'The world is waiting': Derek Chauvin set to go on trial for killing of George Floyd

Opening arguments begin in Minneapolis on Monday as ex-officer denies charges of murder and manslaughter

The murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former police officer whose alleged killing of George Floyd last year prompted a wave of Black Lives Matter protests, got fully under way with opening arguments in Minneapolis on Monday.

Chauvin, 45, has denied charges of second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter over the death of the 46-year-old Black man after he was detained on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill last May.

Central to the prosecution case is a nearly nine-minute bystander video of the police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck while he is handcuffed and as two other officers keep him pinned to the ground. Floyd is heard to say “I can’t breathe” and “I’m about to die”.

The video shocked many Americans and led to some of the biggest protests against racial injustice since the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

In Minneapolis, anger spilled out from largely peaceful protests into violence with the looting and torching of a police station and shops in the south of the city.

The authorities to plan an increased police and national guard presence on the streets as the trial progresses.

Civil rights attorney and commentator Areva Martin told the Guardian: “The family is seeking justice, the public is seeking accountability.”

She added: “The world is waiting to see if the US will be courageous enough to stand up to a system that has a history of violating the rights of African Americans and, rather than protecting those lives, has actually destroyed them.”

The prosecution and defence are expected to focus on the cause of Floyd’s death and Chauvin’s reasoning.

An autopsy by the Hennepin county medical examiner’s office ruled Floyd’s death a homicide because he suffered from heart failure brought on by “law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression”.

Chauvin’s defence is expected to focus on the examination’s finding that Floyd had heart disease and there was evidence of “fentanyl intoxication” and “recent methamphetamine use”.

The prosecution, led by Minnesota’s attorney general, Keith Ellison, is expected to allege that Chauvin had a long history of excessive force including kneeling on people during his 20-year police career. He was fired and arrested after Floyd’s death.

The defence has said Chauvin was following police training and had no intent to harm Floyd.

A vigil was held on Sunday night at the spot where Floyd was killed, a junction in southern Minneapolis now known as George Floyd Square.

Mileesha Smith, a community member who looks after the space marked with barricades, murals and tributes, said Floyd was part of a long history of police-involved deaths not just in the US but in that exact neighbourhood, with little justice forthcoming.

“George Floyd wasn’t the first person to be killed by police on this block, but [in the past] media wasn’t the way that it is and a lot of it got swept under the rug … How do we prevent this from happening? That could be my son. I have two sons.”

Conviction on the most serious charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.


Amudalat Ajasa in Minneapolis and Chris McGreal

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Prosecutors accuse Derek Chauvin of killing George Floyd as trial starts
Jerry Blackwell told jury that ex-officer used excessive and unreasonable force ‘without regard for Floyd’s life’

Chris McGreal and Amudalat Ajasa in Minneapolis

29, Mar, 2021 @11:05 PM

Article image
Derek Chauvin trial: defence opens its case with ex-police officer
Defence attempts to show George Floyd had history of failing to cooperate but he comes across as frightened in video

Chris McGreal

13, Apr, 2021 @5:50 PM

Article image
Derek Chauvin found guilty of murder of George Floyd
Jury finds ex-Minneapolis police officer, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes, guilty on all counts

Chris McGreal, Lois Beckett, Oliver Laughland and Amudalat Ajasa in Minneapolis

21, Apr, 2021 @7:42 AM

Article image
Derek Chauvin trial: defense claims bad heart and drug use killed George Floyd
Dr David Fowler, testifying for the defense, also said vehicle exhaust may have played a part in Floyd’s death

Chris McGreal

14, Apr, 2021 @9:20 PM

Article image
Derek Chauvin sentenced to 22.5 years in prison for murder of George Floyd
Four members of the Floyd family, including his seven-year-old daughter Gianna, gave statements before the sentencing

Oliver Laughland

25, Jun, 2021 @9:10 PM

Article image
Chauvin trial: medical examiner says police restraint was ‘more than Floyd could take’ – as it happened
Murder trial enters 10th day of witness testimony in Minneapolis – follow all the latest

Victoria Bekiempis

09, Apr, 2021 @9:41 PM

Article image
Derek Chauvin: ex-officer convicted in George Floyd’s murder asks for new trial
Attorney Eric Nelson alleges prosecutorial and jury misconduct and errors of law at trial and says the verdict was contrary to law

Guardian staff and agency

04, May, 2021 @11:49 PM

Article image
Derek Chauvin trial: police expert witness says ‘excessive force’ used on George Floyd – as it happened
Day seven of murder trial over George Floyd’s death underway

Joanna Walters in New York

06, Apr, 2021 @8:50 PM

Article image
Teen who filmed killing tells court George Floyd was 'begging for his life'
Darnella Frazier said Derek Chauvin did not ease up as he pinned Floyd down and that she still loses sleep over the killing

Chris McGreal

31, Mar, 2021 @1:36 AM

Article image
George Floyd killing: defense rests case after Derek Chauvin declines to testify
Both sides will make closing arguments on Monday and the case over the death of George Floyd will then go to the jury

Chris McGreal

15, Apr, 2021 @5:24 PM