Derek Chauvin's defense attorney argued the police officer was only doing "what he had been trained to do."
Trigger warning: This story contains themes of race-motivated violence and police brutality that some readers may find distressing
Ten months after George Perry Floyd Jr. was killed, the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin started on Monday. Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020, sparking a host for protests against racial injustice and police brutality across the country. After Floyd had been arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill in Minneapolis, Derek Chauvin, a White police officer, pressed Floyd's face on the asphalt and knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, allegedly causing his death. Prosecutors urged the jury to simply believe their eyes, referencing the video filmed by a bystander of the incident. "It's a homicide, You can believe your eyes,” said the prosecutor during his opening arguments, reported CNN. Defense attorney Eric Nelson claimed Chauvin did exactly what he was trained to do as a police officer and argued that Floyd had died of unrelated medical issues and drug use.
Chauvin is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd. The family of George Floyd's family along with Reverend Al Sharpton and attorney Benjamin Crump kneeled outside the Minneapolis courthouse for eight minutes and 46 seconds before entering the courtroom for the trial. "We are taking a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds, and we want you to think of during that time, why Chauvin didn't, in that time get his knee up?" said Sharpton.
8 minutes and 46 seconds. The amount of time we kneeled in honor of George Floyd today. Let this serve as a reminder to America just how long Derek Chauvin tortured George Floyd. pic.twitter.com/IJG1mF0lGi— Ben Crump (@AttorneyCrump) March 29, 2021
Prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell stated Floyd's death was a homicide and added that it was an open and shut case, in his opening statement. “You’ll be able to hear his voice get deeper and heavier his words further apart, his respiration is more shallow. You'll see him when he goes unconscious, and you'll be able to see the uncontrollable shaking he’s doing when he’s not breathing anymore.” Defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that Chauvin "did exactly what he had been trained to do" as a police officer. Nelson went onto argued that Minneapolis police department policies authorized the use of force for its officers. "You will learn that Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his 19-year career," Nelson told the jury during his opening statement. "The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing," he added.
Prosecutor Blackwell told the jury that even policing experts will testify that holding Floyd to the ground was unnecessary and deadly. “You're also going to hear from Lieutenant Johnny Mercil of the Minneapolis Police Department, the Minneapolis Police Department’s use of force training coordinator. He's going to tell you about what training Mr. Chauvin had to see, but he's also going to tell you that he knows of no training that would suggest that kneeling on somebody's neck, as Mr. Chauvin was doing, was proper,” said Blackwell.
The state’s third witness is Donald Williams II, who was one of the loudest and clearest voices on the bystander video asking Chauvin to remove his knee.— Tasneem N (@TasneemN) March 29, 2021
He is trained in wrestling & mixed martial arts and testifies Chauvin used a “blood choke” on Floyd that cuts off oxygen. pic.twitter.com/hWXzvDztQn
Defense attorney Nelson also claimed Chauvin was distracted by the crowd of bystanders. He claimed the crowd diverted his attention from Floyd, on whose neck he had been kneeling. Blackwell told the jury that Chauvin refused to remove his knee despite bystanders telling him twice that Floyd didn't have a pulse. "You will be able to see for yourself what he does in this response. You'll see that he does not let up. He does not get up. Even when Mr. Floyd does not even have a pulse, it continues on," said Blackwell, reported NPR.
“he looked at me when I said it was a blood choke. When I said it he acknowledged it.”- Witness Donald Williams. Derek Chauvin knew what he was doing. He was aware.— Zahra (@sotruezahra) March 29, 2021
Floyd's death was caused by the use of drugs, argued the Defense attorney. Blackwell wasn't having it. "George Floyd struggled with addiction. He struggled with it. You will learn that he did not die from a drug overdose, he did not die from an opioid overdose. Why? Because you'll be able to look at the video footage and you see it looks absolutely nothing like a person who would die from an opioid overdose,” said Blackwell.
Derek Chauvin choked George Floyd to death on camera because he knew he could and nothing would happen to him. No shame. No fear. No regret. Just complete confidence in his ability to murder a man with impunity. And cops are meant to protect and serve. Who watches the Watchmen?— Wajahat "Butter King" Ali (@WajahatAli) March 29, 2021
Blackwell argued that Floyd had already been handcuffed at the time, and there was no need for the cops to pin him to the ground to get him under police control. “You'll hear from a number of experts on the stand that putting a man in the prone position with handcuffs behind his back, somebody on his neck and back pressing down on him for nine minutes and 29 seconds is enough to take a life.”
As a former prosecutor, I have never seen a case with such clear cut evidence of murder as in the Chauvin trial. A murder on video. We all saw it. The world saw it. What does it say about our society if Chauvin is acquitted? It says that Black lives don’t matter. Period.— Sunny Hostin (@sunny) March 29, 2021
The trial ended early after witness testimony was cut short by a “major technical glitch” which interrupted a video feed to other rooms in the courthouse where family members were watching, said Judge Peter Cahill. The jury involved a diverse group of people including one Black woman, three Black men, and two women who identify as multiracial. The rest of the jurors and alternates are white, including six women. Two members of the jury are also immigrants.
Cover Image source: Getty Images | Photo by Stephen Maturen