First Thing: 'America on trial' over George Floyd's death

Molly Blackall
·6-min read
<span>Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

Good morning.

The trial of a former police officer accused of murdering George Floyd began yesterday, with prosecutors alleging that Derek Chauvin “deliberately” killed a defenceless Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes, even after he had stopped breathing. Attorneys accused Chauvin of “grinding and crushing him until the very breath, the very life, was squeezed out of him.”

The trial is widely seen as a watershed moment in US police accountability. Chauvin is accused of second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter, which he denies, and could face up to 40 years in prison if found guilty of the most serious offences.

Prosecutors accused Chauvin of failing to fulfil his duty to help Floyd, and also preventing others from doing so, including a firefighter trained in first aid. He allegedly kept his knee in place even after a paramedic told him Floyd had no pulse.

  • What does Chauvin say? In his opening statement, Chauvin’s lawyer told the jury that evidence would show Floyd was under the influence of drugs and that the forced used was reasonable due to his behaviour. You can read key quotes from the opening statements here.

  • Floyd’s family lawyer said the case was a test for justice, saying: “Today starts a landmark trial that will be a referendum on how far America has come in its quest for equality and justice for all.” According to the campaigner Al Sharpton, “Derek Chauvin is in the courtroom but America is on trial”.

Biden said 90% of Americans would be eligible for a vaccine next month

Joe Biden speaking at the White House
Joe Biden speaking at the White House. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Up to 90% of American adults will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine by 19 April, Joe Biden announced yesterday, marking a major expansion of the vaccination rollout. He also announced that the same proportion would be living five miles from a vaccination site within three weeks.

  • Biden said 75% of Americans over the age 65 were inoculated in his first 10 weeks in office.

But it’s not all good news. The president called on state leaders to reinstate the mask mandate, warning that the country was in danger of losing “hard-fought gains”. He said: “We still are in a war with this deadly virus, and we’re bolstering our defense, but this war is far from won.”

Dr Rochelle Walensky, the head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a stark and emotional plea to Americans to continue complying with restrictions, warning that the US still faced “impending doom” as cases rise.

In an unscripted moment during the White House briefing, Walensky admitted that “right now I’m scared”, adding:

I’m speaking not necessarily as your CDC director, and not only as your CDC director, but as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter, to ask you to just please hold on a while longer.

Arkansas launched an attack on trans rights

A march in South Dakota on 11 March protesting against a proposed ban on transgender girls and women from female sports leagues.
A march in South Dakota on 11 March protesting against a proposed ban on transgender girls and women from female sports leagues. Photograph: Stephen Groves/AP

Lawmakers in Arkansas have passed a ban on gender-affirming healthcare for transgender children – the first prohibition of its kind in the US, according to opponents. The bill, which has been criticised by medical and child welfare groups, passed in the state senate by 28-7 on Monday.

The bill prevents doctors from providing gender-confirming hormone treatment or surgery to minors, or referring them to other providers to get treatment. It allows private insurers to refuse to cover gender-affirming care for trans people of any age.

  • On Monday, South Dakota also targeted trans youth in an executive order from the governor banning trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams.

  • In New York, non-binary people are suing a state agency for not providing a gender X option on applications for Medicaid, food stamps and other public assistance. At present, those applying for the services must declare themselves male or female.

Another individual has accused Ghislaine Maxwell of sex trafficking minors

Jefrrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell
Jefrrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell Photograph: John Minchillo/AP

Ghislaine Maxwell, the British socialite accused of facilitating Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of girls, is facing a further two charges, taking the total to eight counts. She is being held in federal detention in Brooklyn.

  • Court papers reveal another accuser in the case, “minor victim-4”. The victim was allegedly “recruited to provide Epstein with sexualized massages” that he or his associates paid for. Maxwell allegedly met “minor victim-4” at one of Epstein’s homes around 2001, when the girl was about 14 years old, and “groomed” her to “engage in sexual acts with Epstein through multiple means”.

  • The charges extend the amount of time Maxwell allegedly facilitated abuse by seven years – from 1994 to 2004 rather than from 1994 to 1997. Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In other news …

Multiple women have accused the New York governor of harassment and assault, predominantly former aides.
Multiple women have accused the New York governor of harassment and assault, predominantly former aides. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/AP
  • Sherry Vill has accused Andrew Cuomo of sexual misconduct, joining at least six other women in their accusations against the New York governor – claims he denies. She said Cuomo “manhandled” her and came on to her in her own home.

  • Fox News has hired Lara Trump to the network as a paid contributor. Lara Trump is married to Eric Trump, the former president’s son. She was previously a senior adviser to the Trump campaign.

  • Beijing is axing a number of directly elected seats in Hong Kong’s leadership as part of sweeping reforms of the electoral system that aim to give China greater control.

Stat of the day: visitors to world’s top museums and galleries dropped by 77% last year

Visitor numbers at the world’s most notable 100 museums and art galleries fell by 77% last year, amid unprecedented closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Art Newspaper, which conducted the research, there was a total of 41,000 days of enforced closure across the 100 museums, equating to “112 years of missed visits and hundreds of millions of pounds in lost revenue”.

Don’t miss this: how the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan unfolded

Forty years ago today, Ronald Reagan was shot and injured during a near-miss assassination attempt. The then White House press secretary, James Brady, was shot in the head and partially paralysed for life, leading him to become a prominent gun control activist. David Smith shares details of the day, from the commotion in the White House to Reagan’s wit on the operating table.

Last Thing: a mafia fugitive cooks his way back to jail

The fugitive was leading a quiet life in Boca Chica, in the Dominican Republic.
The fugitive was leading a quiet life in Boca Chica, in the Dominican Republic. Photograph: Orlando Barría/EPA

A mafia member who was on the run has been caught in the Caribbean after authorities spotted him in a series of YouTube cooking videos. Marc Feren Claude Biart, 53, hid his face but forgot to hide his distinctive tattoos while appearing on a channel in which he showed off his Italian cooking skills.

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