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Derek Chauvin Trial Live Updates: Drug Use Returns as Focus as Lead Investigator Testifies

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This image from a police body camera shows people gathering as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was recorded pressing his knee on George Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Credit…Minneapolis Police Department, via Associated Press

Since the first day of the trial of Derek Chauvin, it has been one of the central arguments in his defense: that the bystanders who witnessed George Floyd’s arrest last May in Minneapolis also influenced Mr. Chauvin’s actions.

On Wednesday, Eric J. Nelson, a lawyer for Mr. Chauvin, returned again to the crowd of people who had gathered outside Cup Foods and watched Mr. Chauvin kneel on Mr. Floyd, their voices raised and their cellphones recording. Mr. Nelson repeated insults that had been heard on videos from that day and suggested that the bystanders made up an aggressive, unpredictable group.

Asked if the crowd was growing “more excited,” a use-of-force expert for the prosecution, Sgt. Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department, answered, “They became more concerned.”

Police policies generally advise how officers should react when they are being heckled by bystanders or filmed with smartphones, an increasingly common occurrence, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit in Washington.

Three other officers were present during Mr. Floyd’s arrest, and in an ideal situation, Mr. Wexler said, Mr. Chauvin would not have been directly monitoring the crowd.

“There’s a division of labor there,” Mr. Wexler said. “You would hope that there would be enough officers so that some can handle the crowd. But Officer Chauvin should be focused on Mr. Floyd and his well-being, and the other officers should be focused on the crowd.”

Derek Chauvin’s lawyer has suggested today that George Floyd shouted, “I ate too many drugs,” as he was handcuffed on the ground. The first expert he asked said he couldn’t make out what Floyd was saying. But this time, the Minnesota special agent who led the investigation into Floyd’s death said he agrees that’s what Floyd said. The defense has argued that drug use explains Floyd’s death, rather than his restraint by Derek Chauvin.

We’re back to a discussion of both cars in the case — the one George Floyd was in when police arrived and the squad car officers tried to put him in — being searched twice. The defense is trying to forestall any suggestion that the reason drugs with George Floyd’s DNA on them were not found the first time the police squad car was searched is because the drugs were somehow planted later.

Judge Peter A. Cahill during former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial at Hennepin County District Court.
Credit…Still image, via Court TV

A common sight during the trial of Derek Chauvin has been the judge, the prosecutors and Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer putting on headphones and carrying on a conversation that cannot be heard on the livestream.

What is happening here is a common part of a court hearing, known as a sidebar. These are usually brief discussions between the lawyers and the judge about scheduling, a point of law or a matter that they do not want the jury to hear, such as arguments over whether an objection to a line of questioning will be sustained or overruled.

Traditionally, such discussions happen with the lawyers and the judge huddled together and speaking in hushed tones. But because of coronavirus protocols in this trial, the answer to the question, “May I approach the bench?” is a definite “No.” So by using microphones and headsets, and by playing white noise to the jurors, the sidebar can happen with the participants at a safe distance.

“Please understand we are not attempting to conceal anything from you which it is necessary for you to hear,” Judge Peter A. Cahill told the jury at the beginning of the trial.

And, he added, “Please do not attempt to listen in.”

Two cars involved in George Floyd’s death had to be processed twice by crime scene investigators. In a particularly embarrassing incident, Derek Chauvin’s lawyers went to look at the police squad car in January, more than six months after his death, and spotted what turned out to be half-chewed pills that had Floyd’s DNA on them.

Prosecutors seem to be trying to steal some of the defense’s thunder by laying out details of the two searches now with James Reyerson of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

The court has resumed with the testimony of Senior Special Agent James D. Reyerson of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, whose agency investigates police use of force. He was the lead investigator into the death of George Floyd and is describing how the investigation unfolded.

The prosecution is bringing up the question of Floyd’s drug use with Reyerson, who is discussing how he investigated Floyd’s death, inspected the crime scene and examined autopsy test results. Prosecutors have spent considerable time during their presentation of the case dealing with defense assertions that drugs played a role in Floyd’s death.

