Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
John Minchillo/Associated Press
Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
John Minchillo/Associated Press
Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
Protests erupted near the Brooklyn Center Police Department for a fourth night Wednesday after Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by an officer on Sunday. Kimberly A. Potter, the officer who shot Mr. Wright, was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree manslaughter. The shooting has become another flash point in the protests for racial justice that have swept the country.
Perhaps the biggest question in the Derek Chauvin trial on Thursday is whether the former Minneapolis police officer who is charged with murdering George Floyd will testify in his own defense.
Judge Peter A. Cahill has said that if the proceedings continue ahead of schedule, the court will not convene on Friday, and that he expects closing arguments to begin as soon as Monday. That means Thursday could be the final day for the defense team to present its case.
It has used this week to call two expert witnesses — one use-of-force expert and one medical expert — who testified that Mr. Chauvin did not violate police policy and that his actions did not cause Mr. Floyd’s death.
Though Mr. Chauvin may have benefited from those two witnesses, testifying on his own behalf is risky. Jurors could dislike him, and he could open himself up to difficult questions from prosecutors, who have displayed their prowess at cross-examinations this week.
If Mr. Chauvin does take the stand on Thursday, his testimony will come at a tense moment. In a Minneapolis suburb less than 10 miles from the courthouse, a white police officer fatally shot a Black man as he resisted arrest on Sunday. Officials said that the officer, Kimberly A. Potter, meant to pull her Taser, but accidentally drew her handgun before shooting 20-year-old Daunte Wright.
Ms. Potter, who has resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department, was charged with manslaughter on Wednesday and released on bail. Protesters have demonstrated in Brooklyn Center every night this week, and the mood remains uneasy in the Twin Cities. Mr. Floyd’s death last year led to the largest wave of protests that America had seen in decades, and officials are urging people to demonstrate peacefully as these two events — the aftermath of the shooting of Mr. Wright, and the trial of Mr. Chauvin — unfold together.
Dr. David Fowler, a former chief medical examiner of Maryland who has testified in numerous high-profile police use-of-force cases, told the court on Wednesday that Mr. Floyd died from sudden cardiac arrhythmia, and he did not cite Mr. Chauvin’s use of force as a contributing cause.
He said he believed that several other factors could have spurred Mr. Floyd’s death: pre-existing heart problems, drug use, and even carbon monoxide exhaust from the vehicle near Mr. Floyd as he was restrained.
“You put all of those together, it’s very difficult to say which of those is the most accurate,” he said, characterizing Mr. Floyd’s cause of death as “undetermined.”
Dr. Fowler’s testimony contradicted those of several experts called by the prosecution, including a cardiologist and a pulmonologist.
He disputed the notion that the prone position that Mr. Chauvin kept Mr. Floyd in for nine and a half minutes was dangerous, citing studies about whether such a position can cause asphyxia. Some of the prosecution’s witnesses said those studies did not accurately depict real-life scenarios.
Jerry Blackwell, the prosecutor who cross-examined Dr. Fowler, got Dr. Fowler to agree that sudden cardiac arrest is often reversible and that Mr. Floyd should have been given medical attention.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered for a fourth night outside a police station in suburban Minneapolis on Wednesday, protesting the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright by a police officer.
Carrying signs that said “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice No Peace,” a crowd assembled in the rain outside the Brooklyn Center, Minn., police station, and confrontations between protesters and law enforcement officials began nearly immediately. After several skirmishes in which protesters threw bottles of water and milk, the police fired several flash-bang grenades over the crowd. They used pepper spray and fired marker rounds, which can stain clothing.
Shortly after 9 p.m., the police declared the assembly “unlawful” and ordered the crowd to disperse, but hundreds of people remained, some trying to shield themselves with wooden barricades.
A helicopter flew low over the scene, shining a spotlight on the crowd. Protesters and police officers alike found themselves gagging on pepper spray.
After 10 p.m., the hour set as an official curfew by the Brooklyn Center mayor, state troopers marched from the south toward the protesters, knocking over the wooden barriers and plastic trash barrels separating them from the crowd and forcing demonstrators to the east. More officers arrived from the north. Most in the crowd fled. The police said on Twitter that they had begun arresting those protesters who had ignored orders to leave.
News that Kimberly A. Potter, the officer who fired the shot that killed Mr. Wright, had been charged with second-degree manslaughter drew mixed reaction from activists.
