The defense attorney for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin argued during opening statements on Monday that Chauvin was not to blame for George Floyd’s death as he “did exactly what he had been trained to do”. The long-awaited trial of The State of Minnesota vs. Derek Chauvin is ongoing almost a year after the death of Floyd.
Floyd passed away in May last year after Chauvin knelt on his neck for over eight minutes despite repeatedly telling him he couldn’t breathe.
“You will learn,” said Chauvin’s attorney Eric Nelson to the jury, “that Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his 19-year career.”
“The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing,” Nelson added.
Chauvin was arrested on May 29 on initial third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges. The murder charge was later upgraded to second-degree unintentional murder. The other three former officers who were also involved in the May 25 incident – Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – are also facing aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter charges.
Floyd lost his life while being apprehended by the four officers after they were called to a grocery store over reports he had tried to pass a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Lane and Keung were the first to arrive at the scene following the complaint. Per released camera footage from the two officers, Floyd, who was in his car when they approached him, was told to step out of the vehicle. He was later seen pleading with the officers in the minutes leading up to his death.
Floyd passed after Chauvin was filmed kneeling on his neck for several minutes while cuffed. Other videos of the incident showed Floyd pleading that he could not breathe, but Chauvin did not budge, even when bystanders appealed to him to remove his knee from Floyd’s neck.
The other three officers did not also intervene. Even when Floyd became unresponsive, Chauvin still had his knee on his neck despite continued concerns from onlookers. The officers were even asked to check his pulse but ignored until paramedics arrived.
Chauvin’s attorney Nelson blames the surrounding crowd, saying it caused “the officers to divert their attention from the care of Mr. Floyd.” He further argued that it was not Chauvin’s knee that caused Floyd’s death, but a combination of drug use and other health problems. Hennepin County Medical Examiner Andrew Baker had however ruled Floyd’s death a homicide, saying his cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression.” Baker is expected to be a key witness in the trial, according to reports.
On Monday morning, Floyd’s family members and some attorneys knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds outside the courthouse to commemorate his death. “Today starts a landmark trial that will be a referendum on how far America has come in its quest for equality and justice for all,” said Floyd civil attorney Benjamin Crump.
Floyd’s death triggered a wave of nationwide protests against police brutality and racial discrimination in the United States, with people calling for swift reforms. The protests eventually spread to other countries.