Ten months after the death of George Floyd, the US began today in the substantive proceedings against the agent who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for minutes. The case is in high-security court in Minneapolis, the city where Floyd died on May 25, 2020.
Former police officer Derek Chauvin is suspected of premeditated murder, manslaughter and third-degree murder, a term in US criminal law used when someone is killed unintentionally as a result of a dangerous act.
The black Floyd (46) was handcuffed by officers after a report that he had bought cigarettes with a fake 20 dollar bill. White police officer Chauvin then pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for minutes, who later died in hospital.
A bystander filmed the violence and posted the (shocking) images on Facebook:
The video sparked massive protests against racism and police brutality in the US and other countries. Chauvin was fired the day after the violence, as were three fellow officers who were also involved.
The trial began with an opening statement from the prosecution, who said Chauvin had used “excessive” force. The handcuffed Floyd was unarmed and said 27 times he couldn’t breathe, but the officer wouldn’t let go, the prosecution said.
According to him, Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for a total of 9 minutes and 29 seconds, longer than the 8 minutes and 46 seconds previously mentioned by the law.
Questionnaire for jury members
Due to the sensitivity of the case, choosing the jury was a precarious matter, says correspondent Marieke de Vries in the NPO Radio 1 program News and Co. “All candidate judges were given a list of questions about how often they watched the video, what they think about the police, and whether they participated in the protests.”
Of the 300 nominee jurors, seven women and five men were selected to judge Chauvin’s guilt. Six of the judges are white, four are black and two are multi-racial. Their identity is secret.
Outside the court in Minneapolis, family members and activists sat on one knee for about nine minutes in tribute to Floyd, as long as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck.
According to De Vries, the area surrounding the courthouse has been turned into a fortress. “Shops have been boarded up, streets are lined with barricades and barbed wire and thousands of policemen and guards are on the move.”
Defense will cast doubt
The policeman’s defense contradicts the charges. “Derek Chauvin did exactly what he was trained to do in his 19-year career,” attorney Eric Nelson said on the first day of the session. “Using force is not pleasant, but it is a necessary part of police work.”
Traces of drugs were found in Floyd’s blood and attorney Nelson will argue during the trial that Floyd mainly died as a result of drug use, says correspondent De Vries. This contradicts the coroner’s reading, who concluded after the death that Floyd had been killed by a crime.
Furthermore, the attorney has been granted permission to involve a previous arrest of Floyd in the case. He was also arrested once in 2019 and swallowed the drugs he was carrying.
“The defense will mainly try to sow doubt because the jury must pass a unanimous judgment,” says De Vries. “There only needs to be one juror who doubts, and Chauvin is not found guilty.”
The case is expected to last at least the entire month of April.