Lawyers laid out their cases on Monday in the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd, whose death ignited protests against racial injustice around the world.
While prosecutors sought to narrow jurors’ focus on the roughly nine minutes that Derek Chauvin restrained Floyd, the former police officer’s defence zoomed out on a sweeping investigation with almost 50,000 pieces of evidence, raising questions about the cause of Floyd’s death and what constituted reasonable use of force.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said Chauvin betrayed his badge when he used excessive force to subdue Floyd.
“You can believe your eyes,” he said. “It’s homicide. It’s murder.”
Defence attorney Eric Nelson countered that “Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over his 19-year career. The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing.”
Chauvin was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck while the latter cried out 27 times that he could not breathe. Prosecutors took the rare step of filing criminal charges, and Chauvin’s case will be one of the most closely watched police misconduct trials in a generation.
Both attorneys underlined that, despite intense public interest, Chauvin’s trial was separate from larger social questions about racism and accountability in US policing.
“I agree with counsel for the state,” Nelson said. “There is no political or social cause in this courtroom.”
Chauvin is charged with second- and third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty.