Esme Murphy Recaps Derek Chauvin's Trial Ahead Of Verdict

The jury reached a verdict Tuesday at the murder trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, the Black man who was pinned to the pavement with a knee on his neck (5:27). WCCO 4 News - April 20, 2021

Video Transcript

JASON DERUSHA: Esme has covered so many trials in her career at WCCO. And we knew the facts of this trial were going to make this unlike any other. But Esme, the COVID restrictions that the court has been under has changed so much about this trial.

First of all, the fact that we all get to see it for our viewers on CBSN watching around the country. Normally in Minnesota we don't have cameras in a criminal courtroom. And so normally, we wouldn't be able to see any of this. The fact we've been able to see at all has been remarkable. But Esme, everything about the way the verdict is read is going to be different-- again, because people aren't allowed into the Government Center that's behind you.

ESME MURPHY: Right. Well, I think the actual reading of the verdict will be very much the same in the courtroom. What is different, of course, is the fact that this is televised. And this is the first trial in Minnesota history to be televised. And I think it's been a success.

You know, I was actually in the courtroom a couple of days and actually got to talk to the judge before court started. Actually, the last time I was there was the day of opening statements. And he kind of said, you know, I think this is going pretty well. And by that he meant this experiment with cameras in the courtroom.

And I said, I think it's going very well. You know, people that I've talked to who've been watching it, I think, really appreciate that they can see this important trial. This trial matters. What happened to George Floyd matters. What happens with this jury matters. And people have got to see it.

And you mentioned the bystanders. I think it was really extraordinary that we got to see those bystanders, because I thought they were incredible. They did such a good job coming to court-- which is, goodness knows, intimidating-- and getting up there and telling their truth and explaining what happened.

What was so remarkable about them is that, you know, I've said before, when you sometimes have six people watch a traffic accident, you'll get six versions of what happened. They really spoke with one voice. They all really talked about the horror they felt, and it was still very raw. And they also talked about the guilt they felt, that somehow they could have done something, or they thought they could have done something, or they should have done more or done something to help George Floyd.

JASON DERUSHA: Boy, Esme, that's something I'll never forget-- witness after witness testifying how they felt the guilt that they should have intervened. From Darnella Frazier, who took that video that went viral here and around the world to the 911 dispatcher, on and on, all of those witnesses. Boy, it breaks your heart, you know?

ESME MURPHY: It really does. And then you even go to people who were sort of not some of the major eyewitnesses. Christopher Martin, who was the clerk-- he's 19 years old right now, which means he would have been 18. He was in high school. After-school job.

He's told by his boss that if he collects and receives any fake bills, it's going to get docked out of his salary. And he sees that it's a fake bill. Actually, I thought it kind of looked like a pretty good bill to me. I mean, he was able to recognize that it was a counterfeit bill. And he said that he feels guilty.

And they asked him why. The prosecutor asked, why do you feel guilt? And he said, because if I hadn't reported this, none of this would have happened. It's not that kid's fault. It's not that kid's fault. But it was just so telling to know that that's been on him all this time.

JASON DERUSHA: We know from talking to jurors in other major cases and here in Minnesota, the case of officer Mohamed Noor was a very major case, the first time a police officer was convicted of murder in one of these deaths in police custody. And in that case, the jury also took about 10 hours, similar deliberation time. But a case, again, that was not televised, and we didn't get to see and get to know all of the witnesses. And frankly, there were fewer witnesses. That was such a different scenario. That was a more typical police interaction, where the defense was more along the lines of making a split-second decision.

ESME MURPHY: Right, absolutely split-second decision. And you also had Officer Noor testify in that case. And Officer Noor, that was the case where he made a split-second decision. He heard a noise from outside the squad car. He took his weapon, and he fired it across his partner's chest, and he killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond.

And he testified about that. He testified that he was fearful. You saw what he was going through. And he was really very good on the stand. He did not get the acquittal that he wanted. But you did get his testimony.

And that's what you get in some of these split-second decision cases. You get the officer testifying to explain what was going on. Derek Chauvin didn't do that. And I think that there are a lot of questions about why he didn't do that. I think he would have had a very tough time under cross-examination. These prosecutors are very, very good, and I think that they really would have gone after him tremendously.

But it is interesting. 10 hours is about the same time. That, of course, that trial ended with a conviction on third-degree murder. So we will see. That is one of the charges that Derek Chauvin is facing.

JASON DERUSHA: All right. Esme Murphy, thank you.