During opening statements on Monday, Derek Chauvin’s lawyer suggested unruly bystanders had distracted Minnesota police officers while Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck for an extended period of time.
Prosecutors started off court proceedings by showing jurors video footage showing then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 46, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for several minutes as the handcuffed man flails and shakes before losing consciousness. In turn, the defense referenced Floyd’s alleged use of fentanyl and methamphetamine and how he resisted arrest during last May’s deadly incident.
During opening statements, lead defense attorney Eric Nelson implied that the “screaming” crowd — who were filmed telling Derek Chauvin, 46, to get off of Floyd’s neck — were somehow to blame for the series of events that ended with Floyd’s death. Nelson said Chauvin acted within the scope of his job, and that he acted appropriately as he surveyed potential threats from a growing group of outraged onlookers.
Derek Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson blames surrounding crowd, which he says caused “the officers to divert their attention from the care of Mr. Floyd.” pic.twitter.com/jyntUNWQ1f
— The Recount (@therecount) March 29, 2021
“As the crowd grew in size, seemingly so too did their anger,” Nelson said, according to Mediaite. “There are — there is a growing crowd and what officers perceived to be a threat. They are called names.”
During Monday’s proceedings, jurors heard testimony from a 911 dispatcher who said she called Chauvin’s supervisor during Floyd’s arrest. She recalled looking at one of her monitors and seeing Chavuin kneeling on Floyd for several minutes — which she initially believed was the result of the city’s surveillance feed freezing, according to the Star Tribune.
On May 25, Minneapolis police officers were filmed arresting Floyd, 44, on suspicion that he used a counterfeit bill at the Cup Foods supermarket. After police pulled Floyd out of his car and handcuffed him, Chauvin was filmed forcing his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
VIDEO: The prosecution’s 1st witness, 911 dispatcher Jena Scurry, talks about watching the arrest on a street camera as it happened. “My instincts were telling me that something was wrong.” #DerekChauvinTrial
— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) March 29, 2021
Floyd was heard gasping for air and saying he could not breathe before he lost consciousness and died.
While Hennepin County’s autopsy report stated that there was no evidence “to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation,” an independent autopsy asserted that sustained forceful pressure on Floyd’s neck and back led to his death. Both reports mentioned drugs in Floyd’s system but concluded his death was a homicide.
Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder, second-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death. In addition to Chauvin, three other ex-officers, Thomas Lane, 37, J. Alexander Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34 are charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death.
Chauvin is being tried separately from the other three former officers, who will stand trial together. Their trial is scheduled to begin this summer.
For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast. Listen to a related episode:
[Featured image: Derek Chauvin/Hennepin County jail; George Floyd; Facebook]