Hastily-erected 12-foot fences with barbed wire, razor wire and concrete barriers surround the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, Minn. It's there to provide a buffer between the District Court in which Derek Chauvin will be tried in the death of George Floyd, and demonstrators from at least 20 groups who have converged on the city.
The case is rare in that it will seek to convict a former Minneapolis police officer in the murder of a civilian. The now former officer is white and the civilian is Black. The demonstrators demanded justice and police reform.
Michele Norris, journalist and founding director of The Race Card Project, set the context for the trial with a tweet:
News cycle we are about to requires this reminder. The Derek Chauvin trial is about to start. This is not the George Floyd trial. The man whose breath was squeezed out of his body is not on trial. There are other ways to honor his name beyond giving him this erroneous headline— Michele Norris (@michele_norris) March 8, 2021
For its part, the court was to take a narrowly prescribed path. Chauvin was to face two charges: second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. The first day of jury selection was delayed on Monday, March 8, as the court considered a prosecution request to reinstate a third charge, that of third-degree murder.
Judge Peter A. Cahill said he does not have jurisdiction to rule on whether the third-degree murder charge should be reinstated while the issue is being appealed.
Outside the courthouse, protesters wanted something more. Speaking to the Associated Press, self-described social justice organizer named D.J. Hooker ridiculed talk of the Chauvin trial as “the trial of the century,” noting the widely seen citizen video of Floyd’s arrest and saying all the jury needs to do is “do the right thing.”
Court TV cable channel, a network made famous for its gavel-to-gavel coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial, will have its cameras in the court. The prosecution objected but the request for cameras in the court was formally supported by Chauvin's attorneys, arguing live audio and video streams of the proceedings would ensure their client's right to public trial despite coronavirus-related restrictions on in-person attendance in the court. Judge Cahill, who dismissed the third-degree charge last fall, also made a landmark decision to make an exception to a Minnesota state rule that bars audio and video transmissions from courtrooms.
By exclusive arrangement with the court, Court TV will have the only cameras in the courtroom for the duration of the trial and plans up to 14 hours of coverage each day. (You can watch it on the player below — be sure to click the Full Screen button in the lower right corner of the player for a better viewing experience.)
The family of George Floyd will be restricted to only one seat in the courtroom.