The case that reopened the racial wound in the United States 10 months ago with the death of George Floyd during a brutal police arrest began a new chapter on Monday with the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, accused of murdering the African American. The Minneapolis (Minnesota) Prosecutor’s Office emphasized the brutal video where the agent is seen to nail his knee to his neck while Floyd is immobilized on the ground and screams that he cannot breathe until he vanishes. Chauvin’s attorney defended that his client acted “reasonably” and that Floyd died due to drug use and poor health.
Rarely do a police officer face any kind of legal consequence – let alone a conviction – for committing acts of lethal violence against detainees. For the African-American community and the millions of protesters who took to the streets last year to protest police brutality after Floyd’s death on May 25, this trial goes further and seeks to determine whether the United States is capable of being held accountable for the systematic racial injustice of the country. “Chauvin is in the dock, but the United States is on trial,” the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist, said at the pre-trial vigil.
In front of the Hennepin County Courthouse, at 8:46 a.m., George Floyd’s family, his legal team, and a handful of activists knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the same time that Agent Chauvin had the knee. about the African American. The symbolic scene took place in front of a fully armored court and protected by military personnel prepared for possible disturbances, although the city was apparently calm. “It shouldn’t be two systems of justice: one for American whites and one for blacks. We are one, ”said Philonise Floyd, brother of the deceased. “There have been videos before and they did not give us justice. They have a chance to get it right, ”Sharpton added to more journalists than protesters.
Chauvin, 45, faces multiple counts of murder and manslaughter, for which he can be sentenced to up to 41 years in prison. His lawyer, Eric Nelson, remarked that “there is no political or social cause” in the trial, and that the evidence of the evidence goes “far beyond” the video that went around the world. The defense of the former agent affirmed that Floyd fainted in the car before the police appeared and that in the videos that will be presented throughout the trial – which will last about four weeks – it will be evident that Floyd suffered an overdose and died from it. of a cardiac arrhythmia. Chauvin “was doing exactly what he had to do, what he had been trained to do during his 19-year career,” Nelson said.
The millionaire agreement reached on the 12th between the Minneapolis authorities and Floyd’s family, who will receive $ 27 million to avoid bringing the civil lawsuit against the city to trial, makes it difficult to maintain the presumption of innocence of the former agent in the trial.
The medical examiner’s report concluded that Floyd’s death was a homicide resulting from “cardiopulmonary failure” due to complications due to police action and “neck compression.” The document lists fentanyl poisoning and recent methamphetamine use as factors determining “other major conditions” for Floyd, but not the “cause of death.” The prosecution confirmed Floyd’s addiction to opiates, but ruled out that the death was the result of an overdose.
In any case, the video of the agony of Floyd, who was 46 years old, is a powerful weapon in favor of the Prosecutor’s Office. Within half an hour after the session started, the jury, Chauvin, and those present in the room saw the 9-minute and 29-second recording. They heard the 27 times Floyd claimed he couldn’t breathe, what he called his late mother, and his commitment to get in the police car until he lost consciousness. “It’s over,” you hear him say. It will not be the only time the video is seen in court. “Believe what your eyes see, that is murder,” prosecutor Blackwell told the 14 members of the jury – 12 will deliberate – who must decide whether or not the former agent Chauvin is guilty or not of Floyd’s death.
Prosecutor Blackwell explained that Floyd spent 4:44 minutes without breathing with Chauvin’s knee on his neck, that he did not abandon his position even “when the paramedics arrived.” The defense of the former police officer will present a video in which the African American is seen rocking back and forth before immobilizing him, to justify the force used by the accused. “It was not an easy fight” to stop him, added the former agent’s lawyer.
The place where George Floyd’s arrest occurred has popularly adopted his name. This Monday there have been those who approached the square where bouquets of flowers, posters and candles keep the memory of the African American alive. In the southern suburb of Minneapolis, a symbol of the resistance, Floyd’s six-year-old daughter said after his death: “Dad changed the world.”
A witness: “you can call me a snitch”
Jena Scurry, a 911 emergency service operator, was the first witness to take the stand on Monday. She followed Floyd’s arrest live through a surveillance camera and considered that the use of force that was being exerted during the arrest was so excessive that she called a supervisor. “You can call me a snitch if you want,” he said before assuring that “all the officers sat” on Floyd, in relation not only to Derek Chauvin, the former police officer accused of murder and manslaughter, but also the three officers who accompanied him, who they are accused of complicity. Scurry maintained that the detention lasted so long that it was asked if the video had been frozen.
“My instincts told me that something was wrong,” said the operator. As the prosecutor emphasized, the operator did something that she had never done in her entire career and was clearly unusual: “The police called the police.” The witness who generated the most interest in the jurors was Donald Williams, a 33-year-old martial arts fighter, who witnessed what happened and is heard in a video reprimanding the police while they immobilized Floyd. He explained the technique Chauvin used to press harder on the African-American’s neck while the jury took notes. He said it was basically “torture.”
Due to the pandemic, there are only two seats reserved for the public, one for each of the parties. While that of the Floyd family was occupied by his brother, Philonise, that of Chauvin remained empty. The rest of the family followed the day from another room live through Court TV. However, television suffered a technical problem almost 40 minutes after the close of the session, and Judge Peter A. Cahill decided to forcibly end Williams’ testimony so that those close to Floyd and Chauvin would not miss a detail. The questioning of the defense of the ex-police officer to the most blunt witness who has passed through the stand so far is still pending.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.