Recapping the First Fortnight of the Derek Chauvin Trial

Derek Chauvin is currently standing trial for murder in Minneapolis. Mid-last year, a 9-minute video of Chauvin pressing his knee into George Floyd’s neck went viral, sparking the massive 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.

The prosecution case began with that video, and has continued for the first fortnight of the trial. Paramedics have testified that Floyd showed no signs of life when they arrived. “In layman’s terms? I thought he was dead,” said ambulance officer Derek Smith.

Minneapolis’ most senior police officer, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, testified that he did not see any need for Chauvin to “improvise” by placing his knee on Floyd’s neck. Chauvin’s actions were “totally unnecessary” and “uncalled for,” according to Zimmerman. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo also testified that Chauvin exceeded use-of-force policies.

Firefighter and paramedic Genevieve Hansen, who was an off-duty bystander during Floyd’s arrest, said she pleaded with officers to check Floyd’s pulse and “noticed he needed medical attention.” During her tearful testimony, she said a police officer told her, “If you really are a Minneapolis firefighter, you would know better than to get involved.”

A courtroom sketch from Day 2 of Derek Chauvin’s murder trial.

Aside from the events of 25 May 2020, the trial will draw attention to Chauvin’s prior history as well as Floyd’s opioid use. Following the close of the case for the prosecution, the defence team will argue that Floyd’s death was really a drug overdose, given the quantity of fentanyl detected in his blood post-mortem. However, under cross-examination prosecution medical experts have stated that these high levels would have been tolerable to a regular user.

Chauvin himself had been involved in two previous shooting incidents. He also had 18 misconduct complaints on his record. In the US only 1 in 12 police misconduct complaints lead to any kind of disciplinary action.

Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Jody Stiger, an expert witness for the prosecution, said that the by-stander video showed Chauvin was using a “pain compliance technique” on Floyd’s left hand. Stiger said Chauvin did so throughout the nine minutes despite no signs of non-compliance from Floyd. During the arrest, Chauvin was equipped with a gun, ammunition, mace and a bullet-proof vest and accompanied by two other officers.

Police violence is a leading cause of death for young black men in the US. On average, 1 African-American man in 1,000 will be killed by police (which, by the way, makes the police hundreds of times more deadly for African-American men than the now restricted AstraZeneca vaccine has been in the UK).

Since 2005, only three police officers have been convicted of murder in the USA. There are typically 900 – 1,000 people shot and killed by police each year.

Chauvin’s trial is expected to last a month, with closing arguments potentially the week commencing 19 April. The jury will then take as long as it needs to reach a verdict.

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