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The Case Against Derek Chauvin

Hosted by Michael Barbaro; produced by Jessica Cheung, Rachel Quester and Leslye Davis, with help from Austin Mitchell; edited by Paige Cowett and Lisa Chow; and engineered by Marion Lozano.

A look at the arguments made so far in the closely watched trial of the former police officer accused of murdering George Floyd.

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.

[music]

Today, the prosecution’s case so far in the closely watched trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd. I spoke with my colleague John Eligon in Minneapolis. It’s Thursday, April 8.

John, I wanted to start by having you set the scene there in Minneapolis this past week or so. What are your impressions of this trial so far?

john eligon

It’s really a city on edge right now. I mean, you walk around downtown. There’s cement barricades with fencing and barbed wire up. There is National Guard armored vehicles and National Guard members who are standing outside, watching over everything. People are already starting to board up windows. So there’s clearly this underlying tension of what’s going to happen with this trial, what’s the verdict going to be, and is that going to lead to more unrest, like they saw last year when there was lots of vandalism and buildings burning amid mass protests for racial justice. So, you really get around the town that this is something that cannot be avoided, that people cannot stop thinking about.

And then you look in the courtroom now. And you have to look from afar, right, because of Covid protocols. There’s very few people allowed into the courtroom. As reporters, we’re not even allowed in there. We’re allowed to have one person representing all print media, one person representing all broadcast media. So I’m sitting here in my hotel room with a bag of chips and some bottled water, watching this trial and what’s proceeding inside the courtroom. Honestly, Michael, it’s like a range of emotions and impressions, I would say, because on the one hand, you have this video of George Floyd’s death playing over and over and over and over and over again during testimony in the courtroom.

So it’s, in many ways, kind of like bringing that kind of trauma all to the surface again, right? So there’s that emotional part of it. Then there’s also, it’s a trial, right? It’s technical. They parse all these different legal nuances, all these medical nuances. And you’re really seeing a battle develop inside the courtroom over fundamentally what is this case about. For the prosecution, it’s about that video, that nine minutes plus that you see Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck. And then the defense is saying, no, no, no, it’s not the video. It’s all these other things. Don’t just look at the video. And so, that’s really the battle lines that have been drawn as you watch this trial each and every day.

michael barbaro

So let’s talk about what you’ve been able to watch or piece together inside the courtroom as the prosecution has laid out its case and started to call witnesses. Where should we start?

john eligon

The heart of the case, really, is, how did George Floyd die? Because the prosecution is attempting to show that he died because Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes, right? And so in order to do that, they have to have medical experts who can attest to that.

michael barbaro

Right.

archived recording

The state calls Dr. Bradford Langenfeld, Your Honor.

john eligon

And the one expert that we’ve seen who’s probably said that most powerfully so far is the actual emergency room doctor, who pronounced George Floyd dead at the hospital and who treated him before he died.

archived recording

When Mr. Floyd’s body when Mr. Floyd was brought in, would you describe it as an emergency situation?

archived recording (bradford langenfeld)

Yes, absolutely.

archived recording

What was his condition in terms of his cardiac condition?

archived recording (bradford langenfeld)

He was in cardiac arrest.

john eligon

He said essentially that when George Floyd came to him, that his heart was already stopped.

archived recording (bradford langenfeld)

Mr. Floyd had been in arrest for, by this time, 60 minutes. I determined that the likelihood of any meaningful outcome was far below 1 percent and that we would not be able to resuscitate Mr. Floyd. And so, I then pronounced him dead.

john eligon

And he said that from all the signs that he had, all the information that he received, that, in a nutshell, he did not have sufficient oxygen.

archived recording

Was your leading theory then for the cause of Mr. Floyd’s cardiac arrest oxygen deficiency?

archived recording (bradford langenfeld)

That was one of the more likely possibilities. I thought that—

john eligon

And that lack of oxygen led to asphyxia. And that essentially caused his heart to fail and caused his heart to stop.

archived recording

And doctor, is there another name for death by oxygen deficiency?

archived recording (bradford langenfeld)

Asphyxia is a commonly understood term.

archived recording

Thank you, Dr. Langenfeld. No further questions.

john eligon

And that’s a very important point because, for one, the medical examiner who actually did the autopsy on George Floyd did not say asphyxiation was the cause of death. He basically said that George Floyd’s heart stopped. And what the prosecution is trying to show is that it was the asphyxiation that led to that, while the defense, on the other hand, is trying to show that, hey, there were all these reasons for George Floyd’s heart stopping, one of them being his drug use, one of them being a lot of the adrenaline pumping through him. So the defense is really trying to paint a holistic picture of George Floyd and his whole medical history and his drug use and things like that and use that to argue, while the prosecution is saying, hey, no, it’s asphyxiation that but for the fact that Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, George Floyd would be alive today.

michael barbaro

So given that testimony, it feels like understanding whether or not Chauvin’s actions were justified would also be crucial to the prosecution’s case. So how did they approach that?

john eligon

Yeah, so once you get past the medical portion of it, you have to look at the policing portion, right? Because there are times when police officers are allowed to use force, even deadly force, right? And so the question was whether this was a case where Chauvin needed deadly force, or at least, needed the force that he was using, which was kneeling on George Floyd’s neck.

michael barbaro

Right.

john eligon

And the prosecutors, they brought in several members of the police department to talk about this, from the longest serving homicide detective in the departments all the way up to the police chief, so the man who’s leading the department.

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm. So tell me about this longest serving officer from the Minneapolis Police Department. What was his testimony?

john eligon

Yeah, so this was Lieutenant Richard Zimmerman.

archived recording

What is your view of that use of force during that time period?

archived recording (richard zimmerman)

Totally unnecessary.

archived recording

What do you mean?

archived recording (richard zimmerman)

Well, first of all, pulling him down to the ground face down and putting your knee on the neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for. I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt. And that’s what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force.

john eligon

And what the defense has tried to argue is that, hey, these situations are uncertain. Even when individuals go unconscious, there’s chances that they can wake back up and then become even more aggressive again. But what Zimmerman essentially said was that when you have someone in handcuffs, as George Floyd was, the real threat that they pose goes way down.

archived recording

Based on your review of the body cams, did you see any need for Officer Chauvin to improvise by putting his knee on Mr. Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds?

archived recording (richard zimmerman)

No, I did not.

john eligon

And then we get the top official of all.

archived recording

Your Honor, the state calls Chief Medaria Arradondo.

john eligon

Police chief Medaria Arradondo, who is the head of the department. He is a Black man and the first Black police chief the city has ever had. And he took to the stand and essentially says that what Derek Chauvin did, not only was it not in line with department policy—

archived recording

Do you believe that the defendant followed departmental policy 5-304 regarding de-escalation?

archived recording (medaria arradondo)

I absolutely do not agree with that.

john eligon

He said it wasn’t part of the department’s ethics or values.

archived recording (medaria arradondo)

And clearly, when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person, prone out, handcuffed behind their back, that, in no way, shape, or form, is anything that is by policy. It is not part of our training. And it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.

john eligon

So this was a stinging rebuke, essentially, of the actions of Derek Chauvin, not acting as a Minneapolis police officer should ethically or morally.

michael barbaro

I have a sense that police officers, let alone police chiefs, don’t testify against their own colleagues on a police force lightly and that it’s quite rare for the leadership of a police department to be so openly critical of an officer. Or are we right to see this as quite unusual?

john eligon

Yeah, it is certainly unusual. I mean, it’s very stunning to have a police chief rebuke an officer in his department like that. So I think for this police chief, it was also about setting a tone that I will defend my department. But when officers do wrong, I also have to speak up. And some people I talked to afterwards said it was refreshing to hear a police chief do that. And it was important in that they hope it could send some sort of broader message here to other police chiefs and other leadership of police departments, that when your officers do wrong, you will actually speak up and call it out.

michael barbaro

But I imagine that for the jury, there’s a lot of power in hearing the police chiefs say those things.

john eligon

Absolutely. I mean, this is the boss saying these things. So that is going to carry a certain weight. This is clearly a man who likes the police department, likes police officers. But he still thinks that this police officer was wrong.

[music]

This was a city that is completely divided over its police department. This is a city where many people are frustrated about policing and believe that what Derek Chauvin did is representative of a larger problem of abusive policing. And so I think especially the chief’s testimony was really a strong statement to the community, as much as it was to the jury.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

John, beyond having police officials deliver testimony and condemnation of what Derek Chauvin did, my sense is that the prosecution wanted there to be strong testimony from non-police figures who had seen what happened on May 25 of last year.

john eligon

Yeah, a big part of the prosecution’s case so far has been to bring in this group of people who were just going about their everyday lives. They were going to buy snacks, going to fill up their tank of gas, going to buy a phone cord, who all converged on this corner in South Minneapolis, people from different walks of life, people from nine years old to 61 years old, people who were there that day who witnessed it firsthand and saw what happened to George Floyd. And that really brought out some scenes of just astonishingly emotional testimony. I mean, you had people who were standing feet away, who were yelling at the officers, who were interacting with the officers. And these would become the first eyewitnesses to this trauma that we would all kind of collectively watch and share around the world.

michael barbaro

And who were these people?

john eligon

So one of the people that they called was this young man named Christopher Martin.

archived recording (christopher martin)

C-H-R-I-S-T-O-P-H-E-R Last name, Martin, M-A-R-T-I-N.

archived recording

Mr. Martin, how old are you?

archived recording (christopher martin)

19.

john eligon

Now he worked at the store CupFoods, where this happened. And Christopher, he was the person who interacted with George Floyd and actually sold him a pack of cigarettes and took a $20 bill that turned out to be a fake bill. And so it was Christopher Martin who first kind of reported to his boss that, hey, I think this is a fake. And the boss sent Christopher out there to try to get George Floyd to come back in. He didn’t come back in. The boss sent him out a second time with some of the other co-workers, and they all tried to get George Floyd to come back in. He didn’t come back in. And from there, the manager said, hey, we’ll call the police. And so that’s kind of like what started this series of events. And one thing that was very evident with Christopher Martin was this just burning sense of regret. You can actually see these moments in some of the surveillance footage, where Christopher Martin’s outside as George Floyd is being pinned to the ground with the knee on his neck. You could see him kind of pacing.

michael barbaro

Wow.

archived recording

I saw you standing there with your hands on your head for a while, correct?

archived recording (christopher martin)

Correct.

archived recording

What was going through your mind during that time period?

archived recording (christopher martin)

Disbelief and guilt.

archived recording

Why guilt?

archived recording (christopher martin)

If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided.

john eligon

And so, it seems like he’s haunted by his actions that day and what role they may have played in George Floyd’s ultimate passing.

michael barbaro

And how does that serve the prosecution’s case? His regret, his remorse, his description of his actions that day.

john eligon

Well, I think you have to take the totality of his testimony into account, right? So not only did he offer that testimony for the prosecution about his remorse and regret, but he also talked about what things looked like when George Floyd walked in. They actually played surveillance footage of George Floyd in the store, walking around.

archived recording (christopher martin)

He seemed very friendly, approachable. He was talkative. He seemed to just be having an average Memorial Day, just living his life. But he did seem high.

john eligon

He said, yeah, George Floyd appeared a little bit high, but he was otherwise coherent. He was joking with people and things like that. So it was, in some ways, to bring George Floyd to life as a human being who was going about his day that day. So I think that that’s one of the important points. And I think the other important point with Christopher and some of the other witnesses that we heard from is, I think in some ways, it’s a reminder of how disproportionate Derek Chauvin’s response was. Because essentially, you had this, at the time, 18-year-old who saw what George Floyd did is wrong, not the thing that he was supposed to do.

michael barbaro

Right.

john eligon

But not something that warranted guns drawn police response, pinning him to the ground and kind of holding him down. So I think that is definitely an element that the prosecutors want to put out there about how disproportionate Derek Chauvin’s response was.

michael barbaro

Right. So who else is called to the stand who witnessed what happened as an eyewitness?

john eligon

Yeah, so we also had Darnella Frazier.

archived recording

Good morning, Darnella.

archived recording (darnella frazier)

Good morning.

archived recording

Are you a little nervous up there?

archived recording (darnella frazier)

Yes.

john eligon

Who is the young woman— she was 17 at the time— who took that infamous bystander video that was posted to Facebook. And so she was actually with her nine-year-old cousin that day. They were walking to the store to get snacks. And then Darnella mentions kind of seeing out of the corner of her eye this kind of police commotion going on in the streets.

archived recording

When you walked past the squad car there, did you see anything happening there on the ground as you were walking towards CupFoods with your cousin?

