The trial of Derek Chauvin, the white police officer accused of killing black American George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA, on May 25, 2020, begins today. Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison.
At the time of the incident, locals had recorded on their cellphones that Chauvin had knocked Floyd to the ground, pressed his knee against his neck, and Floyd said, “I can’t breathe.”
The shocking incident triggered weeks of anti-racism Black Lives Matter protests that swept across the US and then around the world.
George Floyd, 46, bought a pack of cigarettes at a grocery store in South Minneapolis on the evening of May 25. The owner suspected that the $20 Floyd gave him was a fake, and after Floyd objected and refused to return the cigarettes, he called the police. But Floyd resisted as he was put in the squad car, and Floyd, handcuffed, was face down on the ground by police.
That’s when the images of the world were recorded by those in the vicinity.
Chauvin, a 44-year-old police officer, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck and held him there for more than nine minutes, according to the indictment. Two other officers helped keep Floyd on the ground, while a fourth prevented locals from intervening.
During that time, Floyd was heard saying, “I can’t breathe,” more than 20 times. Video footage also showed Floyd’s immobility and being carried by police.
Floyd was taken to the hospital, but was pronounced dead an hour later.
The trial starts today. It is estimated that it will take a month at most to present the indictment and enter pleas at the first hearing.
The identities of the 12 members of the public jury set for the trial were kept secret and not shown in video news about the case.
A jury can decide whether to sentence or acquit officer Chauvin.
During the jury selection process, the candidates were asked about what information they had so far in relation to the case, whether they had previous contact with the police, and their news monitoring habits.
What does “second-degree murder” mean?
Police charge Chauvin with “second-degree murder” by prosecutors. Under U.S. criminal law, that means “causing death without intent to kill,” and the maximum sentence for a perpetrator is 40 years in prison under Minnesota state law.
The indictment also included a “third-degree murder” charge, which chauvin thought would be easier for him to prove, but the maximum sentence for that crime is 25 years.
It is very rare in the US for police officers to be convicted or even prosecuted for resorting to lethal force.
That’s because the thesis that cops defend themselves is generally accepted.
Chauvin is being brought before the court separately from the other three policemen due to coronavirus restrictions.
The other officers will be tried in August on charges of “aiding and abetting second-degree murder.”