The video of George Floyd gasping for air served as Exhibit A in the murder and manslaughter trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who pushed his knee against the deceased's body.
During opening remarks, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell showed the video to the jurors as soon as possible after reminding them that the number to recall was 9 minutes, 29 seconds — the moment officer Derek Chauvin had George Floyd stuck to the pavement in last May.
Even after a handcuffed George Floyd said 27 times that he couldn't breathe and went limp, the white officer "didn't let up," according to Blackwell, in the case that sparked nationwide demonstrations, sporadic brutality, and national soul-searching over racial justice.
The prosecutor said, "He put his knees on his neck and back, grinding and crushing him until the very breath — no, ladies and gentlemen — until the very life was squeezed out of him."
Derek Chauvin's lawyer, Eric Nelson, countered, saying, "Over the course of his 19-year career, Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been taught to do."
As the crowd of onlookers surrounding Derek Chauvin and his fellow officers expanded and became increasingly violent, George Floyd fought attempts to place him in a squad car, according to Eric Nelson.
Derek Chauvin was not to blame for George Floyd's murder, according to the defense attorney.
George Floyd, 46, showed no signs of asphyxiation and had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, according to Nelson. He claimed that George Floyd's drug use, in combination with his heart disease, high blood pressure, and the adrenaline coursing through his veins, triggered a heart rhythm disturbance that contributed to his death.
Eric Nelson said, "There is no political or social cause in this courtroom." “However, the proof goes well beyond 9 minutes and 29 seconds.”
Jerry Blackwell, on the other hand, dismissed the notion that George Floyd's substance use or any underlying health issues were to blame, claiming that the officer's knee was the cause of his death.
Derek Chauvin, 45, has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter, all of which are accidental. Second-degree murder is the most serious charge, with a maximum sentence of 40 years in jail. This is Minnesota's first-ever televised courtroom.
Derek Chauvin appeared to raise the pressure on George Floyd's neck several times with a shimmying motion, according to bystander Donald Williams, who claimed to be skilled in mixed martial arts, including chokeholds. He said that he screamed at the officer that he was going to cut off George Floyd's blood supply.
George Floyd's voice thickened as his breathing became more labored, and he finally stopped moving, according to Williams. Floyd's eyes rolled back in his head, he said, and he compared the sight to a fish he had caught earlier that day.
Floyd "slowly faded away... like a fish in a bag," Williams said.
And after several minutes, the Minneapolis police dispatcher was worried because the officers had not moved.
Jena Scurry, a Minneapolis police dispatcher, testified earlier that she heard part of George Floyd's arrest on a city surveillance camera and was so shocked that she called a duty sergeant. After several minutes, Jena Scurry became concerned because the officers had not moved.
Jena Scurry said in her call to the sergeant, which was played in court, "You can call me a snitch if you want to." She explained that she wouldn't usually call the sergeant about the use of force because it was beyond the reach of her responsibilities, but "my instincts were telling me that something was wrong."
What is the purpose of the video?
A bystander who observed George Floyd being arrested after allegedly attempting to move a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store uploaded the video to Facebook was played during opening statements. The video sparked outrage in the United States and internationally, sparking calls for the government to discuss racism and police brutality.
As the video played on several screens, jurors sat transfixed, one taking a deep breath as George Floyd said he couldn't breathe. Derek Chauvin sat quietly and took notes during the opening remarks, sometimes looking up at the video.
“My stomach hurts. My neck hurts." In the video, George Floyd says, "Everything hurts," and "I can't breathe, officer." Onlookers scream at the officer to get off George Floyd, arguing that he isn't moving, breathing, or resisting. Derek Chauvin is screamed at by a woman who introduces herself as a city Fire Department employee to check George Floyd's pulse.
According to the judge, the case was not about a police officer's "split-second decision-making," but about unnecessary force against someone who was handcuffed and not resisting.
Derek Chauvin, who pointed Mace at her, warned the Fire Department employee not to help, according to Jerry Blackwell.
The timeline varies from prosecutors' initial version, which stated that Derek Chauvin put his knee on George Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The time of 8:46 was quickly adopted as a rallying cry in the event. During the inquiry, however, it was changed.