archived recording (darnella frazier)

Yes, I see a man on the ground. And I see a cop kneeling down on him.

archived recording

Was there anything about the scene that you didn’t want your cousin to see?

archived recording (darnella frazier)

Yes.

archived recording

And what was that?

archived recording (darnella frazier)

A man terrified, scared, begging for his life.

john eligon

And so she quickly ushers her cousin into the store and then comes back out. She took out her cell phone and hit record, like so many people do.

archived recording

So tell the jury what you observed, what you heard, when you stopped to look at what was happening there at the scene.

archived recording (darnella frazier)

I heard George Floyd saying, I can’t breathe. Please get off of me. I can’t breathe. He cried for his mom. He was in pain. It seemed like he knew. It seemed like he knew it was over for him.

john eligon

And much like Christopher Martin, Darnella also spoke to a real regret and sadness for what she witnessed.

archived recording (darnella frazier)

When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad. I look at my brothers. I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they are all Black. And I look at that, and I look at how that could have been one of them. It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life, but.

john eligon

And you could definitely tell that this is something that completely stays with her, that, yes, her recording, it was a big deal for her to do that, but she felt like looking back on it, it wasn’t enough because it did not save George Floyd’s life. And that was extremely powerful.

michael barbaro

But that guilt is so complicated because of course, what exactly were these witnesses supposed to have done? If you walk up to a police officer in the middle of an arrest and touch them or challenge them, you yourself could very easily get arrested for interfering in their work. And so, there’s something very poignant and painful about watching these witnesses say they feel guilty when it’s not really clear what they could have done differently.

john eligon

It really raises these questions of what it’s like to be a bystander in these situations, and who can police the police, because police are the ones— are supposed to be the ones who are supposed to stop wrong from happening, in some ways. But when you see a wrong happening and you think it’s the police who are doing the wrong, yeah, you can litigate it after the fact, but that’s not going to save a life in the moment. And I think that that’s the burden that people like Darnella carries with them for the rest of their lives, really.

michael barbaro

Was there testimony from anyone who did seek to intervene in a meaningful way?

john eligon

Yeah, I mean, there were several eyewitnesses there who, in one shape or form, did become a little bit more forceful in their efforts to intervene.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

Full name is Donald Wynn Williams II.

john eligon

Specifically, I’m thinking of Donald Williams.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

I’m an entrepreneur and a professional fighter.

john eligon

He is actually a mixed martial arts fighter. And he had went to the store that day to CupFoods. And you can see in the video Donald Williams, he is extremely animated.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

Get him off the ground. You’re being a bum right now.

archived recording

Were you here the whole time?

john eligon

Both in the bystander video that Darnella took, but also body camera footage that was played. At one point, he yells at Derek Chauvin that he was doing a blood choke.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

You certainly— like in a jiujitsu move, bro, you trapping his breathing right here, bro. It’s a blood choke where it specifically attacks the side of the neck, and it particularly cuts off the circulation of your arteries.

john eligon

Which is essentially a move that’s used in mixed martial arts where you try to render your opponent unconscious.

archived recording

Based on your training experience, this looked like a blood choke.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

That is correct. Is he breathing right now?

john eligon

There’s definitely a point where Donald Williams steps out into the street, a couple of times, stepping off the curb.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

So you call what he doing OK?

archived recording

Get back in the street.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

You call what he doing OK?

john eligon

And the officer kind of telling him to get back.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

He’s not responsive right now, bro!

archived recording

Does he have a pulse?

archived recording (donald williams ii)

No, bro, look at him! He’s not responsive right now.

john eligon

There was a firefighter who was there. She was off-duty, an off-duty firefighter.

archived recording

Are you really a firefighter? Yes, I am. I’m from Minneapolis. OK, then get on the sidewalk! You show me his pulse.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

You think that’s OK? Check his pulse.

john eligon

She said, I’m a firefighter. I’m an EMT. Let me look at him. And she was summarily kind of ushered back by the officer who was standing there.

archived recording

Get back in the sidewalk.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

The man ain’t moved yet, bro.

john eligon

So basically, none of them could really get in any close proximity to do anything meaningful, right?

michael barbaro

Right, not even a firefighter with the city of Minneapolis, a peer in the eyes of the police. If not even a firefighter can influence the course of events here, what chance does a regular old bystander?

john eligon

Yeah, it feels like there’s no chance. And—

archived recording

Good afternoon, sir.

archived recording (charles mcmillan)

Good afternoon.

john eligon

—one of the bystanders—

archived recording

How are you doing today?

archived recording (charles mcmillan)

I’m OK.

john eligon

—Charles McMillan, he actually tried maybe a little bit of a different route.

archived recording

So could you tell the jury how old you are?

archived recording (charles mcmillan)

61 years old.

john eligon

And you can hear Charles McMillan on some of the footage that was played in court. You can hear him yelling at George Floyd in the sense, like, trying to reason with him and saying, hey, they got you. You’re in handcuffs. There’s nothing you can do about it now. Just go, man.

archived recording (charles mcmillan)

You can’t win.

archived recording (george floyd)

I’m not trying to win. I’m not trying to win. I’ll get on the ground, anything.

john eligon

He was doing the type of de-escalation that we would expect from police, right?

michael barbaro

Right.

archived recording

If you get in this car, we can talk.

archived recording (george floyd)

I am, but I’m claustrophobic. I’m claustrophobic, man.

archived recording

Why are you not working with me?

archived recording (george floyd)

I can’t— hold up. I’m going to choke. I can’t breathe or nothing. Please! Please!

john eligon

And there was a moment where the prosecutors were showing footage of George Floyd on the ground, calling for his mother.

archived recording (george floyd)

Oh my God, I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe, man. Mama, I love—

archived recording

Mr. McMillan, do you need a minute?

archived recording (charles mcmillan)

[SOBBING]

john eligon

As McMillan was watching that, he just completely broke down.

archived recording (charles mcmillan)

[SOBBING] Oh my God.

archived recording

Just take your time. Just know when you’re ready.

archived recording (charles mcmillan)

I couldn’t help. I feel helpless. I don’t have a mama, either. And I understand him.

john eligon

You can see in McMillan’s testimony that like the other folks who were there, he is haunted and burdened by the question of, did he do the right thing? Was there more that he could have done?

michael barbaro

Mm. So by the end of all of this eyewitness testimony, the message to the jury from the prosecution would seem to be that for all of these people, there was absolutely no ambiguity that what they witnessed was wrong and the depth of that feeling is clearly encapsulated by the trauma and the hauntedness that they’re expressing.

john eligon

Absolutely.

michael barbaro

How does the defense then try to rebut? Do they try to rebut what these witnesses have observed and communicated in this testimony?

john eligon

What the defense does is they basically try to reframe this whole view of what the bystanders were doing. They portray them not as people who are desperate to help George Floyd, but as an angry mob that was threatening police officers.

archived recording (genevieve hansen)

Hi.

archived recording

I just have some follow-up questions for you.

john eligon

And he even went after Genevieve Hansen, one of the witnesses who was there.

michael barbaro

Right, this is the firefighter.

john eligon

Yeah, exactly. So he asked the firefighter, why were you getting so upset? Why were you growing so angry?

archived recording

You would agree that your own demeanor got louder and more frustrated and upset?

archived recording (genevieve hansen)

Um, frustrated I’m not sure is the word I would use.

archived recording

Angry?

archived recording (genevieve hansen)

More desperate.

archived recording

OK. You called the officers a bitch, right?

archived recording (genevieve hansen)

Mm-hmm, yep. I got quite angry after Mr. Floyd was loaded into the ambulance. And—

john eligon

You yourself were saying vulgar things to the officer. And wasn’t the crowd growing angrier and angrier? Because he wants to drive home that point.

archived recording

And some people were yelling louder than others, right?

archived recording (genevieve hansen)

Right.

archived recording

And would you describe other people’s demeanors as upset or angry?

archived recording (genevieve hansen)

I don’t know if you’ve seen anybody be killed, but it’s upsetting.

michael barbaro

So while the prosecution is presenting these eyewitnesses as evidence of how terribly wrong this all went and how guilty Derek Chauvin is, the defense is trying to make the case that that feeling among the witnesses and their reaction on the scene to try to intervene, that dynamic is what made Chauvin’s behavior, they say, justified?

john eligon

They say that the people gathered there made Chauvin feel or sense that there was a threat. And because of that, he was not able to carry out his duties. He was not able to care for George Floyd because he perceived a threat. And he was trying to maintain his own safety and the safety of others. And he was distracted from George Floyd, essentially.

michael barbaro

Hmm. Well, that’s interesting, John. Are they then conceding, these defense lawyers, that Chauvin did something wrong or didn’t do it properly?

john eligon

I don’t know if I’d say they’re conceding that per se, but one of the charges is manslaughter, which is the lowest charge, which, for Derek Chauvin, would probably be short of an acquittal, that would be the best outcome for him, the lowest charge. And in manslaughter, it requires some element of recklessness. So you could reasonably see an argument in which he was a little bit reckless because of this commotion around him. It did cause him, in some way, to panic. In other words, to not act in the most proper of ways because of this commotion around him, right?

michael barbaro

So this is an admittedly difficult question, but having watched all this testimony so closely, which version of this argument about the eyewitnesses, do you think, may have landed more forcefully with the jury, the prosecution or the defense? I know you said at the beginning of our conversation that you can’t exactly read the room and the jury, given the circumstances of how this trial’s being carried out. But I wonder what your sense of that is.

john eligon

I think that anyone who watches those bystanders and their reaction to what they saw that day cannot help but be moved by that. If I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure of all the bystanders, there were probably two that did not cry. There was even a juror who had to be excused one day. They had to take a break in the trial because she got sick. And she told the judge that she couldn’t sleep, that she’d been up until 2:00 AM, and she wasn’t feeling well. Regardless of the nuances of were they an angry mob, were they not, this was such emotional and powerful testimony that you cannot help but think that that landed well for the prosecution and for the prosecution’s case.

[music]

But the defense has been able to, in some ways, muddy the waters a little bit to make it a little bit more complicated, more confusing. And the defense still has to put on their own witnesses and present their own case. So, there’s still a long way to go in the trial in that sense. But I think as that plays out in the courtroom, what’s undeniable is that there is a huge unresolved trauma that so many people have experienced because of this case.

michael barbaro

John, thank you. We really appreciate it.

john eligon

Thank you, Michael.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today.

archived recording

The PRAC, after a very in-depth analysis, has concluded that the reported cases of unusual blood clotting, following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine, should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine.

michael barbaro

On Wednesday, European regulators described a, quote, “possible link” between AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine and rare blood clots, a move that could threaten the pace of vaccinations across Europe and the world.

archived recording

This vaccine has proven to be highly effective. It prevents severe disease and hospitalization, and it is saving lives. Vaccination is extremely important in helping us in the fight against Covid-19. And we need to use the vaccines we have to protect us from the devastating effects.

michael barbaro

But the regulators emphasized that the benefits of getting the vaccine still outweigh its risks and stopped short of advising that use of the vaccine be curbed in the European Union’s 27 countries. So far, 35 million people have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s vaccine. And 18 of them have died from blood clots. But in a discouraging sign for AstraZeneca, Britain has responded by saying it would offer alternatives to the AstraZeneca vaccine for adults under 30. The United States, meanwhile, has yet to authorize AstraZeneca’s vaccine for Americans.

Today’s episode was produced by Jessica Cheung, Rachel Quester, and Leslye Davis, with help from Austin Mitchell. It was edited by Paige Cowett and engineered by Marion Lozano. That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

The Case Against Derek Chauvin

A look at the arguments made so far in the closely watched trial of the former police officer accused of murdering George Floyd.

Hosted by Michael Barbaro; produced by Jessica Cheung, Rachel Quester and Leslye Davis, with help from Austin Mitchell; edited by Paige Cowett and Lisa Chow; and engineered by Marion Lozano.
bars
0:00/34:36
-0:00

transcript

The Case Against Derek Chauvin

Hosted by Michael Barbaro; produced by Jessica Cheung, Rachel Quester and Leslye Davis, with help from Austin Mitchell; edited by Paige Cowett and Lisa Chow; and engineered by Marion Lozano.

A look at the arguments made so far in the closely watched trial of the former police officer accused of murdering George Floyd.

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.

[music]

Today, the prosecution’s case so far in the closely watched trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer accused of murdering George Floyd. I spoke with my colleague John Eligon in Minneapolis. It’s Thursday, April 8.

