The landmark case of George Floyd gets underway this week as all eyes turn to the state of Minnesota. The officer in charge, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with two counts of murder and one count of manslaughter. With the trial expected to take around four weeks, the whole world watches in anticipation for the decision of the jury.
The death of George Floyd sparked outrage in the US and all over the world last year, igniting the largest civil rights protests to take place since the 1960s. The case of Mr Floyd was considered the last straw surrounding the systemic problem of police brutality of African-Americans in the United States. Regardless of the decision reached, this is likely going to be a major catalyst for the need to reform the policing system in the US.
On May 25th 2020, George Floyd was arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit bill outside of a grocery store. During the arrest, two officers approach Mr Floyd and remove him from his vehicle due to unknown reasons. After several minutes more police cars arrive, one of which carrying defendant, Derek Chauvin. Floyd is put into the first police car where he turns to the officers and says he is recovering from Coronavirus and is feeling breathless and claustrophobic. Chauvin then forcefully removes Floyd from the vehicle and forces him to the ground where he applies pressure to the neck whilst two officers apply pressure to the torso and the legs. After 9 minutes and 29 seconds, George Floyd dies.
The defendant, Derek Chauvin, has had 17 previous complaints made against him, including one fatal policing shooting incident. Other officers present have also had multiple complaints filed, with some regarding race issues. This information is likely to be used as further evidence supporting the idea of malicious intent by the officers at the scene.
The two legal teams begun the trial on Monday by presenting the outline of their arguments. The opening statement from the prosecution was delivered by Jerry Blackwell and centred around the video which circulated social media revealing the death in question. The arguments presented were accusing the defendant of using wholly unnecessary force with no rationale, directly causing the death of Mr Floyd. The prosecution purposefully reiterated that this case was a case against a single officer and not an attack on the system at large.
The defence then proceeded to argue that the death of Mr Floyd was not as a direct result of the officer but caused by a myriad of factors, including cardiac arrhythmia as well as fentanyl and methamphetamine that was found in his system. The defence furthered their claims by arguing that Mr. Floyd was resisting arrest, which is a prerequisite for the use of neck restraint under policing regulation in the Minneapolis area.
Later in the day, two eyewitnesses were present at the trial and took questions. One of the witnesses, Donald Williams, was a specialist in mixed martial arts and told Mr Chauvin that he was preforming a blood choke which often proves deadly for prolonged periods of time. Afterwards, the 911 dispatcher, Jena Scurry, gave her testimony where she said she watched the events unfold from a CCTV camera across the road. In her own words, she thought that the CCTV footage had frozen as the restraint techniques were being held for so long. Further witnesses have testified in the second day of the trial, including an 18 year old girl who recorded the viral video, said “It wasn’t right. He was suffering. He was in pain”.
The trial is set to go on for many more weeks with more and more witness testimony expected.