The stomach-churning video of US police officer Derek Chauvin holding his knee to George Floyd’s neck until Floyd loses consciousness was shown the jury on the opening day of arguments in Chauvin’s murder trial Monday.
The jury could hear Floyd, handcuffed and pressed to the pavement, moaning and gasping for breath while bystanders urged the Minneapolis officer to let up, which didn’t happen until more than nine minutes and Floyd stopped breathing, and was later declared dead.
Prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell said in his opening statement that Chauvin was not following police procedures and acted callously in continuing to press Floyd’s motionless body to the ground until emergency workers carried him away.
The bystander video of Floyd’s death in May last year stunned much of the country and sparked national protests and riots over police abuse of African Americans.
Chauvin’s trial has become a flashpoint for the Black Lives Matter movement and a test of police accountability.
“Nine minutes and 29 seconds is how long that went on,” Blackwell told the jury.
“You will learn that on May 25 of 2020 Mr. Derek Chauvin betrayed his badge when he used excessive and unreasonable force upon the body of Mr. George Floyd,” Blackwell said.
“That he put his knees upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him, until the very breath -- no, ladies and gentlemen, until the very life -- was squeezed out of him,” Blackwell went on.
Blackwell made clear he was not trying to put all police on trial, but only Chauvin, who was fired from the Minneapolis police department after the incident.
“There are any number of things that this case is not about, maybe an infinite number of things the case isn’t about,” he told the jury.
“But one of those things that this case is not about: all police, all policing. Police officers have difficult jobs... They sometimes have to make split second life and death decisions,” he said.
“This case is about Mr. Derek Chauvin,” he added.