John, I wanted to start by having you set the scene there in Minneapolis this past week or so. What are your impressions of this trial so far?

john eligon

It’s really a city on edge right now. I mean, you walk around downtown. There’s cement barricades with fencing and barbed wire up. There is National Guard armored vehicles and National Guard members who are standing outside, watching over everything. People are already starting to board up windows. So there’s clearly this underlying tension of what’s going to happen with this trial, what’s the verdict going to be, and is that going to lead to more unrest, like they saw last year when there was lots of vandalism and buildings burning amid mass protests for racial justice. So, you really get around the town that this is something that cannot be avoided, that people cannot stop thinking about.

And then you look in the courtroom now. And you have to look from afar, right, because of Covid protocols. There’s very few people allowed into the courtroom. As reporters, we’re not even allowed in there. We’re allowed to have one person representing all print media, one person representing all broadcast media. So I’m sitting here in my hotel room with a bag of chips and some bottled water, watching this trial and what’s proceeding inside the courtroom. Honestly, Michael, it’s like a range of emotions and impressions, I would say, because on the one hand, you have this video of George Floyd’s death playing over and over and over and over and over again during testimony in the courtroom.

So it’s, in many ways, kind of like bringing that kind of trauma all to the surface again, right? So there’s that emotional part of it. Then there’s also, it’s a trial, right? It’s technical. They parse all these different legal nuances, all these medical nuances. And you’re really seeing a battle develop inside the courtroom over fundamentally what is this case about. For the prosecution, it’s about that video, that nine minutes plus that you see Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck. And then the defense is saying, no, no, no, it’s not the video. It’s all these other things. Don’t just look at the video. And so, that’s really the battle lines that have been drawn as you watch this trial each and every day.

michael barbaro

So let’s talk about what you’ve been able to watch or piece together inside the courtroom as the prosecution has laid out its case and started to call witnesses. Where should we start?

john eligon

The heart of the case, really, is, how did George Floyd die? Because the prosecution is attempting to show that he died because Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes, right? And so in order to do that, they have to have medical experts who can attest to that.

michael barbaro

Right.

archived recording

The state calls Dr. Bradford Langenfeld, Your Honor.

john eligon

And the one expert that we’ve seen who’s probably said that most powerfully so far is the actual emergency room doctor, who pronounced George Floyd dead at the hospital and who treated him before he died.

archived recording

When Mr. Floyd’s body when Mr. Floyd was brought in, would you describe it as an emergency situation?

archived recording (bradford langenfeld)

Yes, absolutely.

archived recording

What was his condition in terms of his cardiac condition?

archived recording (bradford langenfeld)

He was in cardiac arrest.

john eligon

He said essentially that when George Floyd came to him, that his heart was already stopped.

archived recording (bradford langenfeld)

Mr. Floyd had been in arrest for, by this time, 60 minutes. I determined that the likelihood of any meaningful outcome was far below 1 percent and that we would not be able to resuscitate Mr. Floyd. And so, I then pronounced him dead.

john eligon

And he said that from all the signs that he had, all the information that he received, that, in a nutshell, he did not have sufficient oxygen.

archived recording

Was your leading theory then for the cause of Mr. Floyd’s cardiac arrest oxygen deficiency?

archived recording (bradford langenfeld)

That was one of the more likely possibilities. I thought that—

john eligon

And that lack of oxygen led to asphyxia. And that essentially caused his heart to fail and caused his heart to stop.

archived recording

And doctor, is there another name for death by oxygen deficiency?

archived recording (bradford langenfeld)

Asphyxia is a commonly understood term.

archived recording

Thank you, Dr. Langenfeld. No further questions.

john eligon

And that’s a very important point because, for one, the medical examiner who actually did the autopsy on George Floyd did not say asphyxiation was the cause of death. He basically said that George Floyd’s heart stopped. And what the prosecution is trying to show is that it was the asphyxiation that led to that, while the defense, on the other hand, is trying to show that, hey, there were all these reasons for George Floyd’s heart stopping, one of them being his drug use, one of them being a lot of the adrenaline pumping through him. So the defense is really trying to paint a holistic picture of George Floyd and his whole medical history and his drug use and things like that and use that to argue, while the prosecution is saying, hey, no, it’s asphyxiation that but for the fact that Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, George Floyd would be alive today.

michael barbaro

So given that testimony, it feels like understanding whether or not Chauvin’s actions were justified would also be crucial to the prosecution’s case. So how did they approach that?

john eligon

Yeah, so once you get past the medical portion of it, you have to look at the policing portion, right? Because there are times when police officers are allowed to use force, even deadly force, right? And so the question was whether this was a case where Chauvin needed deadly force, or at least, needed the force that he was using, which was kneeling on George Floyd’s neck.

michael barbaro

Right.

john eligon

And the prosecutors, they brought in several members of the police department to talk about this, from the longest serving homicide detective in the departments all the way up to the police chief, so the man who’s leading the department.

michael barbaro

Mm-hmm. So tell me about this longest serving officer from the Minneapolis Police Department. What was his testimony?

john eligon

Yeah, so this was Lieutenant Richard Zimmerman.

archived recording

What is your view of that use of force during that time period?

archived recording (richard zimmerman)

Totally unnecessary.

archived recording

What do you mean?

archived recording (richard zimmerman)

Well, first of all, pulling him down to the ground face down and putting your knee on the neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for. I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt. And that’s what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force.

john eligon

And what the defense has tried to argue is that, hey, these situations are uncertain. Even when individuals go unconscious, there’s chances that they can wake back up and then become even more aggressive again. But what Zimmerman essentially said was that when you have someone in handcuffs, as George Floyd was, the real threat that they pose goes way down.

archived recording

Based on your review of the body cams, did you see any need for Officer Chauvin to improvise by putting his knee on Mr. Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds?

archived recording (richard zimmerman)

No, I did not.

john eligon

And then we get the top official of all.

archived recording

Your Honor, the state calls Chief Medaria Arradondo.

john eligon

Police chief Medaria Arradondo, who is the head of the department. He is a Black man and the first Black police chief the city has ever had. And he took to the stand and essentially says that what Derek Chauvin did, not only was it not in line with department policy—

archived recording

Do you believe that the defendant followed departmental policy 5-304 regarding de-escalation?

archived recording (medaria arradondo)

I absolutely do not agree with that.

john eligon

He said it wasn’t part of the department’s ethics or values.

archived recording (medaria arradondo)

And clearly, when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person, prone out, handcuffed behind their back, that, in no way, shape, or form, is anything that is by policy. It is not part of our training. And it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.

john eligon

So this was a stinging rebuke, essentially, of the actions of Derek Chauvin, not acting as a Minneapolis police officer should ethically or morally.

michael barbaro

I have a sense that police officers, let alone police chiefs, don’t testify against their own colleagues on a police force lightly and that it’s quite rare for the leadership of a police department to be so openly critical of an officer. Or are we right to see this as quite unusual?

john eligon

Yeah, it is certainly unusual. I mean, it’s very stunning to have a police chief rebuke an officer in his department like that. So I think for this police chief, it was also about setting a tone that I will defend my department. But when officers do wrong, I also have to speak up. And some people I talked to afterwards said it was refreshing to hear a police chief do that. And it was important in that they hope it could send some sort of broader message here to other police chiefs and other leadership of police departments, that when your officers do wrong, you will actually speak up and call it out.

michael barbaro

But I imagine that for the jury, there’s a lot of power in hearing the police chiefs say those things.

john eligon

Absolutely. I mean, this is the boss saying these things. So that is going to carry a certain weight. This is clearly a man who likes the police department, likes police officers. But he still thinks that this police officer was wrong.

[music]

This was a city that is completely divided over its police department. This is a city where many people are frustrated about policing and believe that what Derek Chauvin did is representative of a larger problem of abusive policing. And so I think especially the chief’s testimony was really a strong statement to the community, as much as it was to the jury.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

John, beyond having police officials deliver testimony and condemnation of what Derek Chauvin did, my sense is that the prosecution wanted there to be strong testimony from non-police figures who had seen what happened on May 25 of last year.

john eligon

Yeah, a big part of the prosecution’s case so far has been to bring in this group of people who were just going about their everyday lives. They were going to buy snacks, going to fill up their tank of gas, going to buy a phone cord, who all converged on this corner in South Minneapolis, people from different walks of life, people from nine years old to 61 years old, people who were there that day who witnessed it firsthand and saw what happened to George Floyd. And that really brought out some scenes of just astonishingly emotional testimony. I mean, you had people who were standing feet away, who were yelling at the officers, who were interacting with the officers. And these would become the first eyewitnesses to this trauma that we would all kind of collectively watch and share around the world.

michael barbaro

And who were these people?

john eligon

So one of the people that they called was this young man named Christopher Martin.

archived recording (christopher martin)

C-H-R-I-S-T-O-P-H-E-R Last name, Martin, M-A-R-T-I-N.

archived recording

Mr. Martin, how old are you?

archived recording (christopher martin)

19.

john eligon

Now he worked at the store CupFoods, where this happened. And Christopher, he was the person who interacted with George Floyd and actually sold him a pack of cigarettes and took a $20 bill that turned out to be a fake bill. And so it was Christopher Martin who first kind of reported to his boss that, hey, I think this is a fake. And the boss sent Christopher out there to try to get George Floyd to come back in. He didn’t come back in. The boss sent him out a second time with some of the other co-workers, and they all tried to get George Floyd to come back in. He didn’t come back in. And from there, the manager said, hey, we’ll call the police. And so that’s kind of like what started this series of events. And one thing that was very evident with Christopher Martin was this just burning sense of regret. You can actually see these moments in some of the surveillance footage, where Christopher Martin’s outside as George Floyd is being pinned to the ground with the knee on his neck. You could see him kind of pacing.

michael barbaro

Wow.

archived recording

I saw you standing there with your hands on your head for a while, correct?

archived recording (christopher martin)

Correct.

archived recording

What was going through your mind during that time period?

archived recording (christopher martin)

Disbelief and guilt.

archived recording

Why guilt?

archived recording (christopher martin)

If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided.

john eligon

And so, it seems like he’s haunted by his actions that day and what role they may have played in George Floyd’s ultimate passing.

michael barbaro

And how does that serve the prosecution’s case? His regret, his remorse, his description of his actions that day.

john eligon

Well, I think you have to take the totality of his testimony into account, right? So not only did he offer that testimony for the prosecution about his remorse and regret, but he also talked about what things looked like when George Floyd walked in. They actually played surveillance footage of George Floyd in the store, walking around.

archived recording (christopher martin)

He seemed very friendly, approachable. He was talkative. He seemed to just be having an average Memorial Day, just living his life. But he did seem high.

john eligon

He said, yeah, George Floyd appeared a little bit high, but he was otherwise coherent. He was joking with people and things like that. So it was, in some ways, to bring George Floyd to life as a human being who was going about his day that day. So I think that that’s one of the important points. And I think the other important point with Christopher and some of the other witnesses that we heard from is, I think in some ways, it’s a reminder of how disproportionate Derek Chauvin’s response was. Because essentially, you had this, at the time, 18-year-old who saw what George Floyd did is wrong, not the thing that he was supposed to do.

michael barbaro

Right.

john eligon

But not something that warranted guns drawn police response, pinning him to the ground and kind of holding him down. So I think that is definitely an element that the prosecutors want to put out there about how disproportionate Derek Chauvin’s response was.

michael barbaro

Right. So who else is called to the stand who witnessed what happened as an eyewitness?

john eligon

Yeah, so we also had Darnella Frazier.

archived recording

Good morning, Darnella.

archived recording (darnella frazier)

Good morning.

archived recording

Are you a little nervous up there?

archived recording (darnella frazier)

Yes.

john eligon

Who is the young woman— she was 17 at the time— who took that infamous bystander video that was posted to Facebook. And so she was actually with her nine-year-old cousin that day. They were walking to the store to get snacks. And then Darnella mentions kind of seeing out of the corner of her eye this kind of police commotion going on in the streets.

archived recording

When you walked past the squad car there, did you see anything happening there on the ground as you were walking towards CupFoods with your cousin?

archived recording (darnella frazier)

Yes, I see a man on the ground. And I see a cop kneeling down on him.

archived recording

Was there anything about the scene that you didn’t want your cousin to see?

archived recording (darnella frazier)

Yes.

archived recording

And what was that?

archived recording (darnella frazier)

A man terrified, scared, begging for his life.

john eligon

And so she quickly ushers her cousin into the store and then comes back out. She took out her cell phone and hit record, like so many people do.

archived recording

So tell the jury what you observed, what you heard, when you stopped to look at what was happening there at the scene.

archived recording (darnella frazier)

I heard George Floyd saying, I can’t breathe. Please get off of me. I can’t breathe. He cried for his mom. He was in pain. It seemed like he knew. It seemed like he knew it was over for him.

john eligon

And much like Christopher Martin, Darnella also spoke to a real regret and sadness for what she witnessed.

archived recording (darnella frazier)

When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad. I look at my brothers. I look at my cousins, my uncles, because they are all Black. And I look at that, and I look at how that could have been one of them. It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life, but.

john eligon

And you could definitely tell that this is something that completely stays with her, that, yes, her recording, it was a big deal for her to do that, but she felt like looking back on it, it wasn’t enough because it did not save George Floyd’s life. And that was extremely powerful.

michael barbaro

But that guilt is so complicated because of course, what exactly were these witnesses supposed to have done? If you walk up to a police officer in the middle of an arrest and touch them or challenge them, you yourself could very easily get arrested for interfering in their work. And so, there’s something very poignant and painful about watching these witnesses say they feel guilty when it’s not really clear what they could have done differently.

john eligon

It really raises these questions of what it’s like to be a bystander in these situations, and who can police the police, because police are the ones— are supposed to be the ones who are supposed to stop wrong from happening, in some ways. But when you see a wrong happening and you think it’s the police who are doing the wrong, yeah, you can litigate it after the fact, but that’s not going to save a life in the moment. And I think that that’s the burden that people like Darnella carries with them for the rest of their lives, really.

michael barbaro

Was there testimony from anyone who did seek to intervene in a meaningful way?

john eligon

Yeah, I mean, there were several eyewitnesses there who, in one shape or form, did become a little bit more forceful in their efforts to intervene.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

Full name is Donald Wynn Williams II.

john eligon

Specifically, I’m thinking of Donald Williams.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

I’m an entrepreneur and a professional fighter.

john eligon

He is actually a mixed martial arts fighter. And he had went to the store that day to CupFoods. And you can see in the video Donald Williams, he is extremely animated.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

Get him off the ground. You’re being a bum right now.

archived recording

Were you here the whole time?

john eligon

Both in the bystander video that Darnella took, but also body camera footage that was played. At one point, he yells at Derek Chauvin that he was doing a blood choke.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

You certainly— like in a jiujitsu move, bro, you trapping his breathing right here, bro. It’s a blood choke where it specifically attacks the side of the neck, and it particularly cuts off the circulation of your arteries.

john eligon

Which is essentially a move that’s used in mixed martial arts where you try to render your opponent unconscious.

archived recording

Based on your training experience, this looked like a blood choke.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

That is correct. Is he breathing right now?

john eligon

There’s definitely a point where Donald Williams steps out into the street, a couple of times, stepping off the curb.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

So you call what he doing OK?

archived recording

Get back in the street.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

You call what he doing OK?

john eligon

And the officer kind of telling him to get back.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

He’s not responsive right now, bro!

archived recording

Does he have a pulse?

archived recording (donald williams ii)

No, bro, look at him! He’s not responsive right now.

john eligon

There was a firefighter who was there. She was off-duty, an off-duty firefighter.

archived recording

Are you really a firefighter? Yes, I am. I’m from Minneapolis. OK, then get on the sidewalk! You show me his pulse.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

You think that’s OK? Check his pulse.

john eligon

She said, I’m a firefighter. I’m an EMT. Let me look at him. And she was summarily kind of ushered back by the officer who was standing there.

archived recording

Get back in the sidewalk.

archived recording (donald williams ii)

The man ain’t moved yet, bro.

john eligon

So basically, none of them could really get in any close proximity to do anything meaningful, right?

michael barbaro

Right, not even a firefighter with the city of Minneapolis, a peer in the eyes of the police. If not even a firefighter can influence the course of events here, what chance does a regular old bystander?

john eligon

Yeah, it feels like there’s no chance. And—

archived recording

Good afternoon, sir.

archived recording (charles mcmillan)

Good afternoon.

john eligon

—one of the bystanders—

archived recording

How are you doing today?

archived recording (charles mcmillan)

I’m OK.

john eligon

—Charles McMillan, he actually tried maybe a little bit of a different route.

archived recording

So could you tell the jury how old you are?

archived recording (charles mcmillan)

61 years old.

john eligon

And you can hear Charles McMillan on some of the footage that was played in court. You can hear him yelling at George Floyd in the sense, like, trying to reason with him and saying, hey, they got you. You’re in handcuffs. There’s nothing you can do about it now. Just go, man.

archived recording (charles mcmillan)

You can’t win.

archived recording (george floyd)

I’m not trying to win. I’m not trying to win. I’ll get on the ground, anything.

john eligon

He was doing the type of de-escalation that we would expect from police, right?

michael barbaro

Right.

archived recording

If you get in this car, we can talk.

archived recording (george floyd)

I am, but I’m claustrophobic. I’m claustrophobic, man.

archived recording

Why are you not working with me?

archived recording (george floyd)

I can’t— hold up. I’m going to choke. I can’t breathe or nothing. Please! Please!

john eligon

And there was a moment where the prosecutors were showing footage of George Floyd on the ground, calling for his mother.

archived recording (george floyd)

Oh my God, I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe, man. Mama, I love—

archived recording

Mr. McMillan, do you need a minute?

archived recording (charles mcmillan)

[SOBBING]

john eligon

As McMillan was watching that, he just completely broke down.

archived recording (charles mcmillan)

[SOBBING] Oh my God.

archived recording

Just take your time. Just know when you’re ready.

archived recording (charles mcmillan)

I couldn’t help. I feel helpless. I don’t have a mama, either. And I understand him.

john eligon

You can see in McMillan’s testimony that like the other folks who were there, he is haunted and burdened by the question of, did he do the right thing? Was there more that he could have done?

michael barbaro

Mm. So by the end of all of this eyewitness testimony, the message to the jury from the prosecution would seem to be that for all of these people, there was absolutely no ambiguity that what they witnessed was wrong and the depth of that feeling is clearly encapsulated by the trauma and the hauntedness that they’re expressing.

john eligon

Absolutely.

michael barbaro

How does the defense then try to rebut? Do they try to rebut what these witnesses have observed and communicated in this testimony?

john eligon

What the defense does is they basically try to reframe this whole view of what the bystanders were doing. They portray them not as people who are desperate to help George Floyd, but as an angry mob that was threatening police officers.

archived recording (genevieve hansen)

Hi.

archived recording

I just have some follow-up questions for you.

john eligon

And he even went after Genevieve Hansen, one of the witnesses who was there.

michael barbaro

Right, this is the firefighter.

john eligon

Yeah, exactly. So he asked the firefighter, why were you getting so upset? Why were you growing so angry?

archived recording

You would agree that your own demeanor got louder and more frustrated and upset?

archived recording (genevieve hansen)

Um, frustrated I’m not sure is the word I would use.

archived recording

Angry?

archived recording (genevieve hansen)

More desperate.

archived recording

OK. You called the officers a bitch, right?

archived recording (genevieve hansen)

Mm-hmm, yep. I got quite angry after Mr. Floyd was loaded into the ambulance. And—

john eligon

You yourself were saying vulgar things to the officer. And wasn’t the crowd growing angrier and angrier? Because he wants to drive home that point.

archived recording

And some people were yelling louder than others, right?

archived recording (genevieve hansen)

Right.

archived recording

And would you describe other people’s demeanors as upset or angry?

archived recording (genevieve hansen)

I don’t know if you’ve seen anybody be killed, but it’s upsetting.

michael barbaro

So while the prosecution is presenting these eyewitnesses as evidence of how terribly wrong this all went and how guilty Derek Chauvin is, the defense is trying to make the case that that feeling among the witnesses and their reaction on the scene to try to intervene, that dynamic is what made Chauvin’s behavior, they say, justified?

john eligon

They say that the people gathered there made Chauvin feel or sense that there was a threat. And because of that, he was not able to carry out his duties. He was not able to care for George Floyd because he perceived a threat. And he was trying to maintain his own safety and the safety of others. And he was distracted from George Floyd, essentially.

michael barbaro

Hmm. Well, that’s interesting, John. Are they then conceding, these defense lawyers, that Chauvin did something wrong or didn’t do it properly?

john eligon

I don’t know if I’d say they’re conceding that per se, but one of the charges is manslaughter, which is the lowest charge, which, for Derek Chauvin, would probably be short of an acquittal, that would be the best outcome for him, the lowest charge. And in manslaughter, it requires some element of recklessness. So you could reasonably see an argument in which he was a little bit reckless because of this commotion around him. It did cause him, in some way, to panic. In other words, to not act in the most proper of ways because of this commotion around him, right?

michael barbaro

So this is an admittedly difficult question, but having watched all this testimony so closely, which version of this argument about the eyewitnesses, do you think, may have landed more forcefully with the jury, the prosecution or the defense? I know you said at the beginning of our conversation that you can’t exactly read the room and the jury, given the circumstances of how this trial’s being carried out. But I wonder what your sense of that is.

john eligon

I think that anyone who watches those bystanders and their reaction to what they saw that day cannot help but be moved by that. If I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure of all the bystanders, there were probably two that did not cry. There was even a juror who had to be excused one day. They had to take a break in the trial because she got sick. And she told the judge that she couldn’t sleep, that she’d been up until 2:00 AM, and she wasn’t feeling well. Regardless of the nuances of were they an angry mob, were they not, this was such emotional and powerful testimony that you cannot help but think that that landed well for the prosecution and for the prosecution’s case.

[music]

But the defense has been able to, in some ways, muddy the waters a little bit to make it a little bit more complicated, more confusing. And the defense still has to put on their own witnesses and present their own case. So, there’s still a long way to go in the trial in that sense. But I think as that plays out in the courtroom, what’s undeniable is that there is a huge unresolved trauma that so many people have experienced because of this case.

michael barbaro

John, thank you. We really appreciate it.

john eligon

Thank you, Michael.

michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today.

archived recording

The PRAC, after a very in-depth analysis, has concluded that the reported cases of unusual blood clotting, following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine, should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine.

michael barbaro

On Wednesday, European regulators described a, quote, “possible link” between AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine and rare blood clots, a move that could threaten the pace of vaccinations across Europe and the world.

archived recording

This vaccine has proven to be highly effective. It prevents severe disease and hospitalization, and it is saving lives. Vaccination is extremely important in helping us in the fight against Covid-19. And we need to use the vaccines we have to protect us from the devastating effects.

michael barbaro

But the regulators emphasized that the benefits of getting the vaccine still outweigh its risks and stopped short of advising that use of the vaccine be curbed in the European Union’s 27 countries. So far, 35 million people have been vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s vaccine. And 18 of them have died from blood clots. But in a discouraging sign for AstraZeneca, Britain has responded by saying it would offer alternatives to the AstraZeneca vaccine for adults under 30. The United States, meanwhile, has yet to authorize AstraZeneca’s vaccine for Americans.

Today’s episode was produced by Jessica Cheung, Rachel Quester, and Leslye Davis, with help from Austin Mitchell. It was edited by Paige Cowett and engineered by Marion Lozano. That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.


This episode contains strong language.

In Minneapolis, the tension is palpable as the city awaits the outcome of the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer accused of murdering George Floyd last summer.

The court proceedings have been both emotional — the video of Mr. Floyd’s death has been played over and over — and technical.

At the heart of the case: How did Mr. Floyd die?

The prosecution have called on police officials to deliver testimony and condemn Mr. Chauvin’s use of a neck restraint, but a big part of their case has been presenting the testimony of the witnesses: people who were going about their normal business and all converged on that corner of south Minneapolis on that fateful day.

Today, we look at the case that has been brought against Mr. Chauvin so far.


John Eligon, a national correspondent covering race for The New York Times.

Image Medaria Arradondo, the Minneapolis police chief, testified on Monday against the former officer accused of killing George Floyd.
Credit...Still image, via Court TV

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John Eligon contributed reporting.

The Daily is made by Theo Balcomb, Lisa Tobin, Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Annie Brown, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Larissa Anderson, Wendy Dorr, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, Sindhu Gnanasambandan, M.J. Davis Lin, Austin Mitchell, Neena Pathak, Dan Powell, Dave Shaw, Sydney Harper, Daniel Guillemette, Hans Buetow, Robert Jimison, Mike Benoist, Bianca Giaever, Liz O. Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Rachelle Bonja, Alix Spiegel, Diana Nguyen, Marion Lozano and Soraya Shockley.

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