- The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck, started Monday, marking the first in a series of trials over Floyd’s high-profile death.
- Chauvin has already pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter. Another charge of third-degree murder is currently being debated by higher courts.
- Jury selection, which has been complicated by the widespread news coverage of the case, is expected to take three weeks, and deliberations are set to start in late April or early May.
- Minneapolis has been preparing for possible fallout from the trial for months by drastically ramping up security, though demonstrations have so far been largely peaceful.
Derek Chauvin’s Hearing Starts
The first trial in the death of George Floyd officially kicked off Monday. The trial will focus entirely on Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was seen with his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
The trial, which been described as one of the most important in the nation’s history, comes nearly a year after Floyd’s death prompted months of civil unrest all across the country and ushered in a new era of civil rights reforms and discussions.
What Is Chauvin Charged With?
Chauvin currently faces two charges.
The first charge is second-degree unintentional murder, which alleges that Chauvin killed Floyd “without intent” while committing or attempting to commit felony third-degree assault. The charge is punishable by up to 40 years in prison.
The second charge is second-degree manslaughter, which alleges that Chauvin “consciously took the chances of causing death or great bodily harm.” If found guilty, he could face up to 10 years in prison.
To prove their case, prosecutors have indicated that the evidence they will show will likely include the viral video of Floyd’s death. That footage was shot by a 17-year-old civilian and was also caught on body cameras from the other officers on the scene.
According to reports, the prosecutors have sought to introduce evidence of past examples where Chauvin used force as a police officer, including several arrests in which he used a similar neck restraint.
Notably, prosecutors also filed an additional charge of third-degree murder that was dismissed in October by Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill, who is overseeing the case. Cahill argued the charge requires the actions of Chauvin to be “eminently dangerous ‘to others,’” which he said did not happen in this instance.
On Friday, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that Cahill should reconsider the state’s motion, a decision that the defense said they will take to the state’s Supreme Court if necessary. A final decision has yet to be made.
What’s Chauvin’s Defense?
Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to both claims. His attorney said in an October court filing that he will argue that the former officer is not guilty because he acted in self-defense and used reasonable and authorized force.
One of the main elements of Chauvin’s defense is the argument that Floyd died from the drugs found in his system by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner as well as other underlying health problems, such as heart disease.
That specific argument, however, might be tenuous. It is true that the examiner listed heart disease, Floyd’s recovery from COVID, and his recent fentanyl and methamphetamine use as other “significant conditions” that lead to his death.
Still, the examiner also declared Floyd’s death a homicide, listing “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” as the specific cause of death.
The Issue of Jury Selection
Chauvin’s defense team has also argued it will be impossible for him to have an impartial jury in Minnesota because the case was so widely reported on, highlighting the complicated nature of jury selection in the high-profile case.
Cahill said that the issue would exist in any court in the country, and has taken special precautions for enlisting a jury. He began the jury process much earlier than usual, sending a 16-page questionnaire to prospective jurors back in December about their views on policing, how much they knew about the case, and if they participated in the protests.
The jury selection is currently expected to take about three weeks. Cahill has said that opening arguments will start no later than March 29.
A Long Road Ahead
While Monday marks the first day of the trial process, it will not be wrapped up quickly. The trial itself effectively will not start until the end of the month, and parties involved in the case believe a jury will not start deliberations until late April or early May.
Even then, once the decision is handed down, there still will be a trial for the three other officers implicated in Floyd’s death, which is currently scheduled for August.
The city of Minneapolis, however, has been preparing for this for months, taking a number of precautions to prevent violence and unrest. In addition to ramping up security all over the city, including preparing the deployment of the National Gaurd if needed, the Hennepin County Government Center has also been surrounded by fencing and barricades, and extreme limits on who can enter the vicinity have been imposed.
Demonstrations seen so far have been largely peaceful, with protesters gathering for vigils. One person was killed and another injured near a memorial over the weekend, though little details have been provided. More protests and vigils will likely take place in the coming weeks and months.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CNN) (USA Today)
Kathy Griffin, Ethan Klein, More Suspended From Twitter Over Elon Musk Impersonations
Many have pretended to be Musk in an attempt to highlight the potential issues paid-for verifications could cause on the platform.
Musk Takes on Impersonations
Comedian Kathy Griffin and internet personality Ethan Klein are among the many Twitter users that have been permanently suspended for impersonating the platform’s new CEO, Elon Musk.
Impersonation has long been against Twitter’s rules, but on Sunday, the billionaire took the policy a step further by announcing that “any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended.”
“Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning,” Musk explained. “This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue.”
Musk also said that any user who changes their name will temporarily lose their verification check mark.
The announcement came as many verified users began mocking Musk by changing their name and photo to match his, then tweeting jokes that were either absurd or out of character for the business mogul. Many did this to protest Musk’s plan to charge an $8 monthly subscription fee that would allow any Twitter user to become verified.
Klein was one of many who changed his name to “Elon Musk” and made a photo of the CEO his profile image. The podcast host sent out several jokes, including one referencing the increased use of the N-word on the platform since Musk’s takeover, and another referencing Jeffrey Epstein.
“Even though Jeffrey Epstein committed horrible crimes, I do still miss him on nights like this for his warmth and camaraderie. Rest In Peace old Friend,” he wrote.
His account was quickly banned, but Klein defended himself on TikTok, arguing that both his cover photo and bio labeled his account as “parody” and therefore should be acceptable under Musk’s guidelines.
“What more do you want from me?” he asked. “Comedy is dead. And Elon Musk dug the grave.”
Protests of Musk’s Twitter Control
For her part, Griffin likewise tweeted while masquerading as Musk, writing that after “spirited discussion with the females in my life, I’ve decided that voting blue for their choice is only right.”
Musk joked that she was actually “suspended for impersonating a comedian” and added that she can have her account back if she pays for the $8 subscription. Griffin, however, found another way around the ban.
The comedian logged into her late mother’s Twitter account and began using the hashtag #FreeKathy while calling out Musk.
“Mad Men” actor Rich Sommer and podcaster Griffin Newman have also had their accounts suspended for tweeting as Musk. Other celebrities, including TV producer Shonda Rhimes, musician Sara Bareilles, and model Gigi Hadid have protested Musk’s Twitter reign by leaving the platform altogether.
“For a long time, but especially with its new leadership, it’s becoming more and more of a cesspool of hate & bigotry, and it’s not a place I want to be a part of,” Hadid wrote on Instagram over the weekend.
AOC Says Twitter Notifications “Conveniently” Disabled After Criticizing Musk
“What’s good? Doesn’t seem very free speechy to me,” she tweeted at the new CEO.
AOC Vs. Elon Musk
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said several of her Twitter features are “conveniently not working” after feuding with the platform’s new owner, billionaire Elon Musk.
Ocasio-Cortez has never been shy about her views on Musk. After he officially took charge of Twitter last week, the congresswoman began criticizing his new proposals for the social networking site, specifically his plan to charge an $8 subscription fee for verification.
“Lmao at a billionaire earnestly trying to sell people on the idea that ‘free speech’ is actually a $8/mo subscription plan,” she wrote on Tuesday.
“Your feedback is appreciated, now pay $8,” Musk replied the following day.
Around an hour later, the business mogul sent another tweet appearing to call Ocasio-Cortez out for selling $58 sweatshirts.
“Proud of this and always will be,” she shot back. “My workers are union, make a living wage, have full healthcare, and aren’t subject to racist treatment in their workplaces. Items are made in USA. Team AOC honors and respects working people. You should try it sometime instead of union-busting.”
In a follow-up tweet, she noted that proceeds go to community organizing programs, including one that tutors students who are falling behind because of COVID-19.
AOC’s Mentions Not Working
On Wednesday evening, just hours after her back-and-forth with Musk, Ocasio-Cortez told her followers that her “Twitter mentions/notifications conveniently aren’t working tonight.”
“I was informed via text that I seem to have gotten under a certain billionaire’s skin,” she added. “Just a reminder that money will never [buy] your way out of insecurity, folks.”
The issue seemingly continued into Thursday morning when the Democrat tweeted a screenshot of her notifications page, which loaded no results.
“Why should people pay $8 just for their app to get bricked when they say something you don’t like?” she tweeted at Musk. “This is what my app has looked like ever since my tweet upset you yesterday. What’s good? Doesn’t seem very free speechy to me.”
Musk has repeatedly claimed that one of his primary motives to buy Twitter was to protect free speech. Once taking the reigns as CEO, though, he did say he would start a content moderation council and make decisions jointly with them.
South Carolina County Votes Against Moving LGBTQ+ Friendly Books Away from Children’s Section
Efforts to limit LGBTQ+ content in libraries first began over the summer.
Attempts to Restrict LGBTQ+ Displays
The county council in Greenville County, South Carolina this week voted against discussing a resolution that would move all books “promoting sexuality” to the adult section.
This resolution is the culmination of months of turmoil in Greenville County. In June, libraries in the county removed Pride displays at the direction of library officials. Then in September, the county’s Republican Party executive board passed a resolution to call on the County Council to restrict access to books with LGBTQ+ themes and characters.
The resolution was proposed by Joe Dill, an outgoing council member, as well as a member of the county’s Republican Party executive board. It proposed the council “officially order that no books or content, including digital copies or online accessible materials, promoting sexuality be allowed in the Children’s Sections of our public libraries.”
However, the resolution required the council to suspend its regular rules in order to discuss it as it was not submitted to the council via committee. The final vote was 9 to 3 against the suspension of the rules and effectively killed the resolution.
Those that voted against it viewed the resolution as an overreach.
“We just do not believe that’s our job to get involved in the library’s business,” Council member Ennis Fett said to a local news outlet. “We appoint a board. We can not set a precedent of micromanaging the library board, because if we do that, then, we will be micromanaging all boards and commissions that we appoint.”
Although the council decided not to get involved, the library still has the final decision to make regarding these books. Their meeting to discuss the matter is scheduled for December 5.