Trial in George Floyd’s Death: Charges Against Derek Chauvin, Jury and What Else You Need To Know

The trial known as State of Minnesota v.

Derek Chauvin

was set to begin this week in Hennepin County District Court in Minneapolis with jury selection and the hearing of pretrial motions. But the proceedings stopped after prosecutors on Monday asked the state Court of Appeals to order a delay until the courts decide whether Mr. Chauvin should face a third-degree murder charge in the May death of George Floyd.

Jury selection is expected to last two to three weeks.

Opening arguments are slated for March 29. The prosecution will give its opening first. The defense can either respond right away or wait until its turn to present testimony after the prosecution rests. The two sides are expected to take two to four weeks to make their cases before the case gets sent to the jury.

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is being tried for second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday highlights how prosecutors and the defense may present their case. Photo: Nicholas Pfosi/Reuters

Who will be on the jury and how will they be chosen?

The jury will be made up of 12 Hennepin County residents and four alternates. Prospective jurors have been given a long questionnaire, asking how they feel about Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, and whether they think they can abide by the presumption of innocence.

Either side can petition the judge to reject a juror for cause. If the judge agrees, that juror is removed from the pool. If not, the defense has 15 challenges it can use to remove jurors for almost any reason, while the prosecution has 9 of these peremptory challenges. Each side can also raise objections to those challenges, if they think the real reason for the dismissal is based on race alone.

The judge has said in filings that the jury will be identified only by number and that any personal information will be stricken from the 14-page questionnaire they filled out. Prospective members of the jury will enter the courtroom through passages with no public access. Their faces won’t be shown on television or in live streams of the proceedings.

What started the case?

Mr. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who worked part time as a security guard, was arrested by police on May 25 for allegedly using a forged $20 bill at a convenience store called Cup Foods.

Derek Chauvin was arrested four days after the Memorial Day death of George Floyd.


Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office/Associated Press

Derek Chauvin, a white, longtime Minneapolis police officer, was one of four officers trying to get Mr. Floyd into a patrol car.

In widely circulated video footage, Mr. Floyd can be seen facedown on the ground and losing consciousness, as Mr. Chauvin placed a knee on his neck for around eight minutes, as the other former officers assisted.

The county medical examiner ruled the death a homicide and listed the cause as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression.” The county autopsy also indicated Mr. Floyd suffered from heart disease and had drugs in his system.

The defense has argued that the drugs and heart disease caused Mr. Floyd’s death, noting that the medical examiner found no evidence of injury to his neck and back.

What are the charges?

Mr. Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree murder—unintentional, while committing a felony—and second-degree manslaughter. The other three former officers have been charged with abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter and are expected to face trial in August. Lawyers for all four have made filings indicating they aren’t guilty.

What is the issue over third-degree murder?

The state had initially charged Mr. Chauvin with third-degree murder, which involves a death resulting from a reckless act that threatens the lives of others. District Judge

Peter Cahill,

the judge overseeing Mr. Chauvin’s trial, in October dismissed the third-degree charge on grounds that the statute applies only when more than one person is threatened by the act.

On Feb. 1, the Minnesota Court of Appeals, the state’s second-highest court, decided the reckless-act language applied even when only one person was threatened. The appellate court was upholding the third-degree murder conviction of another officer in a separate case, former Minneapolis police officer

Mohamed Noor.

Later that month, Judge Cahill rejected prosecutors’ request to reinstate the third-degree murder charge against Mr. Chauvin, saying that the ruling in Mr. Noor’s case could still be appealed to the state Supreme Court. The state’s highest court has since accepted Mr. Noor’s appeal.


How do you expect the trial of Derek Chauvin will play out? Join the conversation below.

The Court of Appeals on Friday rejected Judge Cahill’s argument, saying he must accept its decision in Mr. Noor’s case as binding precedent. Mr. Chauvin’s attorney said he plans to appeal the appellate court’s decision to the state Supreme Court.

Prosecutors argue that trial can’t proceed until they know whether higher courts say third-degree murder could be applied in the Chauvin case.

Adding to the uncertainty, Judge Cahill might ultimately reject a third-degree murder charge, if the defense puts forth a different argument, according to the appellate court’s opinion.

Write to Joe Barrett at

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Source: WSJ – US News

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