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The Mood In Minneapolis Is Tense As Chauvin Trial Is About To Start


Adrian is now on the line with us from Minneapolis. Adrian, there has been so much anticipation and so much anxiety about the start of this trial. What is the mood today in Minneapolis?

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: It can only be described as tense, I think. Everyone here understands the magnitude of this moment. It's also a somber feeling in Minneapolis today. Last night I was at this vigil that George Floyd's family held about a mile from where he was killed, and here's what his brother Philonise Floyd said at that vigil.


PHILONISE FLOYD: The officer who had his knee on my brother's neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, he had a smirk on his face as he tortured my brother to death as his soul left his body.

FLORIDO: As you can hear, Noel, the start of this trial also has the family and, really, the whole city reliving what happened 10 months ago.

KING: Given the significance of this trial and the importance of this moment, I imagine that civil rights leaders have arrived in the city.

FLORIDO: They have, and they continue to arrive. The Reverend Al Sharpton was also at that vigil last night, and he reiterated this point that we've been hearing a lot, that while this trial is about Derek Chauvin and George Floyd, it's also much bigger than that. Here's what Al Sharpton said last night.


AL SHARPTON: So tomorrow begins the trial for not only Chauvin but the trial of the ability of the criminal justice system in this country to hold police accountable. Chauvin is in the courtroom, but America's on trial.


FLORIDO: You know, Noel, because there is a lot of worry among supporters of the Floyd family that the defense in this trial may try to blame Floyd for his own death, Sharpton, the Floyd family and other leaders this morning gathered outside the courthouse where Chauvin is being tried for eight minutes and 46 seconds - the amount of time that Chauvin kneeled into Floyd's neck.

KING: Adrian, you had done some reporting on how difficult it was to pick a jury in this case, given the high-profile nature of the crime. What do we know about the jury?

FLORIDO: Well, the jury is made up of 14 people - 12 regular jurors and two alternates. And I think it is notable that the jury is significantly more diverse than Minneapolis itself - about half of the jurors are Black or multiracial; the other half are white. Inside the courtroom, they're going to be seated not in a jury box but in chairs spaced out on the courtroom floor, as a precaution against the coronavirus. And because this trial is being televised, the court is being careful to protect their identities, so they won't be shown on camera, and their names won't be known by the public until sometime after the trial - we don't know when.

KING: OK. And so we have opening statements starting today. How will the rest of the week unfold?

FLORIDO: Well, the prosecution presents its case first. That may take all of this week and possibly all of next week, and then the defense will get about two weeks to present its case.

KING: NPR's Adrian Florido in Minneapolis. Thank you, Adrian.

FLORIDO: Thank you, Noel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.
Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.