What we know from the first week of Derek Chauvin's trial

Former Officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial wrapped up its first week in Minneapolis. Here are some of the takeaways.


Former Officer Derek Chauvin's murder trial wrapped up its first week in Minneapolis.

The white former officer is accused of killing Floyd by pinning his knee on the Black man's neck last May. Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for more than 9 minutes during Floyd's arrest on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

Chauvin faces charges of murder and manslaughter, and Floyd's death triggered massive protests and scattered violence around the U.S.

Here are some of the highlights from the testimony so far.

Opening remarks made

The video of Floyd gasping for breath was essentially Exhibit A as the trial began Monday.

The white officer "didn't let up" even after a handcuffed Floyd said 27 times that he couldn't breathe and went limp, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said.

Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson countered by arguing Chauvin "did exactly what he had been trained to do." Floyd was fighting efforts to put him in a squad car, Nelson said.

The defense attorney also disputed that Chauvin was to blame for Floyd's death. Floyd, 46, had none of the telltale signs of asphyxiation and he had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, Nelson said. He said Floyd's drug use, combined with his heart disease, high blood pressure and the adrenaline flowing through his body, caused a heart rhythm disturbance that killed him.

Blackwell, however, rejected the argument that Floyd's drug use or any underlying health conditions were to blame, saying it was the officer's knee that killed him.

Chauvin's lawyer also has argued that the police on the scene were distracted by what they perceived as a growing and increasingly hostile crowd. Video showed somewhere around 15 onlookers not far from where Floyd lay on the pavement.

Scene depicted differently

To the prosecution, the witnesses who watched George Floyd's body go still were regular people going about their daily lives when they happened upon the ghastly scene of an officer kneeling on a man's neck. Blackwell, the prosecutor, has called them "a veritable bouquet of humanity."

But some of those people are being portrayed at trial as unruly, angry, even threatening by Nelson, Chauvin's attorney. Nelson has talked about the hostility the officers faced, how they were distracted and perhaps frightened by people at the scene.

Girlfriend testifies

Floyd's girlfriend took the stand Thursday, testifying amid tears.

Prosecutors put Courteney Ross, 45, on the stand as part of an effort to humanize Floyd in front of the jury and portray him as more than a crime statistic, and also explain his drug use.

She detailed how they both struggled mightily with an addiction to opioids.

"Our story — it's a classic story of how many people get addicted to opioids. We both suffered from chronic pain. Mine was in my neck and his was in his back," Ross said on Day Four of the murder trial.

Police testify

The head of the Minneapolis Police Department's homicide division, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, testified Friday that kneeling on the neck of someone who is handcuffed and lying on his stomach is top-tier, deadly force and "totally unnecessary."

David Pleoger, a now-retired Minneapolis police sergeant who was on duty the night Floyd died, said that based on his review of the body camera video, officers should have ended their restraint after Floyd stopped resisting.

Minneapolis police dispatcher Jena Scurry testified that she saw part of Floyd's arrest unfolding via a city surveillance camera and was so disturbed that she called a duty sergeant. Scurry said she grew concerned because the officers hadn't moved after several minutes.

"You can call me a snitch if you want to," Scurry said in her call to the sergeant, which was played in court. She said she wouldn't normally call the sergeant about the use of force because it was beyond the scope of her duties, but "my instincts were telling me that something is wrong."

Bystander testifies

Bystander Donald Williams, who said he was trained in mixed martial arts, including chokeholds, testified that Chauvin appeared to increase the pressure on Floyd's neck several times with a shimmying motion. He said he yelled to the officer that he was cutting off Floyd's blood supply.

Williams recalled that Floyd's voice grew thicker as his breathing became more labored, and he eventually stopped moving. He said he saw Floyd's eyes roll back in his head, likening the sight to fish he had caught earlier that day.

Cashier expresses regret

Christopher Martin, a 19-year-old Cup Foods cashier, testified Wednesday that he watched Floyd's arrest outside with "disbelief — and guilt."

Floyd allegedly handed him a counterfeit bill for a pack of cigarettes.

"If I would've just not tooken the bill, this could've been avoided," Martin lamented.

Martin said he immediately believed the $20 bill was fake. But he said he accepted it, despite believing the amount would be taken out of his paycheck by his employer, because he didn't think Floyd knew it was counterfeit and "I thought I'd be doing him a favor."

Martin then second-guessed his decision and told a manager, who sent Martin outside to ask Floyd to return to the store. But Floyd and a passenger in his SUV twice refused to go back into the store to resolve the issue, and the manager had a co-worker call police, Martin testified.

Martin said that when Floyd was inside the store buying cigarettes, he spoke so slowly "it would appear that he was high." But he described Floyd as friendly and talkative.

Videos shown

Video is playing a huge role in the early stages of the trial.

Nelson, the defense attorney, in his opening statement said the bystander video is just one exhibit among hundreds that will be entered into evidence.

That evidence, he said, includes video from officers' body cameras. He said the totality of the evidence would paint a different picture and help prove his client's innocence.

After the ambulance took Floyd away, Chauvin defended himself to a bystander by saying Floyd was "a sizable guy" and "probably on something," according to police video played in court Wednesday.

Prosecutors clearly want the images and sounds of Floyd, pleading nearly 30 times that he couldn't breathe and calling for his mother, to stay fixed in jurors' minds throughout the trial and into deliberations.

"He put his knee upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him, until the very breath ... until the very life, was squeezed out of him," Blackwell told jurors.

Under rules of trial procedure in Minnesota, jurors can ask the judge if they can see video evidence again.