Trial to begin for former police officer charged with George Floyd’s death
Lawyers will lay out their cases on Monday at the start of the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd, whose death ignited protests against racial injustice around the world.
The former officer, Derek Chauvin, was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he cried out he could not breathe. Prosecutors took the rare step of filing criminal charges, and Chauvin’s case will be one of the most closely watched police misconduct trials in a generation.
After more than two weeks of choosing jurors, lawyers for the prosecution and defence will deliver opening statements, telling the jury their theory of the case, the points in dispute and what evidence they will present.
Chauvin is charged with second- and third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty.
Minnesota attorney-general Keith Ellison has cautioned that winning a conviction will be difficult. The US justice system requires prosecutors to prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt”, and many jurors typically trust police officers more than other witnesses.
A key piece of evidence for prosecutors is video of Floyd’s death. On May 25, police arrested Floyd for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill, and Chauvin restrained Floyd by pinning him to the ground with a knee on his neck. A bystander, high school student Darnella Frazier, filmed the arrest and then posted it online, triggering widespread outrage and protests.
Chauvin and the three other officers at the scene who did not intervene were fired. Thomas Lane, Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao are charged with aiding and abetting murder and scheduled to go to trial in August. Keung’s attorney has said he intends to plead not guilty.
The defence is expected to argue that Floyd’s death was related to ingesting drugs. An autopsy by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, which ruled Floyd’s death a homicide, found evidence of fentanyl and methamphetamine in his body and said he suffered “cardiopulmonary arrest”.
An independent autopsy commissioned by Floyd’s family cited the cause of death as asphyxiation.
Supporters of the Floyd family held a prayer service on Sunday night at Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, addressed the congregation, saying that neither Rodney King, beaten by Los Angeles Police Department officers in 1991, or Eric Garner, who died after being put in a chokehold while being arrested by New York police in 2014, received justice. He said he hoped events would be different with Chauvin.
“Give me a conviction,” he said. “Give the world what they want to see.”
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