers at the scene of Mr. Floyd’s arrest. At the time, he had outstanding warrants for his arrest on felony possession of a firearm, felony domestic assault and felony drug possession.

Mr. Hall was a longtime friend of Mr. Floyd’s. Both Houston natives, they had connected in Minneapolis through a pastor and had been in touch every day since 2016, Mr. Hall said in an interview with The Times last year. Mr. Hall said that he considered Mr. Floyd a confidant and a mentor, like many in the community.

Morries Hall himself has taken the stand and told the judge that he has reviewed the list of questions the lawyers want to ask him, and he doesn’t want to answer them, invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.

Judge Cahill grants Hall his Fifth Amendment privilege, quashing the subpoena for him to testify. It’s another example of the judge thwarting the defense in its desire to present more evidence of George Floyd’s drug use.

Up next will be a decision on whether Morries Lester Hall will be required to testify. His lawyers are arguing that he should not be ordered to take the stand, saying he could incriminate himself. He was in the car outside Cup Foods with George Floyd when police pulled Floyd out to arrest him.

Floyd’s girlfriend has already testified that Hall sometimes sold drugs to Floyd. In Minnesota, people can be charged with third-degree murder if they provide drugs that result in someone’s death.

The day begins early with the defense lawyer, Eric Nelson, asking for a judgment of acquitttal — that means the case would not even go to the jury because the state has itself introduced reasonable doubt as to Chauvin’s guilt. Nelson cites the testimony of Dr. Andrew Baker, the medical examiner, saying he ruled George Floyd’s death a homicide “for medical purposes” only.

It’s common for defense lawyers to make such a motion before the trial gets to the jury. As expected, Judge Peter A. Cahill denies it.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the police station in Brooklyn Center, Minn., for the third consecutive night on Tuesday to protest the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright.

The lawyer Eric J. Nelson and his client, the former officer Derek Chauvin, on Tuesday.
Credit…Still image, via Court TV

The defense for the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is expected to call medical witnesses to the stand as soon as Wednesday, in the hopes of combating the claims of earlier witnesses who testified that George Floyd died from a deprivation of oxygen.

For the first time in the trial, a witness testified on Tuesday that Mr. Chauvin was justified when he knelt on Mr. Floyd for more than nine minutes. But the defense will want to broaden its case by calling medical witnesses who can provide expert testimony on Mr. Floyd’s cause of death.

Several witnesses called by the prosecution have testified that Mr. Floyd died from a lack of oxygen, and that they saw no evidence of a drug overdose or a heart attack. Those other potential causes of death have been the primary focus of the defense from the outset of the trial.

The trial moves forward amid continued fallout from the recent shooting of a Black man by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, a Minneapolis suburb. On Tuesday, the police officer who shot and killed Daunte Wright, 20, resigned, along with the department’s police chief.

The fate of Mr. Chauvin, who is charged with murdering Mr. Floyd, rests largely on how jurors answer two questions: whether his actions caused Mr. Floyd to die, and whether he violated use-of-force policies when he kept his knee on Mr. Floyd for nine and a half minutes.

The defense’s key witness on Tuesday, Barry Brodd, a use-of-force expert, began his testimony with unequivocal support of Mr. Chauvin, cross-examination by a prosecutor exposed some inconsistencies with his position.

Credit…Still image, via Court TV

Mr. Brodd initially testified that Mr. Chauvin’s restraint was not a “use of force” at all, but rather a restraint that was considered safe and generally painless. When a prosecutor pushed him on the issue, though, Mr. Brodd conceded that the restraint was a use of force according to the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department.

He also later admitted that the restraint could cause pain and went back and forth with a prosecutor who played a video of the arrest that captured Mr. Floyd saying, “Everything hurts,” along with other exclamations of pain.

Mr. Brodd said he had heard those comments during his review of the arrest but had not “noted it.” He also said that, in his opinion, Mr. Floyd continued to resist the officers even when he was handcuffed and facedown on the street, pinned under the knee of Mr. Chauvin. The prosecutor, Steve Schleicher, asked whether Mr. Floyd was actually “writhing on the ground because he can’t breathe.”

