The first week of the murder trial of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis was marked by emotional accounts from bystanders who watched Mr. Chauvin pin George Floyd to the ground for more than nine minutes in May.
The prosecution presented testimony, often accompanied by tears and shaking voices, from people who were there during the fatal arrest of Mr. Floyd, along with hours of video evidence and additional testimony from paramedics and law enforcement officials who said that Mr. Chauvin’s use of force was unnecessary.
Prosecutors also introduced the issue of Mr. Floyd’s drug use, which is expected to be a crucial part of Mr. Chauvin’s defense; Mr. Chauvin’s lawyers are expected to argue that Mr. Floyd’s death was a result of his drug use. The trial, one of the most viewed in decades, comes with the memory of last summer’s protests for racial justice fresh in people’s minds.
laid out its strategy in opening statements.
Eric J. Nelson, the lawyer for Mr. Chauvin, made clear on Monday that he would attempt to convince jurors that the videos of Mr. Floyd’s death did not tell the full story. The case “is clearly more than about 9 minutes and 29 seconds,” Mr. Nelson said, referring to the time that Mr. Chauvin knelt on Mr. Floyd. He signaled that he planned to argue that Mr. Chauvin had been following his training, that his knee was not necessarily on Mr. Floyd’s neck, and that Mr. Floyd’s death may have been caused by drugs.
One of the prosecutors, Jerry W. Blackwell, urged jurors to “believe your eyes, that it’s homicide — it’s murder.” Prosecutors call all of their witnesses before the defense begins to lay out its case, so the week was heavily weighted toward the prosecution’s arguments, but the strategies of both sides began to come into view.
powerful testimony from a series of witnesses to the arrest, many of whom broke down in tears while recounting what they saw. They included several women who were under 18 at the time of the arrest, as well as a 61-year-old man who spoke with Mr. Floyd while he was pinned to the ground. From the convenience store clerk at the Cup Foods where Mr. Floyd bought cigarettes to an off-duty firefighter who yelled at the officers as Mr. Floyd became unresponsive, they conveyed a shared sense of trauma from what they saw that day.
By highlighting the emotional trauma Mr. Floyd’s arrest caused witnesses, prosecutors seemingly hoped to convince jurors that Mr. Chauvin’s actions had been clearly excessive to people who saw them in real time. One witness, Darnella Frazier, now 18, testified that she has been haunted by what she saw, sometimes lying awake at night “apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life.”