A boarded-up bank building across the street from the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial of Derek Chauvin is taking place.
Credit…Jim Mone/Associated Press

Midway through the second week of the trial of Derek Chauvin, more than 20 witnesses have already taken the stand for the state. Next, the defense will present their witnesses, before the trial moves into closing arguments and, finally, jury deliberation.

Witness testimony is expected to last at least through the end of next week. On Friday, Judge Peter A. Cahill dismissed court early, saying that the trial was ahead of schedule.

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’s unclear how many will actually appear.

Closing arguments could come as soon as the week after next, then the jury will begin deliberating. The jury can take as long as it needs to deliver a verdict.

A St. Paul police officer stepping out of a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension van.
Credit…Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune, via Associated Press

The second witness to take the stand in the trial of Derek Chauvin on Wednesday was a special agent with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Other employees of the agency are also expected to testify. So, what is it?

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is a state police agency with a range of responsibilities, from investigating murders to testing specimens at a laboratory. Since 2014, it has also investigated all police killings by the Minneapolis Police Department and other “critical incidents,” such as when someone dies in custody.

The agency took over the investigation into George Floyd’s death on the night he died and led the inquiry that resulted in the arrest of Mr. Chauvin and the three other officers who were involved in the arrest of Mr. Floyd.

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is based in St. Paul and has more than 300 employees, including agents, scientists and other staff, according to its website. It was created by state lawmakers in 1927.

Special Agent James Reyerson, who began to testify at trial on Wednesday morning, was the agent who interviewed the Minneapolis police chief as part of the agency’s investigation into Mr. Floyd’s death.

In that interview, in June, Chief Medaria Arradondo told Mr. Reyerson, as well as an F.B.I. agent, that he had met with various community leaders the morning after Mr. Floyd’s death to discuss what had happened, according to a transcript of the interview.

Chief Arradondo told the agents that he made the decision to fire the four officers at the scene of Mr. Floyd’s arrest just after noon on May 26, the day after Mr. Floyd had died. He described it as a “weighty” and “emotional” decision, but said that members of his leadership team — whom he implored to be honest with him — “unequivocally agreed that that was the right decision.”

The court is taking a break for lunch, after hearing James Reyerson of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension offer another view of the night of George Floyd’s death. As he began his initial investigation that evening, he watched a portion of a video that had been posted on Facebook, collected body-camera videos and audio from a 911 call, then arrived at the scene well after midnight.

The prosecution has called Senior Special Agent James D. Reyerson of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to the stand. His agency investigates police use of force. Reyerson headed the bureau’s investigation of George Floyd’s death and conducted interviews with key players, including Medaria Arradondo, the Minneapolis police chief. He is the agent who signed the criminal complaints against all four officers involved in Floyd’s death.

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Police Expert Describes Derek Chauvin’s Use of ‘Pain Compliance’

In his testimony, Sergeant Stiger explained a training policy to reward an individual complying during an arrest with a reduction of pain.

“So here you can see the defendant’s right hand grasping the fingers of Mr. Floyd’s left hand — [cross talk] appears to be squeezing him.” “And you use that term ‘pain compliance.’ Can you please describe what that means?” “Yes, so pain compliance is a technique that officers use to get a subject to comply with their commands — as they comply, then they are rewarded with the reduction of pain.” “So is it your testimony then that the drawing of the fingers down and the wrist down towards the handcuffs could induce pain?” “Yes, especially because the handcuffs were not double-locked, double-locked, meaning that they were not, they could continue to ratchet tighter as the person moved.” “Were you able to hear instances of what you recognize to be ratcheting during your review of the body-worn cameras?” “Yes.” “So in the principle of pain compliance, if I’m to understand your testimony, you would inflict pain for the purpose of having the subject obey your command?” “Yes, comply.” “What if there’s no opportunity for compliance?” “Then at that point it’s just pain.”

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In his testimony, Sergeant Stiger explained a training policy to reward an individual complying during an arrest with a reduction of pain.CreditCredit…Court TV still image, via Reuters

A use-of-force expert with the Los Angeles Police Department testified on Wednesday that Derek Chauvin had used “deadly force” on George Floyd at a time when it was not appropriate to use any force.

