Opening statements will be heard today in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who is accused of killing George Floyd.
Chauvin has been charged with second-degree unintentional murder, third degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Floyd. Floyd, a Black man, had been arrested last May following a dispute at a convenience store. Video captured from the arrest showed Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes as he lay face-down on the ground, despite Floyd’s protestations that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd died following the incident.
A medical examiner’s report from June ruled the cause of death was homicide due to heart failure resulting from the restraint.
Chauvin, along with three other officers involved in the arrest, were fired from the Minneapolis police force a day after Floyd’s death. He was arrested and charged in Floyd’s death on May 29. The other officers have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
To get a conviction on any of the charges, prosecutors will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Chauvin’s actions were either the cause or a “substantial causal factor” of Floyd’s death, according to the AP. The second-degree charge could result in a maximum 40-year sentence, although the AP reports that for both murder charges a 12 ½ year sentence would be more likely given sentencing guidelines. The manslaughter charge carries a maximum 10-year sentence.
While prosecutors will argue that Chauvin and fellow officers used excessive force in Floyd’s death, the AP also reports that the defense is likely to push back on these charges, arguing that Floyd consumed drugs prior to the arrest and that he is partially responsible for his own death.
The 12-member jury includes four Black persons, two people who identify as biracial, and six white persons; three alternates are also white, NPR reports. The trial, which has garnered national attention, will be televised live.
Floyd was one of a number of Black men and women who were killed in the hands of police last year, resulting in renewed Black Lives Matter protests in cities around the country. The deaths sparked outrage over police practices regarding the treatment of racial minorities, and calls for change.
Earlier this month, the Minneapolis city council approved a $27 million dollar settlement with the Floyd family. That decision resulted in the dismissal of two jurors, who each said that the settlement impacted their view of the case, and was a sign that the city believed the officers had acted inappropriately.