Derek Chauvin trial: Police officer accused of killing George Floyd to face jury amid protests

Barney Davis
·3-min read
<p>Derek Chauvin’s trial will begin this week after the killing of George Floyd</p> (AFP)

Derek Chauvin’s trial will begin this week after the killing of George Floyd

(AFP)

America will be forced to relive the trauma of George Floyd’s death as the trial of the police officer accused of his murder opens in Minneapolis.

The video of Mr Floyd, a black man in handcuffs, begging "I can’t breathe" more than 20 times as a white officer knelt on his neck during an arrest over a $20 bill caused global outrage.

Derek Chauvin, 44, placed his left knee between Mr Floyd’s head and neck, and kept it there for seven minutes and 46 seconds, according to prosecutors.

Two other officers helped pin him down, while another prevented witnesses from intervening as Floyd, going limp, called for his dead mother.

Police were called following allegations that the 46-year-old had tried to buy a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store in South Minneapolis on the evening of 25 May 2020.

Angela Harrelson (wearing green), George Floyd’s aunt, at the renamed George Floyd SquareREUTERS
Angela Harrelson (wearing green), George Floyd’s aunt, at the renamed George Floyd SquareREUTERS

Officers arrived and handcuffed him, but when they tried to put him into the squad car he resisted, and a struggle ended with Mr Floyd face-down on the street.

Onlookers filmed the confrontation and begged officers to release him after hearing his shouts.

Mr Floyd was pronounced dead in hospital an hour later.

Billy Briggs changes a sign to read
Billy Briggs changes a sign to read

Derek Chauvin, who has pleaded not guilty to two charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter, will face trial on Monday despite a late court ruling which added another charge to the indictment.

Barricades and razor wire surround the courthouse after thousands of protesters took to the streets ahead of the trial carrying the names of nearly 500 people who died in police custody in Minnesota.

Demonstrators carry a scroll listing the names of people killed by police during a march in honor of George FloydGetty Images
Demonstrators carry a scroll listing the names of people killed by police during a march in honor of George FloydGetty Images

The organisers of the protest noted that Chauvin has been involved in five of these deaths.

Such is the public interest in the case the trial will be broadcast live for the first time in Minnesota’s history.

Only one family member for both Mr Floyd and Mr Chauvin will be allowed into the courthouse due to Covid restrictions.

Mr Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, which means causing death without intent. The maximum sentence is 40 years.

Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder, but following a public outcry, prosecutors substituted the more serious offence of second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

It is rare that police officers in the US are charged, let alone convicted, for use of lethal force. Officers often successfully argue that they take lethal action because they feared for their lives.

Chauvin is one of four officers facing trial in connection with Mr Floyd’s death.

The weeks-long process will begin today with jury selection. Arguments are due to start on March 29 and are expected to take at least one month.

In a sign of political change invoked by the tragic death, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was passed late on Wednesday in the Senate by a vote of 220 to 212.

The legislation, spearheaded by Congresswoman Karen Bass, bans chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases and reforms qualified immunity, making it easier to pursue claims against police officers in civil court.

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