Sgt. Jody Stiger, who works with the L.A.P.D. Inspector General’s Office to investigate wrongdoing in the department, reviewed evidence in the Chauvin case for prosecutors and said Mr. Chauvin had put Mr. Floyd at risk of positional asphyxia, a key point for prosecutors who have argued that Mr. Floyd died of asphyxia, meaning a loss of oxygen.

Sergeant Stiger said that even being handcuffed and in a prone position can make it harder to breathe.

“When you add body weight to that, it just increases the possibility of death,” he said.

The testimony from Sergeant Stiger came on the eighth day of the trial of Mr. Chauvin, who has been charged with murdering Mr. Floyd. The sergeant has said that the officers who arrested Mr. Floyd were initially justified in using force to try to put him in the back of a police car and put him in the prone position, but “should have slowed down or stopped their force” once Mr. Floyd was on the ground.

Sergeant Stiger said on Wednesday that while Mr. Chauvin knelt on Mr. Floyd, he had appeared to use a “pain compliance” technique on one of Mr. Floyd’s hands. Sergeant Stiger said Mr. Chauvin could be seen, in body camera video, either pushing Mr. Floyd’s knuckles together or pulling his wrist against his handcuffs to hurt him. The sergeant said he could hear the handcuffs ratcheting tighter in one of the videos.

Those techniques may be appropriate to get a person to comply with police commands, Sergeant Stiger said, but he indicated that there was no opportunity for Mr. Floyd to comply.

“At that point, it’s just pain,” Sergeant Stiger said.

In response to a prosecutor’s question about the bystanders who filmed Mr. Floyd’s arrest and shouted at the officers who were there, Sergeant Stiger said he did not find them to be a threat, rebutting one of the defense’s arguments that the bystanders may have diverted Mr. Chauvin’s attention from Mr. Floyd’s condition.

But in the cross-examination of Sergeant Stiger, the lawyer for Mr. Chauvin, Eric J. Nelson, played a short video of Mr. Floyd handcuffed on the ground and asked the sergeant if it sounded like Mr. Floyd was saying, “I ate too many drugs.” Sergeant Stiger said he could not make out what Mr. Floyd had said, at which point Mr. Nelson asked him if things can be “missed” in a chaotic scene. The sergeant agreed that they could.

Sergeant Stiger also agreed, in response to Mr. Nelson’s questioning, that it would have been appropriate for Mr. Chauvin to use a Taser on Mr. Floyd when he first arrived on scene, given that Mr. Floyd appeared to be resisting officers’ efforts to get him into a police car. Still, the jury has heard from many experts — including Sergeant Stiger — who said that the appropriate level of force changed once Mr. Floyd was on the ground and no longer resisting.

Mr. Nelson also emphasized that the sergeant was an outside expert who worked for the Los Angeles Police Department, which he joined in 1993, and might not be as familiar with Minneapolis police policies.

Mr. Nelson also highlighted that the Minneapolis Police Department’s policies on using force give discretion to officers. He read from one portion of the department’s policy that says that the reasonableness of an officer’s use-of-force has to be judged “from the perspective of the reasonable officer on the scene rather than with the 20-20 vision of hindsight.”

Repeatedly, the defense has suggested or insisted that Derek Chauvin’s knee was on George Floyd’s shoulder, not his neck. One reason this is important: The medical examiner cited “neck compression” as a cause of death.

Derek Chauvin’s lawyer is returning once again to one of his core arguments throughout his questioning of prosecution witnesses, asserting that the bystanders at the scene could have distracted Chauvin during his restraint of George Floyd and influenced his behavior and decision-making.

Testimony has resumed, and this is key: The defense is trying to get Sgt. Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department, the prosecution’s use-of-force expert, to say that suspects who appear subdued or unconscious can start to fight again. But the witness says that in evaluating appropriate use of force, officers can only go by the suspect’s actions, not what they might do.

Sgt. Stiger is really pushing back, insisting that what the officer is allowed to do depends not just on what the use-of-force policy says but what the suspect is actually doing.

The court has taken its midmorning break after testimony, yet again, about how common it has become for bystanders to take video of police officers. It’s worth noting that the image of the bystanders that the prosecution keeps showing depicts only about a dozen people — it’s hard to see how, after the massive protests of last summer, the jury could see this crowd as a serious threat or distraction.

