As Former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin murder trial opens in a heavily fortified courthouse on Monday (March 29), his lead attorney, Eric Nelson, said in his opening statement that the former officer followed his police training.
Defense lawyer Nelson used his opening statement to describe Floyd’s drug use and a chaotic scene during the arrest, saying the screaming of bystanders ended up “causing the officers to divert their attention from the care of Mr. Floyd.”
“Derek Chauvin did exactly what he was trained to do over the course of his 19 year career,” Nelson told the jury. “The use of force is not attractive but it is a necessary component of policing.”
Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, with his lawyers arguing that he followed his training and that the main cause of Floyd’s death, which the county examiner ruled a homicide, was a drug overdose. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge. The Minneapolis Police Department fired Chauvin and the three other officers involved the day after the arrest.
Floyd’s death ignited a global protest movement over police brutality against Black people. In the preceding two weeks of jury selection, many jurors told Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill and the lawyers on each side that they recognized the scrutiny their deliberations would come under, not least by those who view the trial as a reckoning for how Black people are policed in the United States.
The jury, including three alternates, is made up of six white women, three white men, three Black men, one Black woman and two multiracial women, according to court records.
Legal experts have noted that U.S. police officers have almost never been found criminally liable for killing a citizen. Chauvin’s lawyers have said they will try to convince the jury that the fentanyl, an opioid painkiller, found in Floyd’s blood by the medical examiner played a bigger role in killing Floyd than the officer’s restraint.
(Production: Deborah Lutterbeck)