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Chauvin Trial: State Expected to Portray Defendant as Aggressive, ‘Mark Fuhrman’ Type in Opening Arguments

The issue of race has remained dominant in the conversation about this case, and state prosecutors are sure to continue playing upon it.

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(MINNEAPOLIS, MN) – Opening arguments in State of Minnesota vs. Derek Chauvin are set to begin on Monday morning, as prosecutors are expected to portray the defendant, Chauvin, as an aggressive cop with racial animus towards the victim, George Floyd, who died while in the care of Chauvin and other police officers in May of 2020. The defense will rely heavily on medical evidence in its case to cast doubt on the state’s argument that Floyd’s death was ‘substantially’ caused by Chauvin kneeling on his neck.

If you’ve been following pre-trial events both inside and outside the courtroom, the issue of race has remained dominant in the conversation about this case.

And yet we’ve known from the very beginning, when the state first filed charges against the defendant, Derek Chauvin, on May 29th, 2020, for causing the death of George Floyd, Minnesota’s ‘hate crime’ statute, 609.2233, was never and still isn’t part of state’s charges against Chauvin – which currently stand at second degree murder and second degree manslaughter.

This key point has been largely absent from the media coverage of the case, statements and actions by state and city officials, and Floyd’s family attorneys – and it’s been quite the opposite actually. This all belies even the summer of ‘racial’ protests that Minneapolis and the nation endured.

George settlement press conference
The $27 million “George Floyd settlement press conference” was streamed live by the city of Minneapolis on March 12, 2021 during the first week of  jury selection in the criminal case. Mayor Jacob Frey spoke at the podium (pictured above) with a masked Benjamin Crump (left), the Floyd family’s lead attorney.

On the eve of quite possibly the highest profile criminal case in several decades – think this generation’s O.J. Simpson Trial – race again takes center stage:

The event that sparked all of this talk of race stemmed from the horribly tragic scene caught on video of a white police officer, Chauvin, kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man, who later died while in the care of Chauvin and the other officers.

But none of the officers involved, including the principal defendant, Mr. Chauvin, now ex-cop, who was fired after the incident by the Minneapolis Police Department, led by Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, also a black man, have been charged with any racial animus or bias attached to the state’s hate crime statute.

Opening statements in criminal cases in Minnesota typically do not include visual aids, such as pictures, audio and video – it’s still unclear if both sides have agreed to allow them. But if they are allowed in, you can be almost certain the now infamous bystander video taken of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck that went viral around the world will be shown by the state during its opening statement.

What to expect from the state’s opening arguments:

Jerry Blackwell

Jerry Blackwell

Attorney Jerry Blackwell will give the state’s opening arguments. Blackwell is the founding partner, CEO and chairman of Blackwell Burke P.A. He is also founder of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. He was not involved in questioning potential jurors.

The defendant, Chauvin, is likely to be painted as a ‘Mark Fuhrman’ type, conjuring up images in the jurors’ heads who might remember the evidence that O.J. Simpson’s defense team presented in that other high profile criminal case. Expect Chauvin to be described as an aggressive cop with allegations he had some level of (how far will Blackwell go with this?) racial animus towards Floyd, and showed criminal intent by keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck long after Floyd cried out ‘I can’t breath’ to officers.

What to expect from the defense’s opening arguments:

Eric Nelson

Eric Nelson

Lead defense attorney Eric Nelson will give the defense’s opening arguments. Nelson is managing partner at Halberg Criminal Defense, and also works with a team of attorneys at Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association – the organization that is funding Chauvin’s defense. He also led the jury selection process for the defense.

Nelson is expected to focus on the medical evidence in the case, including giving jurors a preview of what they will hear from witness testimony, including the Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner, regarding Floyd’s post-mortem toxicology report – making the argument that there’s reasonable doubt that Floyd could not have died only because of Chauvin’s actions. In addition, those actions, i.e. the knee restraint, were approved police training at the time. The jury could also hear Nelson poke holes in the investigation, including delayed release of the ME’s findings to the public and a botched first search of the police squad car Floyd was detained in.

Buckle up America.

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Editor’s note, updated 1 April 2021: During its opening arguments, the state announced to the jury it was adding back in the 3rd degree murder charge. Here’s an excellent breakdown of the charges and their related statutes in this case.

SEE ALSO DAY 1 LIVESTREAMS:

Opening statements
Witness/Cross-Exam testimony
Witness/Cross-Exam testimony
Witness/Cross-Exam testimony

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