During his questioning of the L.A.P.D. use-of-force expert, Derek Chauvin’s lawyer played a short video of the moment George Floyd was handcuffed on the ground and asked if it sounded like Floyd was saying, “I ate too many drugs.” The expert, Sgt. Jody Stiger, said he could not make out what Floyd had said. Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, who has argued that fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd’s system may have caused his death, then asked Stiger if things can be “missed” in a chaotic scene. The sergeant agreed.

Derek Chauvin’s lawyer wins a concession from the prosecutors’ use-of-force expert, Sgt. Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department, who acknowledges that it would have been appropriate for Chauvin to use a Taser on George Floyd when he first arrived on the scene. At the time, Floyd was resisting officers’ efforts to get him into a police car. Still, this expert and others have emphasized that as a situation changes, the level of force that it is reasonable for the police to use changes as well.

Minneapolis police officers attempt to remove George Floyd from a vehicle on May 25, 2020, outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis.
Credit…Court TV still image, via Associated Press

The phrase “proportional force” or “proportional use of force” has been mentioned several times during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis officer who has been charged with the death of George Floyd.

So what is it exactly? Proportional force is the idea that the force that a police officer is supposed to use on a suspect, including the use of chokeholds or other neck restraints, should not be more intense than necessary.

The manual of the Minneapolis Police Department states that neck restraints and chokeholds are basically reserved for when an officer feels caught in a life-or-death situation.

When determining the level of force to use, officers should consider the severity of the crime, the mental condition of the person under arrest, whether the person is resisting or presents a threat to the officer, and other factors that may influence the situation.

The manual further explains that the conscious neck restraint may be used against a subject who is “actively resisting,” while rendering the person unconscious should be limited to someone who is aggressive or “for lifesaving purposes.”

Most police departments have based their policies on a Supreme Court case, Graham v. Connor, which acknowledges that reasonableness depends on the situation, Sgt. Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department and an expert on use of force, testified on the stand.

Whenever possible, officers should seek to de-escalate the situation, he said.

This expert, Sgt. Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department, is testifying that most police departments base their use-of-force policies on a Supreme Court decision, Graham v. Connor, which acknowledges that “reasonableness” depends on the situation. It says that when using force, officers must consider the severity of the accused crime (in George Floyd’s case, the use of a suspected counterfeit $20 bill), whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of officers or others, and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest.

The defense attorney, Eric Nelson, is once again trying to introduce a level of uncertainty or wiggle room about what constitutes a reasonable use of force, pointing out that under Graham v. Connor, it has to be reasonable in the moment, without the use of 20/20 hindsight. The defense’s challenge is that this case does not involve split-second decision-making by an officer — it involves 9 minutes and 29 seconds of kneeling on a suspect.

The defense has made the argument that the bystanders watching Minneapolis police restrain George Floyd constituted a hostile crowd that distracted the officers from monitoring Floyd’s condition. But Sgt. Stiger, the L.A.P.D. expert, disagrees: “They were merely filming, and most of their concern was for Mr. Floyd.”

The prosecution has repeatedly shown a still image of the bystanders using their phones to film, to show that they were not doing any of the things that the experts have defined as aggressive, such as throwing bottles or physically interfering with police officers.

Sgt. Jody Stiger, the use-of-force expert from the Los Angeles Police Department who is now testifying, said that Derek Chauvin was using “deadly force” by pinning George Floyd on the ground at a time that “no force” should have been used. He said the pressure of Chauvin’s body weight could have caused “positional asphyxia, which could cause death.”

Sgt. Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department, an expert who called Derek Chauvin’s use of force “excessive” on Tuesday, acknowledges as he resumes testimony on Wednesday morning that a kick by George Floyd as he is being restrained by the Minneapolis police could have been reasonably interpreted by the officers arresting him as active resistance, a point for the defense. Many of the use-of-force witnesses have made similar statements.

It’s important to remember, though, that such comments are not necessarily bad for the prosecution — they may help the expert witnesses appear independent and credible in the eyes of the jury.

Sergeant Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department testifying on Tuesday.
Credit…Court TV still image, via Reuters

Sgt. Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department, who is expected to be the only outside expert to testify for the state about police training and use of force, returned to the stand on Wednesday.

