Opening arguments set to begin in George Floyd murder trial
The opening arguments begin Monday in the trial of the white cop accused of killing George Floyd, a black man whose death was filmed and sparked protests against racial injustice in the United States and around the world.
Derek Chauvin, a 19-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, faces murder and manslaughter charges for his role in the death of 46-year-old Floyd on May 25, 2020.
Chauvin, 44, who was fired from the police force along with three other officers, could face 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charge – second degree murder.
Opening argument is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m. Central time (2:00 p.m. GMT) in a tightly-guarded Minneapolis courtroom for a trial that is expected to last about a month.
Fifteen jurors have been selected for this high profile case.
Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill is expected to drop a juror on Monday and proceed with 12 and two alternates.
The panel seated after two weeks of jury selection is racially mixed: six white women, three black men, three white men, two Métis women and one black woman.
Police officers are rarely convicted in the United States when charges are laid against them, and the trial is closely watched around the world.
A conviction on any of the charges – second degree murder, third degree murder, or manslaughter – will require the jury to reach a unanimous verdict.
The cause of Floyd’s death is expected to be the central issue in the trial and a key piece of evidence will likely be the viral video that sparked a summer of anti-racism protests.
Chauvin was seen on video of the spectator kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while arresting him for allegedly passing a fake $ 20 bill.
Lying face down in the street, the handcuffed Floyd complains that he cannot breathe and calls his mother.
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, is expected to argue that the officer was following police procedure and claim that Floyd’s death was due to a fentanyl overdose and underlying health issues.
The public has been banned from attending the trial due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is being broadcast live.
The identity of the jurors will not be revealed until after the trial, but some details are known.
They are between 20 and 60 years old and include a chemist, a social worker, an accountant and a nurse. Two are immigrants to the United States.
One is a grandmother, one is recently married, and one is a single mother of two teenage children.
The jury selection process was complicated by the intensive pre-trial publicity surrounding the case, and all but one of the jurors said they saw at least part of the video of the arrest.
Several would-be jurors were excused after telling the judge they couldn’t be fair or impartial or presume Chauvin was innocent as the law requires.
Others have expressed concerns for their safety.
Nelson, Chauvin’s lawyer, requested that the trial be delayed and moved from Minneapolis due to the March 12 announcement that the city had reached a $ 27 million “wrongful death” settlement with the Floyd family .
Justice Cahill dismissed the claim, stating, “I don’t think there is a place in the state of Minnesota that has not received extreme publicity on this matter.”
Three other former police officers – Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng – also face charges related to Floyd’s death.
They are to be judged separately later in the year.
Ben Crump, an attorney for the Floyd family, said he hoped the jury would deliver a “fair verdict.”
“George Floyd had more witnesses to his death than anyone – white or black,” Crump said. “We have all seen the same thing – the indisputable and unwarranted torture and murder by a policeman of a black man who was handcuffed, restrained and did no harm.”