Chauvin Trial Day 7: Judge Hears Additional Defense Arguments about 2019 Arrest Video
Updated: Mar 18, 2021
Eric Nelson, the attorney for Derek Chauvin, continued to push for inclusion of video of George Floyd’s 2019 arrest today, citing similarities between the two events as important to his defense. This is not the first time his motion has been discussed since the trial of Chauvin for Floyd’s murder began on March 8th, but Judge Peter Cahill seemed more swayed by Nelson’s new arguments in favor of his motion than at any point so far in the trial. Cahill has indicated that he will rule on the issue tomorrow, in a day where discussion of this motion and others dominated the proceedings, while all eight of the potential jurors interviewed in voir dire were dismissed.
Given that Nelson’s case for including the video of Floyd’s prior arrest is based on similarities between the two situations, it’s striking that one major similarity has not been explored: the way the police act with a basic disregard for Floyd’s dignity and the dignity of the people around them. In fact, in the 2019 video, there’s a moment where an officer yells at Floyd, who appears to be in a complete panic and crying, “Be a MAN!”
One year later, as Floyd lay dying in the street with Chauvin’s knee on his neck, with multiple bystanders, including eyewitnesses Genevieve Hansen and Donald Williams, begging Chauvin and his fellow officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas Lane to at least check on Floyd, one on the police yelled at the gathering crowd, “This is why you don’t do drugs, kids!”
These are not the similarities that Nelson highlights in his motion to introduce the video. They have not been discussed. And attorneys for the prosecution have and should continue to fight to exclude the video, because the courtroom is not the place to examine these similarities. But by far, the sheer, toxic disrespect of multiple Minneapolis Police officers towards the very citizens they’re supposedly tasked with “protecting and serving” is the most important connection between the two videos.
It speaks to a cowboy culture of dominance and abuse, one in which the law is simply a catalyst for ego, where the difference between being treated with human dignity and being mocked, belittled, and treated anything but human is as capricious as an officer’s mood at the moment.
Introduction of the video is certainly intended to help Chauvin’s defense, to show that George Floyd had, in the past, been arrested and knew what to expect. To also show that on both occasions, Floyd ingested high levels of illegal drugs rather than have them found in his possession. And while Nelson certainly can’t argue this in court, it’s obvious that the hope is that the jury will reach the same conclusion as the officers in both videos: that George Floyd was someone not worthy of being treated with an ounce of dignity. And while Cahill still seems less than likely to rule in favor of Nelson’s motion, there’s something more than a little off about the idea that videos of a handcuffed Black man, terrified and crying for his mother, with police officers mocking him and bystanders to their face, can somehow justify Chauvin’s actions.
Court adjourned this afternoon will Cahill stating that he would rule on the video motion on Wednesday. He also granted Nelson’s motion that the jurors seated last week, before the $27m settlement with Floyd’s family became public, be questioned to see if that news compromised their ability to be impartial. Cahill will interview each juror via zoom Wednesday morning. Cahill is still considering Nelson’s motion for a continuance and change of venue due to the news of the settlement, while attorney for the State Steve Schleicher argued that the settlement had not been a significant cause for dismissal of all but one of the jurors struck today, and with over 200 more potential jurors available in the pool, neither delaying or moving the trial should be necessary.