Sergeant Stiger said Wednesday that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was using “deadly force” by pinning George Floyd on the ground at a time that “no force” should have been used. He said the pressure of Chauvin’s body weight could have caused “positional asphyxia, which could cause death.”

Sergeant Stiger said that even being handcuffed and in a prone position can make it harder to breathe. “When you add body weight to that, it just increases the possibility of death,” he said.

On Tuesday, Sergeant Stiger was asked directly about Mr. Chauvin’s actions in the arrest, and he was blunt: “My opinion was that the force was excessive.”

Sergeant Stiger, a former Marine, joined the Los Angeles Police Department in 1993, according to a spokeswoman for the department. He holds the rank of sergeant II and serves as an aide to the office of the Inspector General, the body that oversees the police department and conducts performance audits, reviews use-of-force incidents and handles complaints of officer misconduct. He is the only sworn officer on staff.

Sergeant Stiger served as a tactics instructor for in-service training for Los Angeles police officers for six years, during which he provided training regarding use-of-force policy and state law to about 3,000 officers, he said during his testimony.

Sergeant Stiger was paid a flat fee of $10,000, as well as a trial fee, to review reports, video footage of the incident, training policies and other materials and ultimately make a judgment about whether the use of force by Mr. Chauvin was appropriate.

Members of the Native American community are preparing for possible unrest again after a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, pictured in a mural near where he was arrested last year.
Credit…Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times

The regular updates that Johnny Crow’s girlfriend gives him about the former officer Derek Chauvin’s trial trigger reminders of how the Native American community in Minneapolis rallied to support one another in the months after George Floyd died.

The American Indian Center, where Mr. Crow works, was near areas that were damaged in protests after Mr. Floyd’s death. Based in South Minneapolis, they organized community watches and gave members advice on those nights, he said. The threat of unrest during or after the trial is still a concern, Mr. Crow said.

“To hear the trial, it brings a lot of memories — definitely some worry,” Mr. Crow said. Community members are prepared to protect the area again, especially once a verdict is read, he said. “I think no matter what the verdict is, there will be people who are upset.”

Mr. Crow said he was encouraged to hear Medaria Arradondo, the police chief, testify on Monday that Mr. Chauvin had violated department policy when he knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.

“That shouldn’t be allowed, to put a knee on somebody, especially someone that’s not resisting,” Mr. Crow said. “But, also, my experience is, on the South Side, if you press your knee on anyone’s neck, they are going to resist. That’s survival instinct.”

Mr. Crow said that in the American Indian Movement a prime directive was to protect community members from the police and the violence perpetrated against Native Americans.

“We will have community watch again,” he said. “It did help on Franklin Avenue. Just having people out there keeping watch.”

Mr. Crow recalled riding around the neighborhood after Mr. Floyd’s death and seeing the community’s pain. “It was really shocking,” he said. “A lot of people were hurt and angry. To see that firsthand, it was tough.”

Prosecutors presented evidence during the testimony during the trial at Hennepin County District Court.
Credit…Still image, via Court TV

Proceedings on Wednesday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, are expected to begin with continued testimony from Sgt. Jody Stiger of the Los Angeles Police Department, a use-of-force expert called by prosecutors.

Sergeant Stiger said on Tuesday that he believed that Mr. Chauvin used excessive force when he knelt on Mr. Floyd for more than nine minutes last May. He was one of several law enforcement officials who testified for prosecutors, though some of their testimony may have been useful for Mr. Chauvin’s defense.

The trial has moved full force into its second phase, where the jury is hearing arguments about whether Mr. Chauvin violated police policy or acted within the bounds of his training. While much of the testimony seemed to bolster the arguments of prosecutors, who are seeking to convince jurors that Mr. Chauvin acted unlawfully and outside of official protocol, the defense may have also made some headway on Tuesday.

Sergeant Stiger testified that Mr. Floyd was resisting arrest when responding officers tried to place him in a police cruiser outside the Cup Foods convenience store in Minneapolis. He also said that, according to his viewing of police body camera footage, Mr. Floyd at one point kicked at the officers. Still, Sergeant Stiger said Mr. Floyd stopped resisting at some point when he was handcuffed and face down on the pavement.

