TAMPA, Fla — Around 9 a.m. Monday morning, all eyes will be on Minneapolis as attorneys make opening statements in the state of Minnesota’s case against former police officer Derek Chauvin.
“You'll see both the attorneys, both sides, try to create a narrative that will be the story that people take with them about what actually happened on that day [that George Floyd was killed],” said Justin Hansford, law professor and director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at the Howard University School of Law.
Cell phone video of the incident sparked protests worldwide and opened intense dialogue around systemic racism and police brutality. Chauvin was fired and charged with murder and manslaughter after video showed him with his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.
Despite the charges, analysts say legal practices like qualified immunity present challenges for the state’s case.
The controversial concept of qualified immunity often protects law enforcement from personal liability in lawsuits and could complicate matters.
“It's very hard to find police to be guilty of…excessive force-related crime because of the way that the laws are written,” said Hansford.
Another issue to watch out for in the trial: training. Use of force is expected to play a significant role in the case as some Minneapolis Police Department training materials show a technique similar to the one Chauvin used on Floyd. Those materials also state officers should change positions to alleviate asphyxia.
"We've got oftentimes confusing standards around when police officers can use force, especially deadly force,” said Hansford.
Some say those standards are not equally applied along racial lines.
"It's one of those things...you put it in the hands of the court and hope the courts do what they're supposed to do in deciding his fate,” said Hillsborough NAACP President Yvette Lewis.
The jury has also been an area of high interest in the case. Fourteen jurors were selected-- nine women and five men, including two alternates. Eight are White, four are Black and two identify as multi-racial.
"It is good that there's a diverse jury in the sense that those conversations in the jury deliberations will at least include the passions of people of color who can speak from their own experiences,” said Hansford.
Testimony in the case is expected to last two to four weeks.
Due to the pandemic, there will be limited space inside the courtroom. Only one person from Floyd and Chauvin’s family will be allowed inside. There will also be limited in-person access for media, although the case will be televised.
“It’s a huge deal and it’s a very important deal,” criminal defense attorney Joe Tamburino told CBS-affiliate WCCO. “This is the biggest case in Minnesota history and it’s the first one televised.”
Outside the courtroom, the city and state have prepared for protests with additional security and added law enforcement presence from police, sheriff and National Guard.