Ariana Buford, 25, of Brooklyn Center, said the potential penalty seemed light given Ms. Potter’s long experience as a police officer. “The charges need to be more severe,” she said. “She’s been a police officer longer than I’ve been alive.”
Keveon Ford, 45, a private contractor from Coon Rapids, Minn., said the charge was appropriate given the police claim that Ms. Potter had shot Mr. Wright by accident, appearing to mistake her handgun for her Taser. But he worried that she would not be convicted.
“Why can’t police be held accountable for their actions?” he asked. “This is the only profession where you aren’t held accountable.”
Ms. Potter was arrested on Wednesday, a day after she resigned from the Brooklyn Center Police Department, and was released on bail after posting $100,000 bond, according to a spokesman for the sheriff’s department.
Hundreds of people have faced off with the police in Brooklyn Center each night since Mr. Wright’s death on Sunday, with the region already on edge amid the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer charged with murdering George Floyd last May.
The defense began presenting its witnesses on Monday, after more than 30 witnesses took the stand for the state during the first two weeks of the trial of Derek Chauvin.
Witness testimony for the defense is expected to last at least through the end of the week before the trial moves into closing arguments and, finally, jury deliberation. Mr. Chauvin, 45, faces second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd.
Judge Peter A. Cahill said this week that if the defense’s case continues ahead of schedule, the court would not convene on Friday so that closing arguments would not happen until Monday. As soon as closing arguments are finished, the jury will be sequestered and can take as long as it needs to deliver a verdict.
Jury selection — eight days of intense questioning to potential jurors about their political biases and views on racism and policing — began on March 9. Ultimately, 12 jury members and two alternates were chosen.
Both sides delivered opening statements on March 29, which were followed by the prosecution calling their witnesses to the stand. Each witness is questioned by the state, then cross-examined by the defense. Questioning goes back and forth between the state and the defense.
Each side submitted a list of potential witnesses to the judge ahead of the trial: The state submitted the names of 363 potential witnesses, and the defense listed 212, but it was unclear how many would actually appear.
During breaks or parts of the Derek Chauvin trial that cannot be broadcast, the camera delivering the live feed of the proceedings will often pan away to a copy of the Great Seal of the State of Minnesota that is affixed to the wall behind the judge.
For those wondering what they’re looking at, the phrase on the seal says, “L’Étoile du Nord,” which is French for “The Star of the North.”
As for the other images and symbols on it, the Minnesota secretary of state’s website says “the cultivated ground and plow symbolize the importance of agriculture” to the state while the Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls are featured as a nod to its natural resources.
There are also three examples of the state tree, known as the red pine or the Norway pine, and the stump in the foreground is a recognition of Minnesota’s timber industry. The sun at the horizon is said to be shining across the plains that cover much of the state.
“The American Indian on horseback represents the great American Indian heritage of the state,” the website adds, “while the horse, spear, ax, rifle and plow represent important tools that were used for hunting and labor.”
On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, after a convenience store employee called 911 to report that Mr. Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Mr. Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life.
By combining videos from bystanders and security cameras, reviewing official documents and consulting experts, The New York Times reconstructed in detail the minutes leading to Mr. Floyd’s death. Our video shows officers taking a series of actions that violated the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department and turned fatal, leaving Mr. Floyd unable to breathe, even as he and onlookers called out for help.
The trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd is unusual for many reasons: It is being livestreamed from Minneapolis, attendance is severely limited because of the coronavirus and the public’s interest in the case may make this one of the highest-profile trials in recent memory.
The trial can be watched on nytimes.com, via a livestream provided by Court TV, which is also airing the trial in full.
Among the people allowed in the courtroom, on the 18th floor of the Hennepin County Government Center, are: the judge, jurors, witnesses, court staff, lawyers, Mr. Chauvin and only a handful of spectators.
The judge, Peter A. Cahill, wrote in an order on March 1 that only one member of Mr. Floyd’s family and one member of Mr. Chauvin’s family would be allowed in the room at any time. Two seats that are reserved for reporters and various journalists, including from The New York Times, will be rotating throughout the trial.
The lawyers, spectators, jurors and witnesses are required to wear masks when they are not speaking. Spectators are prohibited from having any visible images, logos, letters or numbers on their masks or clothing, according to Judge Cahill’s order.