Eleven months after the death of George Floyd, the trial of Officer Derek Chauvin has begun.
The state of Minnesota rested its case against Derek Chauvin on Tuesday, the 12th day of court proceedings in Minneapolis. They are determining whether the former Minneapolis police officer is responsible for the death of George Floyd.
Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck as he died mid-arrest, is being tried with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. This trial comes almost a year after Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.
The first charge against Chauvin claims that he committed second-degree murder by unintentionally killing Floyd as he assaulted him. If convicted, the penalty is a maximum of 40 years in jail.
According to the complaint filed against Chauvin by the state of Minnesota, the second charge claims that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death, “by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.” The maximum sentence for this is 25 years.
The final charge claims that through culpable negligence, Chauvin knowingly created a risk that caused the death of Floyd. This charge carries a maximum of 10 years in jail if Chauvin is convicted.
The prosecution has the burden of proving that Chauvin caused the death of Floyd while committing assault, constituted a depraved mind and consciously risked Floyd’s life.
Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, is negating these charges through three main arguments, according to CNN.
First, Nelson has consistently argued that Floyd’s death was caused by drug usage and pre-existing health conditions unrelated to Chauvin’s actions.
Second, Nelson asserts that the arrest of George Floyd was hard to watch, but Chauvin’s actions were necessary and justified for the situation.
Third, Nelson claims that the environment created by hostile bystanders distracted Chauvin from taking care of Floyd once he required medical attention.
The first two weeks of the trial consisted of the prosecution making their case against Chauvin through a variety of evidence and testimonies. Now that the prosecution has rested, the defense will begin to refute the claims of the prosecution and build their case for Chauvin’s innocence.
According to the New York Times, during the first week of the trial, prosecutors established what happened the day of Floyd’s death through body cam, surveillance and bystander footage, testimonies from witnesses of Floyd’s arrest and paramedics who arrived at the scene after Floyd’s death.
The week ended with a testimony from the longest-serving police officer on the Minneapolis police force, Lt. Richard Zimmerman. He condemned the actions of the former police officer, saying that he used “deadly force” and that his actions went against police policy.
Week two started at a similar spot with Minneapolis Police Department’s Chief Medaria Arradondo rebuking Chauvin’s actions. Chief Arradondo claimed that Chauvin’s actions were outside of police policy, and once Floyd started verbalizing his distress, Chauvin should’ve stopped.
The prosecution continued building their case by questioning experts about appropriate use of force and showed that Chauvin’s actions did not comply with department policy.
Medical professionals asserted that Floyd’s death was caused by asphyxia not opioids. In other words, the medical experts testified that Floyd’s cause of death was suffocation due to police restraint rather than a drug overdose as the defense asserted.
On Monday, the last day of the prosecution’s case, George Floyd’s younger brother Philonise Floyd took the stand to tell the court about who his older brother was. In an attempt to humanize his brother, Philonise Floyd told the court about their childhood and how his brother used to run football drills with him and mark his height on the wall.
He was able to do this because of Minnesota’s “spark of life” doctrine, which allows evidence that presents victims as humans that lived complete lives. However, this trial also extends outside of the courtroom.
Floyd’s death caused protests across the country during the summer of 2020. Protestors demanded an end to police brutality against people of color. Now, after almost a year of heightened racial tension, the country waits to hear the conclusion of the catalyzing incident.
Additionally, in the Minneapolis area, the community is on edge after Officer Kim Potter shot and killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright in a traffic stop. Officer Potter resigned on Tuesday after claiming she only meant to use her taser on Wright but mistakenly drew her gun.
As the trial of Derek Chauvin continues, the defense will continue to refute the charges against him, and the nation will be watching to see how the jury addresses the ongoing issue of police brutality in the United States.