Prosecutors accused former police officer Derek Chauvin of having killed a defenseless George Floyd “by grinding and crushing him until his breath, his life, was taken away” at the opening Monday of a murder trial considered by millions to be litmus. . proof of the responsibility of the American police.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell told the jury that Floyd’s death last May, which reignited the Black Lives Matter movement and sparked months of protests across the United States and around the world, was caused by Chauvin holding his knee in the neck of the dying. man for more than nine minutes even after he stops breathing.
“What Mr. Chauvin was doing, he was doing deliberately,” Blackwell said as he described his case to the jury in the courtroom in Minneapolis, the city where Floyd was killed.
The prosecutor said that Chauvin used excessive and unreasonable force “without regard to Floyd’s life.”
Blackwell said it was “an assault” that caused the victim’s death.
Chauvin, 45, has denied second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of the 46-year-old African-American man who was arrested on suspicion of trying to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit $ 20 bill last May.
The former officer, who was fired, faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, told the jury in his opening statement that the evidence will show that Floyd was under the influence of drugs and that the force used against him was reasonable due to his behavior.
Outside the fortified courthouse, the Floyd family’s attorney Benjamin Crump declared the trial a test for American justice and said the world is watching.
“Today begins a historic trial that will be a referendum on how far the United States has come in its search for equality and justice for all,” he said.
A group of protesters held signs that read “Minneapolis will never forget George Floyd” and “Mr. George Floyd is not on trial, Derek Chauvin is.”
Blackwell showed the jury a nine-minute, 29-second video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, the footage that had shocked millions of Americans last year and sparked the huge racial justice protests that swept across America and beyond. there.
“Can you believe your eyes, that it was a homicide, it was a murder,” he told the jury, some of whom had not seen the video before.
In the recording, Floyd can be heard saying 20 times that he couldn’t breathe and 10 times that he was dying.
He repeatedly called his dead mother. Blackwell said the dying man was also heard to say “Tell my children that I love them” and “I will probably die this way. I’m done, I’m done They are going to kill me. “
Blackwell said that Floyd was no longer breathing during the last minute that Chauvin was kneeling on his neck.
The prosecutor said the officer not only failed in his legal duty to help Floyd, but prevented anyone else from helping him, including a firefighter trained in first aid.
Blackwell said that even when a paramedic told Chauvin that Floyd no longer had a pulse, the police officer kept his knee in place.
“You will see that he does not give up. Do not get up. Even when Mr. Floyd doesn’t even have a pulse, he continues, ”he said.
He said the jury will hear testimony from a police officer who arrived on the scene while Floyd was in prison, who will say that at that time there was no need for the force used by Chauvin.
The prosecutor also said that Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who fired Chauvin shortly after Floyd’s death, will testify that the former officer’s conduct was “not consistent” with Minneapolis Police Department training or protocol. .
“He will tell you that it is excessive force,” Blackwell said.
The prosecutor said Floyd’s arrest was unnecessary in the first place, as approving a counterfeit bill, even if intentional, is a misdemeanor for which the police could have written a fine.
Nelson said in his opening statement that he will show that his client’s behavior was reasonable under the circumstances because Floyd was under the influence of drugs at the time of his arrest.
He said witnesses testify that Floyd had taken opioid pills shortly before his arrest and that he sometimes “fainted.”
“The evidence will show that when confronted by the police, Mr. Floyd put drugs in his mouth to hide them from the police,” he said.
Nelson said Floyd took a “fastball” of opioids and methamphetamine, and was fighting violently against the arrest that required the use of force as a result.
“Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do during his 19-year career,” he said.
The outcome of the trial may well focus on the cause of death.
Nelson said the medical evidence will show the presence of drugs, as well as other medical problems, including coronary heart disease and an enlarged heart, that were the cause of death. He said there is no medical evidence of suffocation.
The official autopsy and an independent autopsy at the time concluded that the leading cause of death was homicide.
Blackwell said, “This was not a heart attack.”
The first prosecution witness was a 911 dispatcher, Jena Scurry, who told a police supervisor that she was concerned to see officers “sitting on this man” in a live feed from a street camera.
Blackwell said of Scurry’s testimony that he “called the police to the police.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism