Start of trial in George Floyd case puts US in the docket
Several Minneapolis residents demand justice for George Floyd, in front of the Hennepin County Government Center, the location of the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, accused of his murder, in Minneapolis, 29 March 2021. EPA-EPA/ Alex Segura Lozano
Terrence Floyd, George Floyd's brother, speaks during a press conference outside the courthouse in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 29 March 2021. EFE-EPA/ Alex Segura
Attorney Ben Crump (L) and George Floyd's family speak during a press conference outside the courthouse in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 29 March 2021. EFE-EPA/ Alex Segura
By Alex Segura Lozano
Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mar 29 (efe-epa).- The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is charged with murdering George Floyd last May, got under way on Monday with Minnesota state prosecutors putting the focus on a video taken of the incident and the defense on suggesting other causes of the African American's death.
The trial had no sooner begun than one of the prosecutors, Jerry W. Blackwell, addressed the 12-member jury and announced that his aim is to prove that the 45-year-old Chauvin used "excessive and unreasonable force" and that he should be convicted for the alleged May 25, 2020, murder of Floyd, whose death sparked protests all across the country.
With that objective, he showed one of the several videos taken of Floyd's death, recorded by a passerby.
In the images, Floyd, 46, can be seen stretched facedown on the pavement and handcuffed while he complained of being in pain, called for his mother and repeated several times "Please, I can't breathe" and "I'm about to die."
The video also showed how Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck and remained unmoved by the shouts of passersby, who rebuked him, asked him to let the victim up and check if he still had a pulse.
Chauvin, seated with his lawyer in the courtroom, raised his head several times to look at the video and then lowered it again, keeping his eyes fixed on a yellow notebook in which he was taking notes.
The former cop - who was fired after the incident - is facing charges of second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison, and third-degree murder, with a maximum potential sentence of 25 years.
One of the attorneys for Floyd's family, Ben Crump, said at a press conference at the Hennepin County Government Center that this trial is a "referendum on how far America has come in its quest for equality and justice for all."
Despite the fact that Floyd's death was videotaped and Chauvin is clearly seen with his knee on his neck for some nine minutes, the defense suggested other possible causes of death during the opening arguments.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson said that Floyd's death was caused by a combination of underlying heart disease, his use of fentanyl and the "adrenaline" that flowed through his body at the moment of death.
In his arguments, Nelson tried to divert the jury's attention from the video and delved into certain details in the case, such as that Floyd - he said - was intoxicated and acted with hostility toward the police, and that Chauvin followed the protocols established by the Minneapolis Police Department.
After the initial arguments by the defense and the prosecution, which were dominated by passion and drama, the trial began to move more slowly with testimony from the first witness, Jena Scurry, a 911 emergency operator who directly viewed Floyd's arrest via a security camera and said she noticed that "something was wrong" when Floyd wasn't moving and Chauvin did not change his position kneeling on his neck.
Only a few people protested or gathered outside the courthouse on the first day of the trial, a far cry from the massive protests that spread through several US cities after Floyd's death.
One of them was Jessica Murphew, a white Minneapolis resident, who told EFE that her children are black and that she wanted to show them that she understands their suffering, adding that she hopes Chauvin is convicted.