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Minneapolis Top Cop to Testify Against Accused Floyd Killer (1)

March 29, 2021, 4:05 PMUpdated: March 29, 2021, 6:16 PM

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo will headline the case against a former officer accused of killing George Floyd, the prosecution said as the trial began Monday.

Prosecutors used their opening statement to cast former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin as an outlier who violated police protocols when he knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest in 2020. Chauvin’s trial isn’t about “all police or all policing,” attorney Jerry Blackwell said in opening remarks for the prosecution.

Chauvin “betrayed” the Minneapolis police “badge when he used excessive and unreasonable force upon the body of Mr. George Floyd,” Blackwell said.

Proper use of police force and medical signs of death were the crux of Blackwell’s opening remarks. Video of Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests and calls for Chauvin and the other officers on the scene to be held criminally responsible.

“You can believe your eyes that it’s homicide. It’s murder. You can believe your eyes,” Blackwell told the jury.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson said the video doesn’t represent the totality of the case and must be weighed with other evidence about Chauvin’s actions.

“The evidence is far greater than 9 minutes and 29 seconds,” Nelson said.

Reasonable Doubt

Chauvin faces a second-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 40 years. Chauvin was also charged with third-degree murder, which carries a penalty of up to 25 years, and manslaughter, with a maximum sentence of 10 years.

“We’re going to prove to you that Mr. Chauvin’s conduct was a substantial cause of Mr. Floyd’s death,” said Blackwell, the chairman and founding partner of Blackwell Burke PA, and among the attorneys assisting the prosecution pro bono.

Arradondo will testify for the prosecution, which also plans to call bystanders who witnessed Floyd’s arrest, Blackwell said.

“A number of bystanders called the police on the police,” Blackwell said as he cast Chauvin’s actions as “imminently dangerous behavior” that violated police protocols.

Nelson previewed evidence he plans to introduce supporting his case that Chauvin didn’t cause Floyd’s death and that his actions were in-line with his 19 years of police training, which includes authorized use of force, crowd control, and de-escalation.

“What would a reasonable police officer do?” Nelson said. “You will hear that Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do.”

However, the first witness called, a 911 dispatcher named Jena Scurry, said she was so disturbed by Chauvin’s behavior that she phoned a police sergeant with her concerns.

“You can call me a snitch if you want to,” she said in audio played at the trial.

Role of Drugs

Nelson said that it wasn’t Chauvin’s hold on Floyd that caused his death, but the combination of medical issues including hypertension and an enlarged heart, adrenaline, and a “speedball”—containing both methamphetamine and fentanyl—consumed by Floyd.

Blackwell during his opening remarks had also addressed the role of drug use in the trial.

Individuals overdosing aren’t “screaming for their lives. They’re not calling for their mothers,” Blackwell said. “That’s not what an opioid overdose looks like.”

Nelson acknowledged the national publicity of the trial and the protests that erupted after Floyd’s death, asking jurors to set that aside.

The case is “about the evidence,” Nelson said, and “nothing more than that.”

“There is no political or social cause in this courtroom,” he added.

(Updated with additional reporting throughout.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Ian Lopez in Washington at ilopez@bloomberglaw.com; Ayanna Alexander in Washington at aalexander@bloomberglaw.com; Adam M. Taylor in Washington at ataylor@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrew Childers at achilders@bloomberglaw.com; Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergindustry.com