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Attorney Justin Miller On The Chauvin Trial And Its Effect On George Floyd's Family


The murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is laying out the factual record surrounding George Floyd's death, like the graphic video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck, testimony from paramedics who tried to resuscitate Floyd and testimony from police officers on proper restraint techniques. But the trial has also revealed the emotional toll of Floyd's death. There has been wrenching testimony about how his death affected people on the scene that day and how it's affected the loved ones who survive George Floyd. Justin Miller is an attorney representing George Floyd's family, and he joins us now. Welcome.

JUSTIN MILLER: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

CHANG: I mean, a lot of the testimony has been difficult to watch, difficult to listen to for anyone, but can you talk about what it's been like for Floyd's family?

MILLER: It's been an emotional roller coaster. They are reliving one of the most traumatic events in all of their lives. And it's just like picking the scab off a wound time and time and time again. The majority of them are in good spirits. They are holding up very well. But at times, it's overwhelming for them.

CHANG: Well, I understand that you specifically represent Roxie Washington. She's the mom of George Floyd's 7-year-old daughter, Gianna. How are they both doing?

MILLER: I think they're going through the exact same things. Gianna, as a 7-year-old, is taking it pretty well, but there are times when you can see that it starts to overwhelm her and then she kind of reverts to, you know, acting in the way a child would act in these situations. The other day, I was with them, and I could tell it was getting to be a lot for her. And she kind of went from, you know, being asked questions and talking about the situation to just wanting to dance and have fun and be away from everything. And you could tell immediately when the shift occurred. And I was just sad for her.

CHANG: Well, pretty soon the defense will begin formally presenting its case, and they're expected to argue that fentanyl in Floyd's system and his underlying health were directly responsible for his death. The judge has granted them permission to show the jury this video of an earlier incident in which Floyd was arrested. And I'm just wondering, how are you all preparing the family for this?

MILLER: They are ready. They know that the defense is going to use that as one of their arguments. If what the defense is saying is that if he was high on fentanyl that day, he would have just keeled over without any interaction from the police, then they're going to need to show some evidence of that and have some experts to back that up, and I don't think they can produce that. What the evidence shows is that nine minutes and 29 seconds that we now know that Derek Chauvin was kneeling on his neck was a cause and a main cause of his death, if not the only cause of his death.

CHANG: Let me ask you this. Historically, very few police officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter in cases like this, much less convicted. So how much are you and how much is the family bracing for an acquittal here?

MILLER: Well, as a Black man that lives in America, I understand that the justice system is not always going to behave in the way that we believe or think it should behave. Do I think it's going to occur? No. And as a lawyer and as a person who's worked in the court system for 17 years, I have faith in the jury. I have faith in the criminal justice system. And I believe that this evidence is overwhelming and that Derek Chauvin will be convicted of murder.

CHANG: Well, I want to step back from this trial for just a bit because, I mean, it's been more than 10 months since George Floyd's death. And since then, we've seen nationwide protests. Last summer, Gianna, his young daughter, famously said, daddy changed the world. I'm just curious, does the family still feel that way?

MILLER: I know for 100% certainty that Gianna still feels that way. She sees everything that's going on. She understands the significance that her father's death has played in changing narratives all around the world, in a time where everyone was glued to their television and had nothing else to do but to look at and understand that there is some type of difference in the way that some people in this country are policed versus the other people in this country.

CHANG: Justin Miller is an attorney representing George Floyd's family. Thank you very much for joining us today.

MILLER: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.