MINNEAPOLIS – George Floyd “died one breath at a time” as former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin pressed his knee to his neck for nearly 10 minutes, ignoring dozens of requests for help from the 46-year-old black man, prosecutors said Monday.
“You can believe your eyes that this is homicide. It’s murder. You can believe your eyes, ”Special Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said during opening statements in the highly anticipated Chauvin murder trial.
Less than a year after a video of Floyd’s fatal arrest on May 25 for a fake $ 20 bill went viral, sparking nationwide protests, prosecutors argued in a courtroom. Hennepin County hearing that Chauvin had “betrayed” his badge during the bust.
“He put his knee on his neck and back, squeaking and crushing him to the very breath, not ladies and gentlemen until his very life was kicked out,” Blackwell said.
The ex-officer knelt on Floyd for a total of “9 minutes and 29 seconds,” prosecutors said, while Floyd yelled he couldn’t breathe 27 times before losing consciousness.
“This case is not about split-second decision making,” argued Blackwell. “You will see, at the same time, while he is shouting, Mr. Chauvin never moves. The knee remains on his neck, the sunglasses remain intact on his head. And it continues.Chauvin, one of four police officers charged with Floyd’s death, pleaded not guilty to second and third degree murder as well as second degree manslaughter. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted. Former cop’s attorney Eric Nelson argued Monday that “there are always two sides” to a story and urged jurors to consider whether his client was just acting like any other police officer.
During opening statements, prosecutors showed the jury one of the now infamous videos of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, noting that passers-by were forced to call “police on police.”
In the video, witnesses can be heard yelling at Chauvin, telling him to stop and “check his pulse.” “You shot him. At least let him breathe, ”one person shouts. “He is black. They don’t care, ”said another woman.
As jurors watched the heartbreaking video, Chauvin, clad in a gray suit and blue mask, took notes on a legal notepad.
As Floyd was loaded into an ambulance, paramedics said he had no pulse. The Hennepin County medical examiner later concluded that Floyd died of cardiac arrest due to the restraint and compression of the neck, also noting that Floyd had heart disease and that there was fentanyl in his system . An independent report commissioned by Floyd’s family, which will not be presented at trial, concluded the 46-year-old man died of strangulation from the pressure on his back and neck. Both reports determined that Floyd’s death was a homicide.
“We will bring you all the evidence of any warnings Mr. Chauvin may have heard,” Blackwell said. “Not just screaming Mr. Floyd. The spectators, the sirens – all of this when you [the jury] considers the intention. ”
Nelson argued on Monday that there would be evidence to show Floyd ingested drugs during his arrest – and that’s what ultimately killed him.
Three other officers – Tou Thao, Thomas K. Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng – assisted in the arrest, holding down Floyd’s legs and trying to keep off passers-by concerned. All three pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting second degree murder while committing a felony, as well as aiding and abetting second degree manslaughter with culpable negligence. They are expected to face a trial together in August.
A 12-person jury of nine women and six men will now decide whether Chauvin intended to harm Floyd during the arrest. Lingering anger over racial injustice and police brutality exploded in the days and weeks following Floyd’s death, prompting people across the country to take to the streets to demonstrate. Floyd’s latest calls became a rallying cry, bringing renewed energy to the Black Lives Matter movement.Ahead of the court opening Monday, Floyd’s family and their legal team warned prosecutors at a press conference that “America is watching” the “historic trial” which “will prove whether we are up to the task. belief that all men are created equal ”. As they spoke, large numbers of reporters crowded outside the Hennepin County government center.
Around the corner, Marcus X. Smith, 42, of Minneapolis, chanted and berated the police and National Guards who were watching.
“Because we have so many black people who have lost their lives at the hands of the police, I think this is the perfect time for reconciliation, for the government and the people to really show us that they care about a system.” of justice, ”Smith told me. “We want justice. We want all officers to be found guilty. ”
Others who lost family members to police also attended a small rally outside the courthouse. Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner – a black man who died in New York police custody in 2014 telling police officers he couldn’t breathe – was also present outside the courthouse on Monday after traveling with an organization of social justice to support the Floyd. family.
“It was so close to what happened to my son, it’s like an echo from the grave, and we’re not saying more,” Carr said. “We don’t want this to happen to another family. That is why we stand today, we stand in solidarity with every family that has suffered these heinous losses.
Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson told jurors Monday to “let common sense and reason” guide them, not “political or social causes.”
“At the end of this case, we’re going to spend a lot of time talking about doubt,” Nelson said, claiming that Floyd used a counterfeit $ 20 to buy cigarettes from Cup Foods and the convenience store clerk told them. authorities that he was under the influence when he entered the store.
Highlighting the viral video released in court, Nelson urged jurors “to remember that there is more to the scene than what officers see in front of them.” This is what officers may perceive as a threat. ”
“Derek Chauvin did exactly what he was trained to do throughout his 19-year career,” insisted Nelson. “The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing.”