As the trial of a white Minneapolis cop charged with murder in the death of George Floyd nears, prosecutors estimate the time Derek Chauvin’s knee was on the black man’s neck at around nine minutes.
The weather has fluctuated before. It was recorded as 8 minutes and 46 seconds in an initial criminal complaint – a number that became symbolic for many in the weeks following Floyd’s death – before a mathematical error was corrected to 7:46 a.m. But documents filed since then, citing a time-stamped video from the police body camera, are now at least nine minutes long.
Whether the figure has changed is unlikely to matter at Chauvin’s trial, which begins with jury selection on Monday. A former prosecutor says it’s common for such details to be refined as prosecutors build a case. A support group for victims of police violence says the discrepancies will have no impact.
“Obviously there was enough time there to think about what he was doing. He heard the man plead that he couldn’t breathe, ”said Toshira Garraway, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence. “If it was two minutes or if it was five minutes or if it was 10 minutes, he was fully aware… Once he said, ‘I can’t breathe”… he was supposed to take his knee.”
Floyd died on May 25. He had been handcuffed and pleaded that he couldn’t breathe, but Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck even after he stopped moving and talking.
Chauvin is charged with second degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers – Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao – are charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder and manslaughter and are due to stand trial in August.
The account of the initial complaint filed on May 29 by the Hennepin County District Attorney’s Office indicates that Chauvin held his knee against Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. But the timestamps cited in this billing document indicate that it was actually 7 minutes and 46 seconds.
The Associated Press began asking questions about the error the day after the initial charges were laid, but prosecutors repeatedly refused to remedy it. The 8:46 a.m. detail was repeated in an amended complaint filed days later by the attorney general’s office.
In the weeks following Floyd’s death, some protesters staged “die-ins” that lasted 8 minutes and 46 seconds, some lawmakers meanwhile knelt in the US Senate and mourners during a memorial service for Floyd remained silent for 8:46 to reflect on the last moments of his life.
In mid-June, prosecutors admitted the one-minute error, but said it would have no impact on the case.
Documents filed by prosecutors in September and October once again changed the schedule. These documents contain the most detailed picture of what happened, citing the timestamps of videos from Lane, Keung and Thao’s body cameras.
The documents do not state the exact time that Chauvin began kneeling on Floyd, but rather provide an account of when Floyd was first pressed to the ground. The timestamps on Lane’s body camera video – recorded in 24 hour format – show it started at some point from 8:19:14 p.m. to 8:19:45 p.m., meaning 14 to 45 seconds after 8:19 p.m.
But the documents cite a clear moment when Chauvin removed his knee, as a stretcher was ready to take Floyd away. Lane’s body camera timestamp read 20:28:45.
This means that Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for at least nine minutes flat, but maybe as long as 9 minutes and 31 seconds. Documents filed by prosecutors describe the delay as “about nine minutes”, although in at least one document it is referred to as “more than nine minutes and twenty seconds”.
John Stiles, spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, said the length of Chauvin’s detention will be evidence presented at trial. He declined to comment further.
Tom Heffelfinger, a former U.S. prosecutor from Minnesota who is unrelated to this case, said it is normal for prosecutors to fine-tune the details as they build a case and the length of the detention de Chauvin will not become essential until a prosecutor introduces it. the jury.
But at trial, he said, the timing will become extremely relevant as the two sides argue over Floyd’s cause of death. Heffelfinger also said it indicated Chauvin’s state of mind and could be used by prosecutors to be stubborn, and that Chauvin had Floyd under his control and held his position for too long.
“You can see from the viewer video that Chauvin had Floyd under control for this entire period,” Heffelfinger said. “He didn’t need to have his knee in his neck to maintain that… control.”