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Opening statements are underway in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin — with jurors seeing a photo of the former Minneapolis cop with his knee on George Floyd’s neck.
Prosecutors are opening first, with Jerry Blackwell, a private attorney appointed by state Attorney General Keith Ellison to serve on the prosecution team, doing the duties.
“You will learn that on May 25, 2020 that Mr. Derek Chauvin betrayed this badge when he used excessive and unreasonable force upon the body of Mr. George Floyd,” Blackwell told jurors, “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.”
Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, will open next.
The case is likely to hinge largely on viral video of the fatal encounter and evidence relating to Floyd’s health — with Nelson arguing that drugs ingested by Floyd, as well as a pre-existing heart condition, played a role in his death.
Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank, who heads the prosecution team, is expected to argue during the trial that Floyd died as a result of Chauvin pressing his knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes, despite Floyd’s repeated pleas that he could not breathe.
Two separate autopsies, including an independent review, ruled the death a homicide.
The video, which sparked worldwide outrage, shows Floyd being arrested by police after allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a local convenience store.
Floyd repeatedly tells the officers that he is claustrophobic and does not want to be put in a police vehicle, leading to a scuffle with the cops — and Chauvin pressing his knee on him.
In a ruling before the proceedings, Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill ruled that defense attorneys can argue that Floyd “appeared to not be complying,” but can’t say he was resisting.
Chauvin, 45, is charged with third-degree murder, second-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He faces up to 40 years in prison on the second-degree murder charge.
All 15 jurors selected over the past three weeks appeared in court Monday morning, with Cahill dismissing one — a white man in his 20s who was the last one picked Tuesday.
There are now 12 jurors consisting of two white men, four white women, three black men, one back woman, and two women who identify as multi-racial.
The two others will serve as alternates.
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