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Trial Begins for Ex-Police Officer Charged in George Floyd's Death; Members of Floyd Family Speak Ahead of Chauvin Trial. Aired 9- 9:30a ET
Aired March 29, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy has the week off.
Ten months after George Floyd's death ignited nationwide, even worldwide protests, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in his death, Derek Chauvin, will stand trial and that trial begins in the next hour. Just minutes from now George Floyd's family will speak and then kneel before they enter the courthouse.
You'll remember, of course, Floyd died pinned under Chauvin's knee for minutes during that arrest. At one point the National Guard was activated in 21 states across this country in the days that followed and the nation saw one of the largest racial justice movements in more than 60 years.
Chauvin now faces multiple murder charges and the city of Minneapolis is on edge, concrete barriers and fencing now block police precincts. Chauvin's defense is expected to argue that Mr. Floyd did not die from that knee on his neck but from a drug overdose.
We begin this hour in Minneapolis. Omar Jimenez has been covering this story since the beginning. He's there now.
Omar, we know that before opening statements in the courtroom, the Floyd's family, they're going to make remarks and also kneel, right, of course, symbolizing that officer's knee on Floyd's neck as he died. We're going to take those comments live when we begin. Tell us, though, what the mood is there around the courthouse in the city of Minneapolis right now.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, those comments expected to begin momentarily here in Minneapolis with members of the Floyd family but also their attorneys as well. I mean, you talk about the mood, I mean, really, for many in the community, it is anxious to see what the reality check on criminal accountability for the officer, in this case Derek Chauvin, looks like. Opening statements is the start of that process of course now that we're on the other side of jury selection.
But you can see the press conference getting ready to get under way in just a few moments here. Attorney General Benjamin Crump who's represented the family with Reverend Al Sharpton behind them as well.
Of course Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, who has been ever present throughout the course of this as they step up to the podium right now. Ben Crump expected to make some statements similar to what he made last night, that he is not confident that what he is going to hear later today in opening statements will be short of a character assassination on George Floyd. Let's listen in.
(LIVE COVERAGE OF THE GEORGE FLOYD TRAIL)
BENJAMIN CRUMP, FLOYD FAMILY ATTORNEY: Good morning. I'm Attorney Ben Crump and along with Attorney Tony Romanucci, Attorney Chris Stewart, Attorney Justin Miller and Attorney Jeff Storms who hails here from Minneapolis, Minnesota, we have the honor of representing the family of George Curry Floyd, Jr. Present here with us is my mentor and our civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton, who is standing with the family of George Floyd, assembled here today and there are others who are flying in this morning for what they know will be a long-four week for justice to -- justice, a four-week journey to justice.
We have his cousin's Sharita Tate, Tedra McGee, Tera Brown. We have his nephew Brandon Williams. We have his brothers Rodney Floyd and Philonise Floyd. His sister Bridget Floyd is en route and we know his daughter Gianna is also here in Minneapolis today.
Today starts a landmark trial that will be a referendum on how far America has come in its quest for equality and justice for all. It will be prima facie evidence this trial of Derek Chauvin regarding the killing of George Floyd on May 25th, 2020, right here in Minneapolis. It will be prima facie evidence whether America is going to live up to the Declaration of Independence.
Now, I know everybody can quote the Declaration of Independence, but this trial is going to provide evidence of whether we really believe it when we say we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equally. That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights that amongst them are life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Well, America, that means black people, too. America, that means George Floyd, too. And for all of those people who will continue to say that this is such a difficult trial, that this is such a hard trial, well, we rebuke that because we know if George Floyd was a white-American citizen and he suffered this painful torturous death with a police officer kneeling on his neck, nobody, nobody will be saying this is a hard case.
And when people ask you that activists and the family activists, when people ask you, well, isn't this a tough case because they're going to try to say George Floyd had a trace amount of drugs in his system, you let them know that Ben Crump said that George Floyd was living, breathing, walking and talking just fine until the police put him face down and put him in handcuffs and put a knee on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. So this murder case is not hard when you watch that torture video of
George Floyd. You all understand? This murder case is not hard when you watch that torture video of George Floyd and we have to call it what it is. It was torture. Even under the Geneva Convention definition, this was torture and Derek Chauvin should be held criminally liable for the death of George Floyd.
