Ten months after George Floyd‘s death, today in the US, the substantive treatment of the lawsuit against the officer who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for minutes. The case is served in the heavily guarded court in Minneapolis, the city where Floyd died on May 25, 2020.
The now ex-policeman Derek Chauvin is suspected of murder without premeditation, manslaughter and third-degree murder, a term in American criminal law used when someone is accidentally killed as a result of a dangerous act.
The black Floyd (46) was handcuffed by cops after a report that he had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit 20 dollar bill. The white police officer Chauvin then pressed his knee on Floyd‘s neck for minutes, who later died in the hospital.
After Floyd’s family and friends had given a press conference, Chauvin‘s prosecutor and lawyer started the lawsuit with their opening statement:
The video led to massive protests against racism and police brutality in the US and other countries. Chauvin was fired the day after the violence, just like three fellow agents who were involved.
The trial began with an opening statement from the prosecution, who said that Chauvin had used “excessive” force. The cuffed Floyd was unarmed and said 27 times he couldn’t get any air, but the officer didn‘t let go, according to the prosecution.
He already showed the jurors in his opening statement the familiar footage of Floyd’s arrest. According to the prosecution, Chauvin pressed his knee on the black man‘s neck for a total of 9 minutes and 29 seconds, longer than the 8 minutes and 46 seconds previously mentioned by the Justice Department.
Questionnaire for judges
Due to the sensitivity of the case, choosing the jury was a precarious matter, says correspondent Marieke de Vries in the NPO Radio 1 programme News and Co. “All candidate judges received a list of questions about how many times they watched the video, how they think about the police and whether they participated in the protests.”
Of the 300 jury candidates, seven women and five men have been chosen to judge Chauvin’s guilt. Of the jurors, six are white, four black and two multiracial. Their identity is classified.
Outside the court in Minneapolis, family members and activists were sitting on a knee for about nine minutes in tribute to Floyd, just as long as Chauvin pressed his knee down Floyd‘s neck.
According to De Vries, the area surrounding the courthouse has been transformed into a fortress. “Stores are nailed up, streets are trimmed with barricades and barbed wire, and thousands of officers and guards are on their feet.”
Defense will sow doubt
The police officer’s defense contradicts the accusations. “Derek Chauvin did exactly what he was trained for in his 19-year career,” said lawyer Eric Nelson on the first day of the session. “The use of force is not pleasant, but it is a necessary part of police work.”
Traces of drugs were found in Floyd‘s blood and lawyer Nelson will argue during the trial that Floyd was mainly killed as a result of drug use, says correspondent De Vries. That contradicts the medical examiner’s reading, who, after death, found that Floyd had been killed by a crime.
Furthermore, the lawyer has been given permission to involve an earlier arrest of Floyd in the case. He was also arrested in 2019 and swallowed the drugs he had with him.
“ The defense will mainly try to raise doubt because the jury has to make a unanimous judgement,” says De Vries. “There only has to be one juror in doubt, and Chauvin is not found guilty.”
It is expected that the case will last at least the whole month of April.
A bystander filmed the violence and posted the (shocking) images on Facebook: