Former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin betrayed his badge by pinning his knee to George Floyd’s neck during an approach in May last year, a prosecutor said Monday at the opening of the former officer’s trial. .
Lawyers for Chauvin, charged with murder and manslaughter, when there is intent to kill, responded by saying the former officer was training his 19-year-old in the force, although he admitted that the arrest, recorded in videos from different angles, was painful to watch.
“The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing,” Eric Nelson, senior lawyer for Chauvin, said in his opening statement, referring to videos showing Floyd , a 46 year old black man in handcuffs, begging for your life.
The images sparked protests around the world against racism and police violence.
He further claimed that Floyd was under the influence of drugs at the time of his arrest and resisted his arrest, urging the jury to ignore the politics and social movements surrounding the case.
“There is no political or social cause in this room,” he added. Chauvin’s attorneys argue that the main cause of death for Floyd, which the county examiner considered homicide caused by police restraint, was drug overdose.
Nelson used his 25-minute opening statement to describe Floyd’s drug use and the underlying health issues. He had asked that the lawsuit be postponed and moved out of Minneapolis after the city government announced on March 12 that it would pay Floyd’s family $ 27 million in damages.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, meanwhile, told the jury in argument that Chauvin failed to follow police procedures by continuing to press Floyd’s still body to the ground. “He put his knees on his neck and back, hurting and crushing him, until his breath – no, until his life – was taken from him,” he said.
The prosecution warned that the jury should ignore defense arguments that Floyd’s death was caused by an opioid overdose. Blackwell said someone with an overdose would be unconscious, not “screaming for their mother.” During the show, Floyd’s lawyer and members of his family knelt down as Chauvin pressed his knee to his neck in the video. “Nine minutes and 29 seconds. That’s how long this lasted,” Blackwell said.
Chauvin and three other officers were trying to arrest Floyd on suspicion of using a fake $ 20 bill to buy cigarettes, a misdemeanor which prosecutors said could have been the subject of a court subpoena instead of a prison.
The Minneapolis Police Department fired the four officers who took part in the action the day after Floyd’s death, as daily acts against racism erupted in cities across the country.
To show that Chauvin’s attitude was wrong, the prosecutor called the operator who sent the police to where Floyd was as the first witness. Jena Scurry said she saw them on a security camera while taking other calls. “I thought the picture froze,” because they had been very still for a long time “and my gut told me something was wrong,” he said.
If convicted of second degree murder, the most serious charge, Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison. The verdict is expected to be delivered in late April or early May. On the first day of the trial, which is televised, neither the defense nor the prosecution discussed the race of the accused or the victim.
The 14-member jury is racially mixed: six white women, three black men, two white men and three black women. Sentencing for one of the charges against Chauvin will force the jury to reach a unanimous verdict.
Still, the trial subtext was inevitable in the previous two weeks of jury selection, in which potential jurors were quizzed by both sides about their take on the Black Lives Matter movement and whether they saw systemic racism in the criminal justice system.
Three other former police officers – Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng – also face charges related to Floyd’s death. They will be judged separately throughout the year. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden “will certainly be watching closely, as will Americans across the country.”