You know, we, there are civil lawyers and the George Floyd family that their civil justice under the 7th Amendment, Tony, with the historic $27 million settlement that not only included compensation for the family but also policy reform and that is important, but that's only part of the justice.
George Floyd, just like any other citizen, his family is deserving of whole justice, full justice. That means that the state and the agents of the government should hold individuals who commit crimes accountable under the 10th Amendment, and black people in America should not only have to get torture justice. We have every right to get whole justice.
Civil justice and criminal justice. Nobody questioned when the Daimler family got a $20 million settlement, that that white family should not also get criminal justice. So why is it that we were questioned in 2021 whether black people in America can get whole justice as well under the 7th Amendment and the 10th Amendment? We're not asking for anything extraordinary. We're asking for equal justice under the law.
And news flash, news flash, breaking news, we expect in just a few minutes, you're going to hear opening arguments and they're going to take the playbook out, Reverend Al, and they're going to try to assassinate the character of George Floyd. Philonise, they're going to call your brother everything but a child of God. And they're going to talk about as much as they can about his record. But his record isn't an issue. Because this is the trial of Derek Chauvin.
Breaking news, this is the trial of Derek Chauvin. Let's talk about his record. His 19 complaints of excessive force by citizens here in Minneapolis. That's what we should be talking about. George Floyd didn't kill anybody. Derek Chauvin was the person that killed George Floyd. So why is it we will allow them to assassinate the character of George Floyd after they've assassinated his person.
You know, they taught me in law school that if you have the facts on your side then by all means, argue the facts. But then they say, if the facts ain't really with you, then try to assassinate your opponent's character as a way to hopefully distract everybody from focusing in on the facts.
Well, everybody, please do not be distracted. The facts are simple. What killed George Floyd was an overdose of excessive force. The transcript from all intelligence is clear, the manner and cause of death was asphyxiation by homicide. Philonise, as they say in the hood, they choked him. It was a knee choke. And so let's remember the facts here. This murder case is not hard.
Just look at the tortured video of George Floyd. When anybody asks you, remind them, this murder case is not hard. Just look at the torture video of George Floyd. The most viewed murder of a police on the citizen in the history of the world. It has been viewed just over 50 million times on YouTube and probably as many more times on cable television.
Everybody has saw this video. What we want to know is will we see justice? The whole world is watching. The whole world is watching. So you're going to hear from Attorney Tony Romanucci, Attorney Justin Miller, and Attorney Jeff Storms, and then you're going to hear from the family of George Floyd and then after that, you're are going to hear from our civil rights leader, America civil rights leader Al Sharpton.
We are trying to time it where we can get it 8 minutes and 46 -- 8:46. And we're going to try to keep time and then, Reverend Al, after he gives us our call-to-action, we're going to take a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds and hopefully everybody within the sound of his voice will join us in taking that knee to understand what George Floyd went through the last minutes and seconds of his life.
Without further ado, Attorney Tony Romanucci, a great, great lawyer from Chicago, Illinois, my brother in this struggle.
ANTONIO ROMANUCCI, FLOYD FAMILY ATTORNEY: Good morning, everybody. My name is Antonio Romanucci. Yesterday, I said we were on day 306 of George Floyd being killed. Today is day 307. But it's the first day of justice for the criminal case. As my brother Ben Crump said, this is a case of common sense.
This is not a case about George Floyd's character. This is not a case about George Floyd's past. This is the case about what happened on May 25th of 2020. And I will tell you this, remember, mechanical asphyxiation by homicide, and that was determined by the two independent medical examiners that we brought to this town to examine George days after he was killed, and why we did that?
Because we had to challenge and attack the narrative that Hennepin County put out that George had died of a fentanyl overdose. Immediately, you could see that their message was for George Floyd when it should have been about Derek Chauvin. And we are here to be the messenger for the goodness of George Floyd and what Derek Chauvin did on George Floyd that day. We're here because of civil justice. We're there towards civil justice. Today, criminal justice. But I will tell you that we have the message, something even more important. We have the message, change of laws.