The cross-examination of Mr. Brodd could be costly for the defense if jurors decide that he lost some credibility by backtracking on the use-of-force issue.

Jurors also heard on Tuesday from Shawanda Hill, who was in the car with Mr. Floyd when he was first approached by officers. Ms. Hill said he was “happy, normal, talking, alert” in the Cup Foods convenience store in the minutes before he was arrested. Once Mr. Floyd was in the vehicle, Ms. Hill said he fell asleep. Other than being tired, though, she said Mr. Floyd seemed normal and in good health.




Protests Continue in Minnesota

Protesters gathered for a third day outside the police station in Brooklyn Center, Minn., after a white officer fatally shot Duante Wright, a Black man, during a traffic stop on Sunday.

Now he finally got a job for.

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Protesters gathered for a third day outside the police station in Brooklyn Center, Minn., after a white officer fatally shot Duante Wright, a Black man, during a traffic stop on Sunday.CreditCredit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Law enforcement fired projectiles into a crowd of hundreds outside the Brooklyn Center police station after declaring the protest unlawful on Tuesday, the third consecutive night of demonstrations after an officer fatally shot Daunte Wright.

For about 45 minutes, Minnesota State Patrol officers intermittently ordered people to leave over a loudspeaker, specifically demanding that reporters leave the scene. Police officers and National Guard troops were lined up in front of the police station as protesters chanted and threw full water bottles.

Then, just after 9:30 p.m., State Patrol officers fired several flash bangs into the air and rushed a group of people at the front of the crowd who had been shielding themselves from police projectiles with umbrellas. Law enforcement had fired chemical spray, flash bangs and paintballs to disperse the crowd.

The efforts pushed a significant number of people out of the area, and the police appeared to detain several people as a line of Patrol officers stood guard.

Alyah Jacobson, 21, and Dimitri Pickett, 22, were among the protesters who left the area surrounding the police station before debating whether to regroup elsewhere.

The couple had driven in from the St. Paul suburb of Mahtomedi and said they were not deterred by the police response. “I didn’t feel threatened, and I’m not scared. I’ll come back,” Ms. Jacobson said. She added, of their 2-year-old daughter, “I’m not going to let her grow up in this kind of world.”

Humvees and National Guard vehicles circled neighborhood streets before the start of a 10 p.m. curfew in Brooklyn Center that also applied in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Dozens of people were arrested on Monday for violating an earlier curfew.

A still image from body camera video footage of George Floyd’s arrest was shown in court on Tuesday.
Credit…Still image, via Court TV

For the first time in the trial of the former police officer Derek Chauvin, a witness explicitly defended his actions when he knelt on George Floyd for nine and a half minutes.

Barry Brodd, an expert on the use of force who was called to testify by the defense, said on Tuesday that Mr. Chauvin had been justified in his actions, and that he did not consider the restraint that Mr. Chauvin used — keeping Mr. Floyd pinned under his knee while handcuffed and facedown on the street — a use of force. (Mr. Brodd later acknowledged that the restraint did qualify as a use of force under the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department.)

Mr. Brodd’s testimony contradicted that of numerous witnesses who were called by the prosecution, including other use-of-force experts and the chief of the Minneapolis Police Department.

The defense also called several other witnesses, including a woman who was in the car with Mr. Floyd just before police officers arrived.

As the defense called its witnesses to the stand, officials in Minnesota scrambled to deal with the fallout from the fatal shooting of a Black man by a police officer in suburban Minneapolis over the weekend. The officer who fired the fatal shot, as well as the police chief for Brooklyn Center, the suburb where the shooting happened, both resigned on Tuesday.

Here are key takeaways from Day 12 of the trial.

