The first two weeks of George Floyd’s death trial have so far had the expected scenario: emotional witnesses, medics explaining the details of the death, and lawyers and prosecutors presenting their cases to the jury.
Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 last year in Minneapolis, after a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly 10 minutes.
The case sparked a wave of protests against racism and violence against the police in the United States, which then spread to other parts of the world.
This is why the trial of the case is being watched so closely, with the right to be broadcast live – which is unusual in the United States. The accused is Derek Chauvin, 44, the officer who knelt over Floyd. The police officer is accused of three different types of homicide and faces up to 40 years in prison.
In addition to him, three other police officers involved in the action that killed Floyd are set to stand trial in August as accomplices in the homicide.
The trial began on March 29 and the current stage, in which the defense and prosecution present their cases, is expected to take at least two more weeks.
After this period, the jury (made up of 12 members and 2 alternates) will debate in camera until a unanimous conclusion is reached, which may take a few more weeks.
The most important thing that has happened in the trial so far:
“ Believe in your eyes ” said the prosecutor
The prosecution opened the trial by showing a video showing police action, in which Floyd claims he cannot breathe, but is ignored by police. “Believe it in your eyes, it was homicide,” Jerry W. Blackwell, one of the prosecution officials, told jurors. The sentence served to summarize the thesis defended by prosecutors: that the images leave no doubt that Floyd was killed by Chauvin and that the case is clearly a homicide, in which there is no doubt.
Defense says Chauvin just completed his training
The police officer’s lawyer presented a different version. Eric J. Nelson told jurors his client had just completed his training by kneeling on Floyd and the action did not cause the man’s death. According to the lawyer, Floyd may have died for other reasons, including heart problems or an overdose. “The case is clearly over 9 minutes and 29 seconds,” he said – that was the time of the video shown by the prosecution at the opening.
Witnesses get emotional
The prosecution called as first witnesses a number of people who were present at the time of the action against Floyd – and many were delighted to remember the events of the day. Darnella Frazier, 18, responsible for recording the video that went viral of the police action, for example, told the jury that she still had nightmares about not being able to help Floyd. One of the people who appear in the video asking officers to release Floyd, Charles McMillian, 61, cried as he testified. “I couldn’t help myself, I felt helpless,” he sums up.
New case videos
The jury also saw previously unseen footage of the cameras the officers involved in the action were wearing. In the footage, Floyd is seen confronting the police. He begs: “Please don’t shoot me (…) I just lost my mother”. He also says he doesn’t resist and “will do whatever they say”. A fight ensues when the police attempt to place Floyd in a vehicle. He starts to cry and to resist, saying he’s claustrophobic and anxious. As the cops drag him out of the car and corner him, Floyd can be heard calling his mother and telling his family that he loves them.
One of the main points raised by the defense throughout the trial so far is that Floyd allegedly used drugs before the action and that this would have led to his death. In fact, traces of methamphetamine and fentanyl (a type of opioid) were found in the victim’s body, and his girlfriend confirmed the couple were addicts. Medics summoned by the prosecution, however, said there was no evidence Floyd overdosed. According to one of them, Floyd couldn’t speak to the police and would likely be unconscious if he found himself in this situation.
Crowd hampered police, lawyer says
Chauvin’s attorneys also said the officer was unable to help Floyd due to the large number of people surrounding the officer at the time of the action. According to this thesis, because of the crowd, the agent cannot call an ambulance to assist Floyd. Nelson, Chauvin’s lawyer, also said the officer may have been intimidated by the large number of people and feared what would happen if he released Floyd.
What is the cause of death?
One of the main discussions in the trial is what exactly was the cause of death. The prosecution called in a series of experts to show that Floyd died of asphyxiation when his neck was crushed between Chauvin’s knee and the ground. The defense, however, insists he may have died of an overdose or pre-existing heart problems. The issue is expected to continue to be addressed in the coming weeks, when lawyers are expected to call their witnesses to testify.