At that point, Mr. Chauvin’s force became excessive, Sergeant Stiger said. Even after Mr. Floyd became unresponsive, Mr. Chauvin did not move his knee or roll Mr. Floyd onto his side.

Another witness, Officer Nicole Mackenzie, the medical support coordinator for the Minneapolis Police Department, provided testimony that seemed to support a primary argument of the defense: That the crowd of bystanders, some of whom yelled at the officers during Mr. Floyd’s arrest, may have hindered Mr. Chauvin’s ability to render aid to Mr. Floyd or to move his knee.

Lt. Johnny Mercil, a veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department and a use-of-force instructor, also said that vocal bystanders could raise alarm with officers. And Sgt. Ker Yang, a crisis intervention coordinator with the department, said that officers sometimes have to juggle several factors, such as a suspect’s well-being and the volatility of an angry crowd nearby, when making an arrest.

Though the defense may have made headway with these arguments, other testimony could have aided the prosecution. Lieutenant Mercil testified that Mr. Chauvin’s position, with his knee on Mr. Floyd, was not consistent with the Minneapolis Police Department’s training on use of force. He also said officers should “use the lowest level of force possible” when controlling a subject.

On Day 7 of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of murder in the death of George Floyd, people gathered outside the courthouse and in front of Cup Foods.

A patron of a laundromat near Cup Foods watching the Derek Chauvin trial on Monday.
Credit…Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times

Viewer interest in television coverage of the trial of Derek Chauvin has been high, according to ratings data from Nielsen.

Several cable channels, including CNN and MSNBC, have broadcast large portions of the trial live, and one cable network, HLN, has shown it in its entirety since the proceedings started on March 29. For several days last week, CNN’s highest ratings came in the afternoon, during witness testimony, rather than during its prime-time hours.

Mr. Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd last year, faces charges of manslaughter, second-degree murder and third-degree murder.

On Thursday, roughly 3.7 million viewers were watching trial coverage on the three channels during the afternoon testimony of former Sgt. David Pleoger, who supervised Mr. Chauvin and testified that he should have “ended” his restraint after Mr. Floyd became unresponsive. That audience was larger than the number of people tuning into any other cable program that day. “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the most watched cable show on Thursday, drew three million viewers.

On Monday, the trial continued to attract a large viewing audience. CNN’s 3 p.m. hour, which featured testimony from Medaria Arradondo, the Minneapolis police chief, averaged 1.4 million viewers, the network’s highest total for the day, including its prime-time hours. HLN had an average of 470,000 viewers between 3 and 4 p.m. on Monday, also its most-viewed hour of the day.

The Nielsen figures do not reflect people who watched the trial on separate streaming outlets or on digital devices. Court TV is also broadcasting and streaming live trial coverage in its entirety. Fox News, the most-watched cable news network, has not been carrying the trial live since it broadcast the trial’s opening hours on March 29.

HLN, a channel formerly known as CNN2 and CNN Headline News that is owned by CNN’s parent company, AT&T’s WarnerMedia, had its highest daytime ratings since 2013, when it covered the trial of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black teenager, according to Nielsen. HLN’s audience figures only continued to spike as the week went on.

“The numbers show that there is a high level of interest,” said Ken Jautz, an executive vice president of CNN, who oversees HLN, in an interview.

“This trial raises so many prominent and searing societal issues,” he continued. “Issues of policing practices, and how law enforcement treats people of color.”

On MSNBC, viewership figures for the morning portion of the trial went up throughout its first week. On March 29, 929,000 viewers watched the trial as it began just after 10:30 Eastern time. By Friday, the fifth day, MSNBC viewership figures for the morning portion had risen to 1.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

The figures are nothing close to interest to the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial. Roughly 50 million people watched the trial’s conclusion from their homes, a figure that may have been three times that size if the number of people watching it at work, at school or in airports or restaurants had been factored in.

The Chauvin trial is expected to last several weeks, and the three cable news networks are likely to continue broadcasting significant portions of it.

Prosecutors presenting police guidance on the use of neck restraints during the trial of the former officer Derek Chauvin.
Credit…Still image, via Court TV

Even as several members of the Minneapolis Police Department have criticized Derek Chauvin’s use of force against George Floyd, they have acknowledged that using force is a necessary part of policing. And data shows that reports of force are extremely rare, although the outcome can sometimes be significant.

Since 2018, there have been 14 reported incidents of officers’ using neck restraints in which the person it was being used on became unconscious, according to data from the department. The most recent incident was in February 2020 in which a 20-year-old Black male was restrained during a traffic stop for “verbal noncompliance,” the data said. Since 2012, there had been 310 instances in which neck restraints were used and the subject did not lose consciousness.

A central question for jurors in this trial will be whether it was appropriate for Mr. Chauvin to kneel on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Johnny Mercil, a Minneapolis police lieutenant who provided use-of-force training to Mr. Chauvin, testified that officers were trained to “use the lowest level of force possible in order to meet those objectives.”

In many ways, this phase of the trial is putting police tactics on trial. Minneapolis residents, particularly African-Americans, have been highly critical of the Police Department, which they say has brutalized their communities. Since 2015, the Police Department has used force against Black residents at seven times the rate that it did against white residents, according to a New York Times analysis of police data last year.

About 20 percent of Minneapolis’s 430,000 residents are Black, but nearly 62 percent of the time that officers used force, it was against Black residents, according to the data.

Police officials argue that although the use of force may get a lot of attention, it is exceedingly rare. The data shows that there have been 4.3 million calls for service since 2008, but force was reported in just 13,472 of those instances, or just .31 percent of the time.

For residents who live in heavily policed areas, however, constant harassment by the police, even when force is not used, has left a bad impression. And shocking cases like Mr. Floyd’s can tend to overshadow the fact that force might be rarely used.

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How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody

The Times has reconstructed the death of George Floyd on May 25. Security footage, witness videos and official documents show how a series of actions by officers turned fatal. (This video contains scenes of graphic violence.)

