Mar 29, 2021 - News

Derek Chauvin trial opening statements: What to expect

Photo illustration of a collage of the Hennepin County Government Center, and a protester holding a portrait of George Floyd.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photos: Chandan Khanna, Stephen Maturen and Michael Siluk/Getty Images

All eyes are on Minneapolis as opening statements in the Derek Chauvin trial begin this morning.

The big picture: Ten months after Floyd's killing rocked the world, many see the trial as a defining moment in our collective reckoning with issues of race and justice.

What to expect: Day one includes instructions to the jury and opening statements. What actually caused Floyd's death will likely be a central theme of the arguments and testimony to come.

  • Chauvin's defense is expected to point to an underlying heart condition and a "high level of fentanyl in his system" as factors, said Mary Moriarty, the former Hennepin County chief public defender.
  • The prosecution, meanwhile, will rely heavily on medical examiner testimony and argue that "what substantially caused [Floyd's] death, was the compression and the actions by the former officers" as Chauvin held his knee to Floyd's neck.

Outside the courthouse, expect protests and a heavy (and growing) security presence.

Of note: As we've reported, convictions of police officers are rare, even when a fatal encounter is caught on camera.

  • But unlike in those other cases, experts say it's hard to argue that Chauvin's actions were self-defense or the result of a "split-second" decision made in the line of duty.

What to watch: The trial will undoubtedly bring renewed attention to the debate over the future of policing in Minneapolis and beyond.

  • The campaign manager for one proposal to overhaul MPD told Torey they're on track to collect signatures needed to qualify for the ballot by April 30.

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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