A state prosecutor and the defense attorney for former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin presented their opening arguments in Chauvin’s murder trial Monday morning.
Chauvin is accused of killing George Floyd during an arrest in May of last year. The trial is being live-streamed from inside the courtroom.
In his opening argument, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell repeatedly stressed that 929 are “most important numbers in the trial,” representing the nine minutes and 29 seconds that Floyd and and Chauvin interacted during the arrest.
There was also a great deal of discussion before and during the opening statements about the eight minutes and 46 seconds wherein Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck during the arrest. Protestors outside the courthouse kneeled for that amount of time before the opening statements began, in solidarity with Floyd.
“This trial is not about all police or all policing. And it’s not about split second decisions. It’s more than [8 minutes and 46 seconds] and not a split second among them,” Blackwell said in his opening statement on behalf of the state.
Blackwell played the full bystander video of the arrest for the jury, after describing in great detail the arrest.
The prosecution also preempted the defense’s expected argument on behalf Chauvin – that Floyd actually died of a drug overdose. An autopsy found that Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system at the time of his death.
But Blackwell said that the prosecution will argue that Floyd was a long time drug user and “big guy,” and thus, his tolerance for deadly drugs might be higher than that of the average person.
On behalf of Chauvin, defense attorney Eric Nelson stressed the evidence in the case “is far greater than nine minutes and 29 seconds.”
“In this case you will learn that the evidence has been collected broadly and expansively,” Nelson said. “The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension employed nearly 50 case agents, analysts and technicians to investigate this case. The Federal Bureau of Investigation included at least 20 additional agents in their investigation.”
Nelson stressed that Floyd was under the influence of drugs, and even swallowed some during the arrest.
He described a struggle not captured on the infamous bystander video, wherein three Minneapolis Police officers could not subdue Floyd before Chauvin arrived on the scene, suggesting that the kneeling in question was necessary in order to detain Floyd.
He told the jury that they will learn, in detail, about the use-of-force training and techniques of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).
“You will learn that Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do during his 19-year career,” Nelson said. “The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing.”
Watch the opening statements here.
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