The Minnesota General Assembly will have an opportunity to change one of the most important laws that we've ever had in this state. And that's changing the arbitration reform bill. We want it named the George Floyd Reform Arbitration Bill.
We want it so that if a chief of police fires a police officer because they lied, because they used unreasonable use of force, because they were egregious conduct, we want that termination by the chief of police to stand. We don't want it overturned by an arbitrator. We want the chief of police, just like Chief Arradondo did in this case. He fired those police officers because they failed to intervene.
Because they didn't try and save George's life when he said, "I can't breathe". Just like we're all doing right now. We're breathing. We don't have to think about it. George was begging to breathe. That is deserving of termination, it's not deserving of an arbitrator to review that termination and overturn it.
So, we're here in George's spirit because every single day since his death, George has sent a message. And he's going to send a message in perpetuity. We're going to make sure that never, ever, needless death happens again, where an unrestrained, non-violent man, a black man, killed at the hands of white police officers never happens again. Thank you very much.
CRUMP: Thank you, Tom. Thank you Attorney Romanucci. And hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, a person who has been instrumental in helping us achieve that historic civil justice for the family of George Floyd, especially the child of George Floyd, my brother, attorney Justin Miller, who is partners with fraternity Chris Stewart.
JUSTIN MILLER, ATTORNEY: Thank you, man.
CRUMP: You're welcome.
MILLER: Good morning. My name is Attorney Justin Miller. On behalf of my law partner Chris Stewart, who couldn't be here with you today, I bring you greetings. This, today, is not the trial of George Floyd. And I've heard people say that this is a George Floyd trial.
This is the George Floyd trial. George Floyd is not on trial. This is the trial of Derek Chauvin and it should be printed and spoken about that way every single time we talk about it. This trial is about America being America for all Americans. Not just some of us, all Americans. And it can be that way, and it should be that way.
We have to take time now to think about what we want for our children and for our families. This family behind me is suffering and they've been suffering since the beginning of this thing and they're going to suffer long after all of you have gone and all of us are gone. What we want to do and what this trial can do is to make sure that no other families have to suffer in this manner. George Floyd was murdered. He wasn't killed. He didn't die.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
MILLER: He was murdered.
MILLER: And when a man is murdered, there should be retribution. There is no real justice in my opinion for a person who was murdered. You can never get his life back. His daughter will never get her father back. His brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews will never have that person in their life. But what we can do is make sure that justice is served in the courtroom to Derek Chauvin, the person who for eight minutes and 46 seconds tortured, murdered and killed George Floyd in front of the world for everyone to see.
You know, in the very beginning of this, I had to explain to my children why during a pandemic, I was flying to Minnesota to talk about and to represent the family of George Floyd, and to see their faces, their faces, to explain to them why America was different for them and why they were going to have to change and understand what was going on, 10 years old and 7 years old. It broke my heart to see their faces after I explained that. I don't think another family should have to explain that, another father should have to explain that to their children.
I think that this should be the last time, and in that courtroom behind us, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, we can go a long way in making that a reality. In the words of a good friend of mine, Steven Jackson, who was here in the very beginning of all of this, who pushed and kept this case in the lime light, he said, justice for George Floyd and love for all who have love for all. Love for all who have love for all.
Today, we can get some measure of justice, Ben.
CRUMP: Yes sir.
MILLER: Today is the beginning of a new era for Minneapolis, Minnesota, and for America and also for the world as a whole.
MILLER: Keep your eyes on Minnesota, this is where change is going to start. Thank you.
CRUMP: Thank you Attorney Miller, and as I get ready to bring Attorney Jeff Storms from Minneapolis, we are trying to be -- coordinated -- we want reverend now speaking around 8:40 or so, and at 8:46, at 8:46 is symbolic.
