[Follow live coverage of the civil rights trial against three ex-police officers in the killing of George Floyd.]
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Derek Chauvin is not on trial anymore. He is serving a long prison sentence after being convicted last year of murder, and has pleaded guilty to federal crimes for the killing of George Floyd.
But his presence will be felt throughout the federal trial of the three officers who were with him when he murdered Mr. Floyd.
Two of the officers are charged with not intervening against Mr. Chauvin, the senior officer on the scene, as he used excessive force. All three of the officers are charged with not providing medical aid to Mr. Floyd, a duty police officers have under the law. Each of the defendants are expected to place the blame for Mr. Floyd’s death solely on Mr. Chauvin.
The excruciating bystander video lasting more than nine minutes that captured Mr. Floyd’s death, as he gasped for air under Mr. Chauvin’s knee, will be shown on monitors in the courtroom, as it was during the state trial. The expression on Mr. Chauvin’s face, his seeming indifference as Mr. Floyd begged not be killed, will be seen by the jury. (This time, though, the trial will not be televised, as federal rules prohibit cameras in the court, thus sparing the wider community the trauma of watching the video over and over again on television.)
During jury selection on Thursday, Judge Peter A. Magnuson stressed multiple times to prospective jurors that they must disregard anything they know about Mr. Chauvin’s convictions or guilty plea.
“The crimes that Mr. Chauvin pled guilty to are totally separate to those at issue here,” he said.
Mr. Chauvin could be called to testify, although experts say that is a remote possibility. In his federal plea agreement, Mr. Chauvin acknowledged that he was “aided and abetted by other officers” and that he had never pressured the other officers to disregard department policies that require officers to intervene against colleagues when they use excessive force.
But most lawyers who have been following the case say it would be too risky for the prosecution to call him to the stand, because it could draw attention away from the defendants’ actions and give the defense a chance to cross-examine him and help them make a case that Mr. Chauvin was the only one who committed crimes.
And while the defense could theoretically call Mr. Chauvin as a witness, the Department of Justice structured his plea agreement to prevent this possibility. Because Mr. Chauvin has not been sentenced yet for his federal guilty plea, he maintains his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, which he could invoke on the stand if the defense were to call him.
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