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Nearly a year after millions watched the modern day lynching of George Floyd, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s standing trial. He faces three charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The prosecution team began day one with an opening statement made by Jerry Blackwell, founder of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. Blackwell made history last year when he successfully achieved the state’s first posthumous pardon in the case of Max Mason, a Black man who was wrongfully convicted of rape in 1920 despite no evidence a crime had occurred.
Eric Nelson is Derek Chauvin‘s lead counsel. The seemingly one-man defense team is funded by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officer Association. Nelson, however, is reportedly in close contact with the legal teams for Officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, who will each face trial this summer. “It may seem like he’s a one-man show, but it’s far from what you see on TV,” Brian Peters, executive director of the police association, said of Nelson’s behind-the-scenes support.
Prosecution team forces jury to relive every moment of Floyd’s death
The prosecution’s opening statement provided a detailed preview of what the prosecution would present. Moreover, they warned the jury what they should watch out for from the defense. As Blackwell led the jury moment by moment through Floyd’s final nine minutes, Chauvin scribbled in his notepad and kept his head down. He looked up briefly when Blackwell announced the Minneapolis chief of police would testify against Chauvin’s behavior.
And most powerfully, Blackwell made the jury watch the full video of Derek Chauvin lynching George Floyd in the street. The jury listened as he cried out for his mother. And they watched as onlookers begged the police to get off his neck. check his pulse. It was no less disturbing than it was in 2020.
For weeks, pundits and legal scholars have warned the defense would turn the trial into a dissection of Floyd’s every life mistake. They predicted it would be an attempt to distract the jury from Chauvin’s actions. They were all correct.
Defense opens with an expected attack on Floyd’s character
Nelson’s first sentences evoked Floyd’s years long battle with drug addiction. He began painting the picture we see from White men in power too often. Nelson wants the jury to see Floyd as a “bad dude.” He argues that he was dangerous; he was a drug addict, that he should have just complied and that he was going to die anyway from his bad health. According to the defense, Chauvin was just doing what he was trained to do.
So far, witnesses called today include bystander Alisha Oyler, who recorded the homicide from her workplace across the street, and 911 dispatcher Jena Scurry, who called her supervisor when she witnessed the killing over a surveillance video.
This is a developing story. Please check back soon for updates from witness questioning.