George Floyd’s family, attorneys call for justice before opening statements in Chauvin trial

    Civil rights attorney Ben Crump speaks at a news conference outside the Hennepin County Government Center before the start of opening statements in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on March 29, 2021. Photo by Deena Winter/Minnesota Reformer.

    Civil rights attorney Ben Crump stood outside the Hennepin County courthouse along with Rev. Al Sharpton and George Floyd’s relatives to demand justice in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

    The news conference was scheduled minutes before opening statements in the trial of Chauvin, who is charged with second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

    The trial is expected to hinge on the cause of Floyd’s death with the defense pointing to traces of fentanyl in Floyd’s system as evidence he wasn’t killed by Chauvin, who held his knee to Floyd’s neck for around nine minutes.

    Crump offered a sharp rebuke to speculation on the cause of death.

    “His record isn’t at issue because this is the trial of Derek Chauvin,” Crump said. “The facts are simple. What killed George Floyd was an overdose of excessive force.”

    Crump represented the Floyd family in a civil lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis, winning an unprecedented $27 million settlement. He said while Floyd’s family has received civil justice, they deserve “whole justice” — a guilty verdict against Chauvin and policy reform.

    The high-profile case is drawing international attention and unprecedented security precautions to avoid rioting like that seen in the days after Floyd’s death on May 25.

    The city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County spent more than a million dollars on fencing surrounding the courthouse and other government buildings, while Gov. Tim Walz activated the National Guard, which will send in hundreds of troops to the Twin Cities.

    Local civil rights attorney Jeff Storms, who assisted Crump in the civil case, said for too long “We’ve been indifferent to hate.”

    At 8:46 a.m., Sharpton led the group in kneeling for eight minutes and 46 seconds, to remember how long Floyd was under Chauvin’s knee.

    Floyd’s brother Philonise said Floyd came to Minnesota to better himself, and fell in love with the city of Minneapolis.

    “The truth is, he was killed in the streets,” he said.