• Wednesday, Nov 30, 2022
  • Last Update : 09:54 am

Former Minneapolis officer goes on trial on charge of murdering George Floyd

  • Published at 05:25 am March 30th, 2021
George Floyd US
Lawyer Jerry W Blackwell makes opening statements as defence attorney Eric Nelson sits beside former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin during his trial for second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, US, March 29, 2021 in this courtroom sketch from a video feed of the proceedings Reuters

Prosecutors warned the jury to ignore defence arguments that Floyd's death was caused by an opioid overdose

Former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin betrayed his badge by "grinding" his knee into George Floyd's neck during a deadly arrest last May, a prosecutor said on Monday at a murder trial that is widely seen as a test of the US justice system.

Chauvin's lawyers responded by saying that the former officer was simply following training from his 19 years on the force, even as they acknowledged that the arrest, caught in videos from multiple angles, was distressing to watch.

"The use of force is not attractive but it is a necessary component of policing," Eric Nelson, Chauvin's lead lawyer, said in his opening statement, referring to the videos that show Floyd, a 46-year-old handcuffed Black man, pleading for his life. 

The footage sparked worldwide protests against police brutality against Black people.

But in his opening arguments, Jerry Blackwell, a prosecutor with the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, told the racially diverse jury that officers who wear the Minneapolis police badge pledge never to use "unnecessary force or violence."

"You will learn that on May 25, Mr Derek Chauvin betrayed this badge when he used excessive and unreasonable force upon the body of George Floyd," said Blackwell, aiming for a rare conviction of a US police officer for killing a civilian.

Blackwell displayed a still image from a bystander's cellphone video showing Chauvin, who is white, with his knee on Floyd's neck, saying it showed Chauvin "grinding and crushing him until the very breath — no, ladies and gentlemen — the very life was squeezed out of him."

Chauvin and three other officers were trying to arrest Floyd on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes, a misdemeanor that prosecutors said could have been handled with a summons to appear in court instead of an arrest.

Also Read - George Floyd death: Jury to hear opening arguments

Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge.

The Minneapolis Police Department fired all four officers the day after Floyd's death, as daily protests against racial injustice erupted in cities across the country.

Litmus test

Although the trial, which is being televised, is widely seen as a litmus test for US racial relations, neither side discussed the race of the defendant or the victim in the statements to the jury.

Even so, the subtext of the trial was inescapable in the preceding two weeks of jury selection, where potential jurors were quizzed by the two sides on their views on the Black Lives Matter protest movement and whether they saw systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

The trial is unfolding in a courtroom located near the top floor of a tower in downtown Minneapolis ringed with high barriers, barbed wire and soldiers from the state's National Guard. Small groups of protesters decrying police brutality blocked traffic at times in the surrounding streets.

Toward the end of his opening statement, Blackwell played for the jury the most widely seen video of Floyd's death. 

Chauvin — dressed in a gray suit, a blue face mask and a blue shirt and tie — took pages of notes on a yellow legal pad as the sound of Floyd's dying moans and the yelling of horrified onlookers filled the courtroom.

Chauvin's lawyers argue that the main cause of Floyd's death, which the county examiner ruled a homicide caused by police restraints, was a drug overdose. 

Nelson used his 25-minute opening statement to describe Floyd's drug use, his underlying health problems and a chaotic scene during the arrest.

"This was not an easy struggle," he said, adding that the screaming of bystanders ended up "causing the officers to divert their attention from the care of Mr Floyd."

"Derek Chauvin did exactly what he was trained to do over the course of his 19-year career," Nelson told the jury.

Prosecutors warned the jury to ignore defence arguments that Floyd's death was caused by an opioid overdose. 

Blackwell drooped his head and shut his eyes, feigning a stupor, telling the jury that someone overdosing on fentanyl would be unconscious, and not "screaming for their mother."

"That's not what an opioid overdose looks like," he said.

The first witness called by the prosecutors was Jena Scurry, a Minneapolis 911 emergency dispatcher who sent police to the Cup Foods store and watched live surveillance video footage showing a police car rock back and forth outside the store as four officers struggled to get Floyd to stay in the back seat.

She said she watched the video, which was played to jurors, with growing alarm.

"I first asked if the screen had frozen," she said. Each time she looked up, she testified, the officers were still on top of Floyd.

"My instinct is telling me something is wrong," said Scurry, who called a supervising police sergeant. Jurors heard her say she did not mean to be a "snitch" but she wondered if the officers needed more help.

Prosecutors also called two bystanders who saw the arrest.

"I always see the police there," Alisha Oyler, who worked in the gas station across from the arrest, said when asked why she kept taking video on her cellphone. 

"They're always messing with people and it's wrong. It's not right." 

Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail