The Ongoing Trial of Derek Chauvin

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis while former police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds (a number clarified from the originally accepted eight minutes and 46 seconds). Chauvin then continued to hold his knee on Floyd’s neck for an additional two minutes and 53 seconds. Officers had been called to the scene to respond to a forgery in progress; Floyd had been accused of trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. 

Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on May 29. The three other officers involved in Floyd’s murder — Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng — were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter on June 3.

After almost a year of protests, the trial for Chauvin — who will be charged separately from his fellow former officers — began on March 29. His charges have been upgraded to second-degree unintentional murder, second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder. Jury selection began on March 8, and the jury includes nine white jurors, four Black jurors and two mixed race jurors.

The defense in Chauvin’s case is expected to argue that Floyd’s death was caused by drug use. According to a toxicology report, Floyd had methamphetamine and fentanyl in his system when he died. However, an autopsy done in 2020 by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office lists the cause of death as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression,” and also reveals that Floyd was positive for COVID-19. An independent autopsy done by an independent examiner hired by Floyd’s family lists the cause of death as “asphyxiation from sustained pressure.”

The prosecution, meanwhile, is expected to tell jurors about six similar arrests from as far back as 2015 where Chauvin knelt on people to restrain them. Of these six, two were Black, one was Latino, one was Native American and two did not have their race disclosed in their arrest reports.

Chauvin has been the subject of at least 22 complaints or internal investigations during the 19 years working for the Minneapolis Police Department. Only one of these complaints led to Chauvin being disciplined.

The prosecution has about 400 people on their list of prospective trial witnesses, a list which includes Floyd’s family members, bystanders at the scene of Floyd’s death and supervisors of the MPD. One witness, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, testified that Chauvin violated police policy for a “totally unnecessary” act of “deadly force.” Zimmerman is the longest-serving officer in the MPD, with more than 35 years on the force.

While the case is still ongoing, many of us laymen have made up their minds on the case: Floyd’s death was obviously a result of the actions of a police officer with a history of abuse towards people of color. The defense that Floyd’s death had more to do with personal drug use than with a man kneeling on his neck for nine and a half minutes is insulting. Over the month the trial is expected to take, I am bracing myself for a ridiculous defense, and the justified outrage that will follow.

Categories: Opinion

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