Jurors in the trial of the ex-Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd were shown the graphic on Monday, the widely shared video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as Floyd cried out for help before becoming unresponsive.
The dramatic video in which Chauvin is seen pinning Floyd to the asphalt. “Please, please. I can’t breathe,” Floyd repeatedly said before he died.
After the video ended, Jerry Blackwell, one of the prosecutors in the case, gave the jurors a simple instruction: “You can believe your eyes that it was homicide,” Blackwell said. “It was murder.”
The highly anticipated trial began Monday with opening statements from prosecutors and Chauvin’s defense team. Chauvin, a white man, is facing charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in the death of Floyd, a Black man, last May. Floyd’s death and the bystander video that captured Chauvin kneeling on his neck sparked months-long racial justice protests last year and led to a national reckoning over racial equality and police brutality.
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Chauvin and the other three police officers who were at the scene — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas K. Lane — were fired one day after Floyd was killed. They were arrested several days later. Thao, Kueng and Lane are facing charges of aiding and abetting murder.
Cameras were allowed into the courtroom and the proceedings were live-streamed or broadcast by several major media outlets, facilitating the national interest in the case.
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“Mr. Derek Chauvin betrayed this badge,” Special Assistant Attorney General Jerry Blackwell told the jury after outlining police policies and the oath that Chauvin took when he became an officer. As he spoke, Blackwell showed jurors a photo from the scene in which Chauvin has his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Blackwell told the jurors that they will learn that Floyd’s body was making involuntary movements while he was being held down by Chauvin, including a seizure and “agonal breathing” from oxygen deprivation.
After Chauvin was told twice that Floyd did not have a pulse, “he does not let up, and he does not get up,” Blackwell said, adding that the officer did not move off Floyd even as a paramedic sought a pulse.
After the prosecution delivered its argument, Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, told jurors that the trial will bring several significant battles over how some facts are interpreted. Chief among them, he said, will be the cause of death.
“The evidence will show that Mr. Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia that occurred as a result of hypertension, his coronary disease, the ingestion of methamphetamine and fentanyl, and the adrenaline flowing through his body — all of which acted to further compromise an already compromised heart,” Nelson said.
Describing Floyd’s actions on the day he died, Nelson said, “The evidence will show that when confronted by police, Mr. Floyd put drugs in his mouth in an effort to conceal them from police.”
When jurors weigh the evidence and the law and “apply reason and common sense,” Nelson said, “there will only be one just verdict, and that is to find Mr. Chauvin not guilty.”
Chauvin, who is white, is charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd, a Black man. Video recordings show that Floyd was handcuffed and held facedown on the asphalt and that Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
A 911 dispatcher who watched live security camera footage of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck quickly became concerned “something might be wrong” and placed a call to a police sergeant to report the situation.
“Sergeants are usually notified for use-of-force [incidents],” said Jena Scurry, the first witness called Monday by prosecutors in Chauvin’s trial in the killing of Floyd.
On the call, Scurry told the sergeant she didn’t “want to be a snitch” before proceeding to describe the officers who had Floyd pinned down.
Scurry also testified that as she watched Floyd lie motionless on the ground, she thought the video footage had frozen.
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