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  • Writer's pictureTigger Lunney

Chauvin Trial Day 1: Additional Charges and Review of Motions

The first day of the trial of Derek Chauvin for the May 25, 2020 murder of George Floyd focused almost entirely on procedural issues, largely dominated by the question of the court’s jurisdiction over reinstating a charge of 3rd degree murder.

As detailed here the key issue of the day was whether or not Derek Chauvin would be tried for 3rd degree murder in addition to the more severe charge of 2nd degree murder and lesser charges, including manslaughter. Questions of the District Court and judge Peter Cahill’s jurisdiction over the charge, which was ordered to be reconsidered by the Minnesota Court of Appeals, lead Cahill to delaying jury selection until tomorrow, although he wrapped today’s proceedings by stating, “Unless the Court of Appeals tells me otherwise, we’re going to keep going.” The prosecution has been pushing to reinstitute the 3rd degree murder charge, while Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, has objected and indicated that they may appeal the Court of Appeal’s ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court. This could potentially delay the trial.

Court returned from recess shortly after 1:30 pm. With Bridgett Floyd, George Floyd’s sister in attendance, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank and Nelson reviewed and presented objections to previously filed motions for Judge Cahill’s decision. While most discussion of motions was not contentious, Nelson continued to press for admission of video and other details from a prior arrest of Floyd’s in May 2019. Cahill pushed Nelson to demonstrate the relevance of this evidence, since Chauvin did not participate in or have direct knowledge of that arrest, and seemed unconvinced by Nelson’s argument. Cahill did, however, state that he would make a determination on that specific issue at a later time.

The prosecution will not be calling the independent medical examiners privately contracted by Floyd’s family to testify, instead relying on the original Hennepin County autopsy report and subsequent reviews.

Attorneys for both sides made their arguments in a mostly empty courtroom, plexiglass panels serving to separate individuals and protect them from potential transmission of Covid-19. These restrictions, including one seat for Floyd’s family and one seat for Chauvin’s, will continue for the duration of the trial. Participation from additional attorneys for the prosecution via teleconference seemed to be hampered by technical issues after the mid-day recess.

Attorneys for both sides met and conferred earlier in the day to preemptively strike several members of the jury pool for cause, and to negotiate a reduction of witness list by March 22nd. There are approximately 400 witnesses between the prosecution’s and defense’s lists.

The trial will resume tomorrow with continued discussion of motions at 8 AM and jury selection beginning at 9 AM.

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