It’s a Monday evening in Minneapolis. Police respond to a call about a man who allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Seventeen minutes later, the man they are there to investigate lies motionless on the ground, and is pronounced dead shortly after. The man was 46-year-old George Floyd, a bouncer originally from Houston who had lost his job at a restaurant when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Crowd: “No justice, no peace.” Floyd’s death triggered major protests in Minneapolis, and sparked rage across the country. One of the officers involved, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The other three officers have been charged with aiding and abetting murder. The Times analyzed bystander videos, security camera footage and police scanner audio, spoke to witnesses and experts, and reviewed documents released by the authorities to build as comprehensive a picture as possible and better understand how George Floyd died in police custody. The events of May 25 begin here. Floyd is sitting in the driver’s seat of this blue S.U.V. Across the street is a convenience store called Cup Foods. Footage from this restaurant security camera helps us understand what happens next. Note that the timestamp on the camera is 24 minutes fast. At 7:57 p.m., two employees from Cup Foods confront Floyd and his companions about an alleged counterfeit bill he just used in their store to buy cigarettes. They demand the cigarettes back but walk away empty-handed. Four minutes later, they call the police. According to the 911 transcript, an employee says that Floyd used fake bills to buy cigarettes, and that he is “awfully drunk” and “not in control of himself.” Soon, the first police vehicle arrives on the scene. Officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng step out of the car and approach the blue S.U.V. Seconds later, Lane pulls his gun. We don’t know exactly why. He orders Floyd to put his hands on the wheel. Lane reholsters the gun, and after about 90 seconds of back and forth, yanks Floyd out of the S.U.V. A man is filming the confrontation from a car parked behind them. The officers cuff Floyd’s hands behind his back. And Kueng walks him to the restaurant wall. “All right, what’s your name?” From the 911 transcript and the footage, we now know three important facts: First, that the police believed they were responding to a man who was drunk and out of control. But second, even though the police were expecting this situation, we can see that Floyd has not acted violently. And third, that he seems to already be in distress. Six minutes into the arrest, the two officers move Floyd back to their vehicle. As the officers approach their car, we can see Floyd fall to the ground. According to the criminal complaints filed against the officers, Floyd says he is claustrophobic and refuses to enter the police car. During the struggle, Floyd appears to turn his head to address the officers multiple times. According to the complaints, he tells them he can’t breathe. Nine minutes into the arrest, the third and final police car arrives on the scene. It’s carrying officers Tou Thao and Derek Chauvin. Both have previous records of complaints brought against them. Thao was once sued for throwing a man to the ground and hitting him. Chauvin has been involved in three police shootings, one of them fatal. Chauvin becomes involved in the struggle to get Floyd into the car. Security camera footage from Cup Foods shows Kueng struggling with Floyd in the backseat while Thao watches. Chauvin pulls him through the back seat and onto the street. We don’t know why. Floyd is now lying on the pavement, face down. That’s when two witnesses begin filming, almost simultaneously. The footage from the first witness shows us that all four officers are now gathered around Floyd. It’s the first moment when we can clearly see that Floyd is face down on the ground, with three officers applying pressure to his neck, torso and legs. At 8:20 p.m., we hear Floyd’s voice for the first time. The video stops when Lane appears to tell the person filming to walk away. “Get off to the sidewalk, please. One side or the other, please.” The officers radio a Code 2, a call for non-emergency medical assistance, reporting an injury to Floyd’s mouth. In the background, we can hear Floyd struggling. The call is quickly upgraded to a Code 3, a call for emergency medical assistance. By now another bystander, 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, is filming from a different angle. Her footage shows that despite calls for medical help, Chauvin keeps Floyd pinned down for another seven minutes. We can’t see whether Kueng and Lane are still applying pressure. Floyd: [gasping] Officer: “What do you want?” Bystander: “I’ve been —” Floyd: [gasping] In the two videos, Floyd can be heard telling officers that he can’t breathe at least 16 times in less than five minutes. Bystander: “You having fun?” But Chauvin never takes his knee off of Floyd, even as his eyes close and he appears to go unconscious. Bystander: “Bro.” According to medical and policing experts, these four police officers are committing a series of actions that violate policies, and in this case, turn fatal. They’ve kept Floyd lying face down, applying pressure for at least five minutes. This combined action is likely compressing his chest and making it impossible to breathe. Chauvin is pushing his knee into Floyd’s neck, a move banned by most police departments. Minneapolis Police Department policy states an officer can only do this if someone is, quote, “actively resisting.” And even though the officers call for medical assistance, they take no action to treat Floyd on their own while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Officer: “Get back on the sidewalk.” According to the complaints against the officers, Lane asks him twice if they should roll Floyd onto his side. Chauvin says no. Twenty minutes into the arrest, an ambulance arrives on the scene. Bystander: “Get off of his neck!” Bystander: “He’s still on him?” The E.M.T.s check Floyd’s pulse. Bystander: “Are you serious?” Chauvin keeps his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost another whole minute, even though Floyd appears completely unresponsive. He only gets off once the E.M.T.s tell him to. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, according to our review of the video evidence. Floyd is loaded into the ambulance. The ambulance leaves the scene, possibly because a crowd is forming. But the E.M.T.s call for additional medical help from the fire department. But when the engine arrives, the officers give them, quote, “no clear info on Floyd or his whereabouts,” according to a fire department incident report. This delays their ability to help the paramedics. Meanwhile, Floyd is going into cardiac arrest. It takes the engine five minutes to reach Floyd in the ambulance. He’s pronounced dead at a nearby hospital around 9:25 p.m. Preliminary autopsies conducted by the state and Floyd’s family both ruled his death a homicide. The widely circulated arrest videos don’t paint the entire picture of what happened to George Floyd. Crowd: “Floyd! Floyd!” Additional video and audio from the body cameras of the key officers would reveal more about why the struggle began and how it escalated. The city quickly fired all four officers. And Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder. Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting murder. But outrage over George Floyd’s death has only spread further and further across the United States.

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The Times has reconstructed the death of George Floyd on May 25. Security footage, witness videos and official documents show how a series of actions by officers turned fatal. (This video contains scenes of graphic violence.)

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.

Patrons and employees at Urban Touch Barbers & Salon watch the trial of Derek Chauvin on televisions.
Credit…Aaron Nesheim for The New York Times

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. Witness testimony and lawyers’ presentations of evidence should last several weeks before the jury begins to deliberate over the verdict.

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 are reserved for reporters, and various journalists, including from The New York Times, are 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.


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