Witnesses spoke of the last tragic minutes of George Floyd’s life on the first day of the trial of white American policeman Derek Chauvin, who was accused of killing him.
Witnesses of the indictment, Donald Williams III, said Floyd “slowly disappeared” during the nine minutes that Chauvin knelt on his back and neck.
Chauvin’s lawyer argued that his use of force was “unattractive but necessary.”
This trial is seen by many as a crucial moment in American racial relations.
The May 2020 incident, in which Chauvin was captured in a video kneeling on the neck of a black Floyd in Minneapolis, sparked protests in the United States and around the world against police atrocities and racism.
Chauvin, 45, who was dismissed from police, has denied murder and manslaughter with up to 40 years in prison.
The other three police officers in attendance (Tou Thao, J Alexander Keung and Thomas Lane) will be brought to trial later this year.
What did you hear on the first day of the trial?
33-year-old entrepreneur Donald Williams said he was planning to enter the Cup Foods store in Minneapolis, Minnesota when he witnessed Floyd’s arrest on May 25, 2020.
He said he objected to entering the store because “energy was off,” and instead began a conversation with the arrested police officer, urging them to check Mr. Floyd’s pulse.
He told the court that he could see Mr Floyd’s life slip through. “He slowly disappears like a fish in a bag,” he said. “His eyes slowly rolled behind his head.” “He has no life in him anymore.”
At the beginning of the trial, the prosecutor began by showing a nine-minute videotape taken by one of the bystanders. This shows that Chauvin is kneeling on 46-year-old Floyd.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell told the jury that Mr Floyd couldn’t breathe 27 times.
The tape proves that Chauvin was “engaged in imminent and dangerous behavior, regardless of George Floyd’s physical effects,” Blackwell said.
Defendant lawyer Eric Nelson said in the opening statement that the video footage evidence was “much greater than 9 minutes and 29 seconds.”
He said evidence would indicate that Floyd “died of hypertension, coronary artery disease, methamphetamine and fentanyl intake, and cardiac arrhythmias as a result of adrenaline flowing through his body.”
The court also heard testimony from 911 police dispatcher Jena Scully, who deployed police to the Cup Foods store after George Floyd was reported to have used $ 20 counterfeit banknotes.
A camera fixed to the side of the building allowed her to see the arrest unfold. She admitted that the viewing was sporadic because she made another phone call, but thought that “the screen froze” because Mr. Floyd stayed on the ground for a long time, “maybe something is wrong. I was worried about it, “he told the jury.
The court also heard from one of the people who filmed the case, Alisha Euler, who worked at a nearby store.
Before the trial began, Floyd’s family, civil rights lawyers, and activists knelt out of court during the time Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.
What more do you know about the trial?
Fifteen juries (9 women and 6 men) were initially elected. Nine of them are white and six are black or multi-ethnic.
One jury (a backup option if the jury dropped out before the procedure began) was dismissed on Monday, and the trial began with 12 juries and two juries.
They remain anonymous and will not be visible during the televised trial, which is expected to last about four weeks.
The county courthouse in central Minneapolis is reinforced with concrete barriers, fences, and barbed razor wires.
Why is this the case that gets such attention?
A video footage of Derek Chauvin, who knelt on George Floyd’s neck last May, was played around the world.
For many, Floyd’s death in police custody became a vivid symbol of police atrocities, especially against colored races, and triggered global demonstrations for racial justice.
But despite global protests, this is not an open and shut case. In the United States, police are rarely convicted of death or prosecution on duty.
The verdict in this case is widely seen as an indication of how the US legal system treats deaths that occur during police detention.