It's a reason, then we're going to try to have -- you all follow his instructions. Attorney Jeff Storms, one of the great Minnesota lawyers, along with Michelle Gadelle(ph) who really helped us achieve the civil justice. Now we turn to Attorney General Keith Ellison and his team of prosecutors to deliver criminal justice. It has been such an honor to work with you, Jeff, in your native hometown.
JEFF STORMS, FLOYD FAMILY ATTORNEY: Thank you, Ben, it's been an honor to work with you as well. For too long, too many of us have been deliberately indifferent at least to the atrocities that have befallen our black brothers and sisters. But today is a landmark moment behind us to show the world that no longer will we be deliberately indifferent to hate --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right --
STORMS: Through love and power, through these leaders, through these families that have suffered, we will all work together to eradicate it in every manner possible, and that means both civil and criminal justice. And we are all playing a role in that and we thank you all for that. Thank you.
CRUMP: Thank you so much, Jeff. Now, we're going to have his family -- is going to be emotional for them, and you can imagine they're about to have to sit, Sarah, through this court proceeding and hear them talk about the person who they all grew up with in Cuney homes, projects of Houston, Texas. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee reminds us that not only is George Floyd's family in the limelight, but also the whole Cuney home neighborhood, all of black America is in the limelight as we deal with this landmark case.
And his family, all of them have been so dignified and graceful in the face of this unimaginable, horrific tragedy. Can you imagine just for a second if that was your loved one who was down on that ground begging? I don't think many people can imagine that. Especially our white brothers and sisters. They can't fathom that. But just trying to imagine that if you can.
Just try to imagine the person who you grew up with. The person who looked after you on that ground begging for a breath. And that's the last moments of his life on this earth. That's what they're dealing with. So, we're going to call his brothers to come before you, Philonise Floyd, Terrence Floyd, Rodney Floyd and Brandon Williams, and also his cousins are here, Tara Brown(ph) and Schaarita Tate(ph) and Letethra McGee(ph).
So if the brothers, if you all will come forward, you all represent the legacy of your brother.
TERRENCE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: You know, we're here -- you know, we're here from Houston, Texas, Cuney home. Our brother George Floyd represents our embodies third world Houston and any ghetto around America.
You know, he represents all of that. We are one. And he came to Minnesota to better his self and he had a great -- he had a lot of great things going on and he fell in love with the city. He fell in love with the people, and he went to trucking school and, you know, Minnesota offered so much to him. And so, that will be all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good job.
T. FLOYD: So, George Floyd, he came to this city to make a better way for himself. And unfortunately, Mr. Chauvin, the officer in the video, eight minutes and 46 seconds kneeled on our brother's neck. You all, please, do not be entertained by the lie that they're going to throw out on him. Do not be entertained by that lie. The truth is, he was killed in the streets. He came from Houston to make a better way for himself and
unfortunately, Mr. Chauvin, he gave a -- a brother in the streets. So, please all, keep that in mind, he was murdered in the streets. That's all, I'm going to leave it at that.
PHILONISE FLOYD, BROTHER OF GEORGE FLOYD: It's cold out here. But the heat is on, as far as the state of Minneapolis, Minnesota, they will have to make the right decision. They can't sweep this under the rug.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, PJ.
P. FLOYD: George Floyd, Fernando Castille, they were all killed by officers that were sworn to protect us. Many others who I can't name is so many throughout America. But one thing I can tell you, we will get justice. We will not allow Derek Chauvin --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amen --
P. FLOYD: Tou and his crew to be the judge, the prosecutor and the executioner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right --
P. FLOYD: If we can't get justice for a black man here in America --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell it!
P. FLOYD: We will get justice everywhere else in America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell it!
P. FLOYD: This is a starting point. This is not a finishing point. We will be around the world to get justice for all others, meeting in Brazil, London, Ghana, anywhere we have to go to, because the shade against skin shouldn't be a death sentence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell it!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
P. FLOYD: America is watching. Just like this press, many souls, "Court TV", they will display everything just like when that man had his knee on my brother's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. It was an motion cinema picture. Everybody seen it. You had to be blind if you didn't see it. A blind man heard a man being tortured to death. Thank you all.