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Opening Statements Made In Chauvin Trial

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The murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin began Monday, reports Jeff Wagner (3:46). WCCO 4 News At 6 - March 29, 2021

Video Transcript

FRANK VASCELLARO: Here's a live shot of the crowd outside of the Hennepin County Government Center. They are calling for justice as the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer is now underway. It has been 10 months since the death of George Floyd set off protests all around the country.

AMELIA SANTANIELLO: Today, the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin began. Jurors heard opening statements from the prosecution and defense attorneys. The state started by showing them the entire video of Chauvin with his knee on George Floyd's neck.

JERRY BLACKWELL: At the end of this case, that you find Mr. Chauvin guilty for his excessive use of force against George Floyd-- that was an assault, that contributed to taking his life-- and for engaging in imminently dangerous behavior, putting the knee on the neck, the knee on the back, for 9 minutes and 29 seconds without regard for Mr Floyd's life.

AMELIA SANTANIELLO: Derek Chauvin's attorney is asking jurors to use common sense when they consider a medical cause for Floyd's death.

ERIC NELSON: Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his 19 year career. The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing.

AMELIA SANTANIELLO: We have team coverage of the day's events inside and outside the courtroom. We want to start with Jeff Wagner, who has details of what unfolded in court today. Hi, Jeff.

JEFF WAGNER: Hi, Amelia. You know, in addition to opening statements, the prosecution called its first three witnesses to the stand with a focus on video of that deadly arrest as evidence in addition to the witnesses' testimony. For roughly an hour, prosecutors led off opening statements by humanizing George Floyd.

JERRY BLACKWELL: He was somebody to a lot of other bodies in the world.

JEFF WAGNER: And reinforcing that his death was the result of former officer Derek Chauvin's use of excessive force by kneeling on his neck. The infamous cell phone video playing out in its entirety for the jury.

JERRY BLACKWELL: You can believe your eyes that it's a homicide. It's murder. You can believe your eyes.

JEFF WAGNER: The defense countered by emphasizing Floyd died for different reasons.

ERIC NELSON: The evidence will show that Mr. Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia that occurred as a result of hypertension, his coronary disease, the ingestion of methamphetamine and fentanyl, and the adrenaline flowing through his body.

JEFF WAGNER: Jenna Scurry was the first witness to testify. The 911 dispatcher handled the initial call and watched the arrest unfold from a city surveillance camera. She called a police supervisor when she saw officers pinning Floyd to the ground.

JENNA SCURRY: My instincts were telling me that something's wrong. Something was not right. I don't know what, but something wasn't right.

JEFF WAGNER: Next up was Alisha Oyler, who worked at the Speedway gas station at 38th and Chicago. She recorded several cell phone videos of the arrest, showing the agitated crowd gathering near police.

ALISHA OYLER: I always see the police. They're always messing with people. And it's wrong, and it's not right.

JEFF WAGNER: The final witness was Donald Williams, who was in the crowd of people near the arrest. He shared what he saw based on his experience as a mixed martial arts fighter.

DONALD WILLIAMS: Just like in MMA, you can tell when someone's getting tired, or you can tell when someone's getting choked out or things like that. His breathing was getting tremendously heavy, tremendously harder for him to breathe. And you actually could hear him, you could see him struggling to actually gasp for air.

JEFF WAGNER: Williams' testimony took an interesting turn. The judge actually paused the questioning, had the jury leave the courtroom, because not only is Williams a witness to that deadly arrest, the prosecution is leaning on his expertise as an MMA fighter. They're using his opinions to analyze how Chauvin was handling Floyd. Now, Williams' testimony will continue first thing tomorrow morning.

AMELIA SANTANIELLO: All right. Thank you, Jeff.