Testimony began Monday following opening statements in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd. Chauvin, who was seen in a disturbing video kneeling on the neck of the unarmed Black man, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Prosecutors played the video of Floyd’s death for the jurors during their opening statements, saying Chauvin used lethal force against a “defenseless” and handcuffed Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said Floyd died of oxygen deprivation beneath the pressure of Chauvin’s knee, but defense attorney Eric Nelson argued Floyd died of a heart arrhythmia complicated by the fentanyl and methamphetamine he had ingested before his arrest.
Following opening statements, prosecutors called their first witness to the stand, a 911 dispatcher who said she called a police sergeant when she saw officers restraining Floyd on video footage from a camera across the street.
The day ended with disturbing testimony from a former wrestler trained in mixed martial arts who described watching Floyd “slowly fade away.”
Floyd‘s killing last year drew outrage and a worldwide reckoning on police reform and racial justice. Three other officers involved in the fatal May 2020 arrest are charged with aiding and abetting, and will be tried jointly in August. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty.
Fifteen jurors, four of whom are Black and two of whom are multiracial, were chosen during a weeks-long jury selection process earlier this month. One was dismissed at the beginning of the proceedings, leaving 12 jurors and two alternates to hear the case.
The trial is expected to span two to four weeks at the heavily secured Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis, after which the jury will launch into deliberations. Judge Peter Cahill is limiting attendees in the courtroom due to COVID-19 concerns and is allowing for the proceedings to be televised, a rarity in the state.
Before court on Monday, civil rights attorney Ben Crump said the trial would be emotional for Floyd’s family, whom he represents. Crump said though the family had received a $27 million settlement from the City of Minneapolis, they are seeking “full justice” in the criminal trial.
“What we want to know is, will we see justice?” Crump said. “The whole world is watching.”
Testimony is scheduled to resume Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. local time (10:30 a.m. ET.)