On 25 May 2020 George Floyd died after being arrested by police in Minneapolis on suspicion of using a fake US$20 dollar to pay for groceries in a shop. The case became the focus of the Black Lives Matter campaign and there is intense scrutiny of the trial.
The jury at the trial of US police officer Derek Chauvin has been shown a video taken by a bystander of him kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell told the jurors Chauvin did not “let up or get up” as Floyd repeated 27 times that he was struggling to breathe.
Smart move by prosecution to tell the jury this isn’t about painting all police with an unflattering broad brush. It’s about Mr. Chauvin. Openings frame the case. #DerekChauvinTrial
— Alan Tuerkheimer (@atuerkheimer) March 29, 2021
The video of the arrest triggered nationwide protests and riots last year by people complaining about police abuse of African-Americans.
In the video Floyd, handcuffed and face down on the pavement, called for his mother and pleaded for his life.
Mr Blackwell said Chauvin did not even take his knee off Floyd’s neck when his breathing became shallow and then stopped or when the paramedics arrived to treat him.
Chauvin denies second and third degree murder and manslaughter. The defence is expected to claim Floyd died as a result of his own health issues, including suffering from COVID-19.
MN prosecutors DO NOT need to prove #DerekChauvin kneeling was the ONLY cause of #GeorgeFloyd death. They have to prove was a “substantial causal factor” in causing the death. The fact that other causes MAY have contributed to the death DOES NOT exonerate Chauvin. #ChauvinTrial
— Laura Coates (@thelauracoates) March 29, 2021
The prosecutor said the offence which Floyd faced was a “misdemeanour” which they could have simply given him a ticket for.
But instead they chose to arrest him and hold him on the ground in handcuffs.
After playing the video Mr Blackwell told the jury: “Nine minutes and 29 seconds is how long that went on.”
Derek Chauvin is on trial.
America is on trial.
Our criminal-legal system is on trial.
George Floyd is not on trial.
— Cori Bush (@CoriBush) March 29, 2021
Earlier, in his opening statement on the first day of the trial in Minneapolis, Mr Blackwell said: “You will learn that on 25 May of 2020 Mr. Derek Chauvin betrayed his badge when he used excessive and unreasonable force upon the body of Mr. George Floyd.
“That he put his knees upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him, until the very breath – no, ladies and gentlemen, until the very life – was squeezed out of him,” Mr Blackwell added.
He said the chief of Minneapolis Police Department and a number of police officers and experts in police training would be testifying for the prosecution at the trial.
Defence attorney Eric Nelson introduces Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer facing murder charges in the death of George Floyd, to potential jurors during jury selection in his trial in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., March 15, 2021 in this courtroom sketch from a video feed of the proceedings.
Mr Blackwell said: “One of those things that this case is not about: all police, all policing. Police officers have difficult jobs…They sometimes have to make split second life and death decisions…This case is about Mr Derek Chauvin.”
Derek Chauvin’s defense strategy is essentially to put George Floyd on trial; people and news organizations referring to these proceedings as the “George Floyd trial” are knowingly or unknowingly supporting that strategy.
— Saeed Jones (@theferocity) March 29, 2021
Mr Blackwell said Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 479 seconds, quipping: “Not a split second among them.”
The trial, which is being televised, continues.
The verdict is awaited by the whole of the United States, indeed the whole world.