  • Mr. Brodd said that the officers who arrested Mr. Floyd had acted appropriately every step of the way. “I felt that Derek Chauvin was justified, and was acting with objective reasonableness, following Minneapolis Police Department policy and current standards of law enforcement, in his interactions with Mr. Floyd,” he said. Mr. Brodd also said that Mr. Chauvin’s actions did not qualify as a use of force at all, and that the fact that Mr. Floyd died did not mean Mr. Chauvin had used “deadly force.” He compared the situation to that of a police officer who uses a Taser, only to have the suspect fall back, hit their head and die. Though the suspect died, the initial use of force could still be reasonable, he said. Mr. Brodd also said the prone position in which Mr. Floyd was kept for nine and a half minutes was safe, did not typically hurt suspects and was an accepted way to control someone during an arrest.

Credit…Still image, via Court TV
  • During cross-examination, Mr. Brodd acknowledged that Mr. Chauvin’s restraint qualified as a use of force under the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department, though he had previously said it was not a use of force. In addition, he had initially said that the prone position in which Mr. Floyd was placed was unlikely to hurt suspects. During cross-examination, though, a prosecutor played body camera footage from the arrest which captured Mr. Floyd explicitly saying, “Everything hurts,” along with other exclamations of pain. Mr. Brodd said that he had heard these exclamations during his review of the tapes, but that he didn’t “note it.”

  • The prosecution and Mr. Brodd appeared to view the videos of the arrest from completely different perspectives. On several points, common ground was hard to find. For example, when watching video of Mr. Floyd pinned to the ground, Mr. Brodd said he thought that Mr. Floyd was resisting. The prosecutor, though, said Mr. Floyd was “writhing on the ground because he can’t breathe.”

  • Jurors also heard from a woman who was with Mr. Floyd just before police officers approached his vehicle, and they saw new body camera footage from Peter Chang, an employee of the Minneapolis Park Police and a licensed peace officer who responded to the scene of the arrest. Both witnesses provided new insight on Mr. Floyd’s condition before he was taken to a police cruiser and eventually pinned to the ground.

Credit…Still image, via Court TV
  • The woman, Shawanda Hill, said Mr. Floyd was “happy, normal, talking, alert” while in the Cup Foods convenience store before he was arrested. Ms. Hill said that Mr. Floyd had offered to give her a ride home, and they went to a vehicle together. Mr. Floyd then fell asleep while she took a phone call in the vehicle, she said. Other than being tired, Ms. Hill said, Mr. Floyd seemed normal, never complaining of shortness of breath or chest pains; the defense has suggested that Mr. Floyd died of complications from drug use and a heart condition.

  • In Mr. Chang’s body camera footage, Mr. Floyd can be seen handcuffed and sitting on the street as a police officer asked him for his name and birthday. Mr. Floyd answered the officer coherently and did not try to flee. The footage could benefit the prosecution, which has argued that the officers, particularly Mr. Chauvin, acted unreasonably during what should have been a routine interaction.

Judge Peter A. Cahill during former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial at Hennepin County District Court.
Credit…Still image, via Court TV

A common sight during the trial of Derek Chauvin has been the judge, the prosecutors and Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer putting on headphones and carrying on a conversation that cannot be heard on the livestream.

What is happening here is a common part of a court hearing, known as a sidebar. These are usually brief discussions between the lawyers and the judge about scheduling, a point of law or a matter that they do not want the jury to hear, such as arguments over whether an objection to a line of questioning will be sustained or overruled.

Traditionally, such discussions happen with the lawyers and the judge huddled together and speaking in hushed tones. But because of coronavirus protocols in this trial, the answer to the question, “May I approach the bench?” is a definite “No.” So by using microphones and headsets, and by playing white noise to the jurors, the sidebar can happen with the participants at a safe distance.

“Please understand we are not attempting to conceal anything from you which it is necessary for you to hear,” Judge Peter A. Cahill told the jury at the beginning of the trial.

And, he added, “Please do not attempt to listen in.”




How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody

The Times has reconstructed the death of George Floyd on May 25. Security footage, witness videos and official documents show how a series of actions by officers turned fatal. (This video contains scenes of graphic violence.)

It’s a Monday evening in Minneapolis. Police respond to a call about a man who allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Seventeen minutes later, the man they are there to investigate lies motionless on the ground, and is pronounced dead shortly after. The man was 46-year-old George Floyd, a bouncer originally from Houston who had lost his job at a restaurant when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Crowd: “No justice, no peace.” Floyd’s death triggered major protests in Minneapolis, and sparked rage across the country. One of the officers involved, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The other three officers have been charged with aiding and abetting murder. The Times analyzed bystander videos, security camera footage and police scanner audio, spoke to witnesses and experts, and reviewed documents released by the authorities to build as comprehensive a picture as possible and better understand how George Floyd died in police custody. The events of May 25 begin here. Floyd is sitting in the driver’s seat of this blue S.U.V. Across the street is a convenience store called Cup Foods. Footage from this restaurant security camera helps us understand what happens next. Note that the timestamp on the camera is 24 minutes fast. At 7:57 p.m., two employees from Cup Foods confront Floyd and his companions about an alleged counterfeit bill he just used in their store to buy cigarettes. They demand the cigarettes back but walk away empty-handed. Four minutes later, they call the police. According to the 911 transcript, an employee says that Floyd used fake bills to buy cigarettes, and that he is “awfully drunk” and “not in control of himself.” Soon, the first police vehicle arrives on the scene. Officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng step out of the car and approach the blue S.U.V. Seconds later, Lane pulls his gun. We don’t know exactly why. He orders Floyd to put his hands on the wheel. Lane reholsters the gun, and after about 90 seconds of back and forth, yanks Floyd out of the S.U.V. A man is filming the confrontation from a car parked behind them. The officers cuff Floyd’s hands behind his back. And Kueng walks him to the restaurant wall. “All right, what’s your name?” From the 911 transcript and the footage, we now know three important facts: First, that the police believed they were responding to a man who was drunk and out of control. But second, even though the police were expecting this situation, we can see that Floyd has not acted violently. And third, that he seems to already be in distress. Six minutes into the arrest, the two officers move Floyd back to their vehicle. As the officers approach their car, we can see Floyd fall to the ground. According to the criminal complaints filed against the officers, Floyd says he is claustrophobic and refuses to enter the police car. During the struggle, Floyd appears to turn his head to address the officers multiple times. According to the complaints, he tells them he can’t breathe. Nine minutes into the arrest, the third and final police car arrives on the scene. It’s carrying officers Tou Thao and Derek Chauvin. Both have previous records of complaints brought against them. Thao was once sued for throwing a man to the ground and hitting him. Chauvin has been involved in three police shootings, one of them fatal. Chauvin becomes involved in the struggle to get Floyd into the car. Security camera footage from Cup Foods shows Kueng struggling with Floyd in the backseat while Thao watches. Chauvin pulls him through the back seat and onto the street. We don’t know why. Floyd is now lying on the pavement, face down. That’s when two witnesses begin filming, almost simultaneously. The footage from the first witness shows us that all four officers are now gathered around Floyd. It’s the first moment when we can clearly see that Floyd is face down on the ground, with three officers applying pressure to his neck, torso and legs. At 8:20 p.m., we hear Floyd’s voice for the first time. The video stops when Lane appears to tell the person filming to walk away. “Get off to the sidewalk, please. One side or the other, please.” The officers radio a Code 2, a call for non-emergency medical assistance, reporting an injury to Floyd’s mouth. In the background, we can hear Floyd struggling. The call is quickly upgraded to a Code 3, a call for emergency medical assistance. By now another bystander, 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, is filming from a different angle. Her footage shows that despite calls for medical help, Chauvin keeps Floyd pinned down for another seven minutes. We can’t see whether Kueng and Lane are still applying pressure. Floyd: [gasping] Officer: “What do you want?” Bystander: “I’ve been —” Floyd: [gasping] In the two videos, Floyd can be heard telling officers that he can’t breathe at least 16 times in less than five minutes. Bystander: “You having fun?” But Chauvin never takes his knee off of Floyd, even as his eyes close and he appears to go unconscious. Bystander: “Bro.” According to medical and policing experts, these four police officers are committing a series of actions that violate policies, and in this case, turn fatal. They’ve kept Floyd lying face down, applying pressure for at least five minutes. This combined action is likely compressing his chest and making it impossible to breathe. Chauvin is pushing his knee into Floyd’s neck, a move banned by most police departments. Minneapolis Police Department policy states an officer can only do this if someone is, quote, “actively resisting.” And even though the officers call for medical assistance, they take no action to treat Floyd on their own while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Officer: “Get back on the sidewalk.” According to the complaints against the officers, Lane asks him twice if they should roll Floyd onto his side. Chauvin says no. Twenty minutes into the arrest, an ambulance arrives on the scene. Bystander: “Get off of his neck!” Bystander: “He’s still on him?” The E.M.T.s check Floyd’s pulse. Bystander: “Are you serious?” Chauvin keeps his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost another whole minute, even though Floyd appears completely unresponsive. He only gets off once the E.M.T.s tell him to. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, according to our review of the video evidence. Floyd is loaded into the ambulance. The ambulance leaves the scene, possibly because a crowd is forming. But the E.M.T.s call for additional medical help from the fire department. But when the engine arrives, the officers give them, quote, “no clear info on Floyd or his whereabouts,” according to a fire department incident report. This delays their ability to help the paramedics. Meanwhile, Floyd is going into cardiac arrest. It takes the engine five minutes to reach Floyd in the ambulance. He’s pronounced dead at a nearby hospital around 9:25 p.m. Preliminary autopsies conducted by the state and Floyd’s family both ruled his death a homicide. The widely circulated arrest videos don’t paint the entire picture of what happened to George Floyd. Crowd: “Floyd! Floyd!” Additional video and audio from the body cameras of the key officers would reveal more about why the struggle began and how it escalated. The city quickly fired all four officers. And Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder. Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting murder. But outrage over George Floyd’s death has only spread further and further across the United States.

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The Times has reconstructed the death of George Floyd on May 25. Security footage, witness videos and official documents show how a series of actions by officers turned fatal. (This video contains scenes of graphic violence.)

On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, after a convenience store employee called 911 to report that Mr. Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Mr. Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life.

By combining videos from bystanders and security cameras, reviewing official documents and consulting experts, The New York Times reconstructed in detail the minutes leading to Mr. Floyd’s death. Our video shows officers taking a series of actions that violated the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department and turned fatal, leaving Mr. Floyd unable to breathe, even as he and onlookers called out for help.

Live coverage of the trial is shown on a phone outside of the courthouse where Derek Chauvin’s trial is being held in Minneapolis.
Credit…Jenn Ackerman for The New York Times

The trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd is unusual for many reasons: It is being livestreamed from Minneapolis, attendance is severely limited because of the coronavirus and the public’s interest in the case may make this one of the highest-profile trials in recent memory.

The trial can be watched on, via a livestream provided by Court TV, which is also airing the trial in full. Witness testimony and lawyers’ presentations of evidence should last several weeks before the jury begins to deliberate over the verdict.

Among the people allowed in the courtroom, on the 18th floor of the Hennepin County Government Center, are: the judge, jurors, witnesses, court staff, lawyers, Mr. Chauvin and only a handful of spectators.

The judge, Peter A. Cahill, wrote in an order on March 1 that only one member of Mr. Floyd’s family and one member of Mr. Chauvin’s family would be allowed in the room at any time. Two seats that are reserved for reporters and various journalists, including from The New York Times, will be rotating throughout the trial.

The lawyers, spectators, jurors and witnesses are required to wear masks when they are not speaking. Spectators are prohibited from having any visible images, logos, letters or numbers on their masks or clothing, according to Judge Cahill’s order.

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