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March 29, 2021 GMT

OPENING STATEMENTS IN GEORGE FLOYD DEATH CASE TO BEGIN TODAY

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — One prospective juror’s voice quivered as she told attorneys during jury selection she feared for her family’s safety if chosen for the panel that will decide the fate of a white former police officer charged with killing George Floyd.

When the judge excused her, the woman exhaled in relief.

Jurors at all trials feel pressure, knowing their decisions will alter lives. But the weight on jurors in Minneapolis is in a whole different category as they’ll be asked whether to assign guilt in the death of a Black man that prompted some of the largest protests in U.S. history.

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Bystander video of the confrontation is expected to be a key exhibit at trial, with opening statements set for today. It shows Derek Chauvin using his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground for about nine minutes during an arrest last May. Floyd cried he couldn’t breathe and called for his mother before his body went limp.

A looming question is whether Chauvin, charged with murder and manslaughter, can get a fair trial with so much pressure on jurors and their possible concern about what may happen in the city and country should they reach a verdict others oppose.

A high fence installed around the courthouse for the trial is a daily reminder for jurors of security concerns. On some days, protesters gathered just beyond it, holding signs that read, “Convict Derek Chauvin” and “The World Is Watching.”

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS LAY FLOWERS AT SITES OF ATLANTA-AREA SHOOTERS

ATLANTA (AP) — Members of Congress laid flowers yesterday at the three massage businesses in Georgia where a gunman killed eight people, six of them women of Asian descent.

The lawmakers also demanded that prosecutors charge the suspect with a hate crime and that the U.S. Department of Justice take a leading role in the probe.

The congressional delegation was led by members of the Asian Pacific American Caucus, which said Asian Americans have faced increased hostility since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawmakers said they wanted to experience the shooter’s roughly 30-mile trip from Cherokee County, where police say he killed four people at Youngs Asian Massage, to Atlanta, where he is accused of shooting and killing four more people at two businesses across the street from each other.

New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim said he came to show solidarity with the local Asian American community and try to understand how it felt after the March 16 attack.

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New York Rep. Grace Meng said she wanted to honor the lives of the victims, particularly the Asian women, whose “stories and lives are just as American as anyone else.”

The lawmakers spoke outside Gold Spa, one of the shooting sites, where the ground was covered with bouquets and tree branches that spelled out, “Love.” Signs read, “Asian Women Are Sacred” and “Stop Asian Hate.”

BIDEN TO UNVEIL ECONOMIC RECOVERY PACKAGE THIS WEEK

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will lay out the first part of his multitrillion-dollar economic recovery package this week, focusing on rebuilding roads, bridges and other infrastructure, followed by a separate plan later in April addressing child and health care.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed yesterday the administration’s plans to split the package into two legislative proposals, part of an effort to get support from congressional Republicans. But she adds that “we’ll work with the Senate and House to see how it should move forward.”

Biden will release details in a speech Wednesday in Pittsburgh about his proposal for federal investments in physical infrastructure, an issue that has drawn Republican support despite wariness over a pricey package so soon after passage of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan.

Democrats, meanwhile, have been aiming for a broader package that could include policy changes on green energy, immigration and other issues — as well as make permanent some of the just-passed COVID-19 assistance such as child tax credits. Many are ready to bypass Republicans, if they have to.

NO PLANS SET FOR MEDIA VISIT TO BORDER PATROL FACILITIES

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House press secretary Jen Psaki has declined to provide a specific date for when the media will get access to Border Patrol facilities temporarily holding thousands of migrant children seeking to live in the U.S.

But she said yesterday the Biden administration is committed to transparency and is “working to get that done as soon as we can.”

More than 16,000 unaccompanied children were in government custody as of Thursday, including about 5,000 in substandard Customs and Border Protection facilities.

Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been calling on the administration to open the facilities to cameras, asserting that the current policy is designed to keep the public from seeing what is happening at the border.

Republican officials are also blaming the Biden administration for actions they say are leading more people from Central America to seek entry into the United States.