Derek Chauvin, the officer who kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds heads to trial today. The trial will be broadcast live in its entirely on Court TV. At the time of his murder, George Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill. He was arrested and handcuffed to the ground by officers. Chauvin is seen on the video pressing his knee into the neck of Floyd until he was unresponsive. George Floyd’s death sparked protests around the world. Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He has plead not guilty to both charges.
The death of George Floyd sparked renewed conversations around police brutality and kicked off months of civil unrest in cities around the world. The much-publicized video of Chauvin was broadcast to the world as George Floyd pleaded for his life. It is hard to forget Floyd crying out for his mother and saying, “I Can’t Breathe” as he struggled until his last breath.
Viewers will have a front seat to every aspect of the trial including jury selection, which is expected to last three weeks. Opening statements are set to begin towards the end of March. Second Degree Unintentional Murder carries up to 40 years in prison and Second-degree manslaughter carries up to 10 years in prison. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, only one member of both George Floyd’s family and Chauvin’s family will be able to attend each day with the option to alternate family members on different days.
It will be a challenge to find potential jury members without previous knowledge of the George Floyd murder. Potential jurors were sent a questionnaire specifically asking their views on police, black lives matter and their personal interactions with the police. Jurors will be partially sequestered but allowed to return home each night.
Chauvin is no stranger to complaints. Fired after Floyd’s death, he was disciplined for two previous complaints and was the subject of over 18 in his career with the department since 2001. At the heart of the trial are the two questions, did Chauvin cause George Floyd’s death and were his actions reasonable? While it is difficult to view the video and not see Chauvin clearly forcing his knee in his neck, legal experts suggest that proving his intent could be difficult.
The trifecta of the police involved murders of George Floyd, Sandra Bland and Ahmaud Aubrey in 2020 increased the calls for justice and accountability with police departments. With the start of the trial, the world is watching. In addition, with protests, unrest and looting erupting in cities across the country last year, many law enforcement departments are preparing for the same as the trial begins. Minneapolis law enforcement is already preparing for protests and demonstrations in the city. The National Guard is prepared to respond with 2000 members in addition to other law enforcement.
Black Americans remains skeptical about whether or not justice or accountability will be served served. Historically police officers who kill unarmed black Americans rarely face justice for the crimes they commit even when they are filmed on video.
The remaining officers involved in the George Floyd murder head to trial this summer.
Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living in Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSandersOfficial.com