George Floyd:Derek Chauvin trial begins as jurors watch his final moments

Updated: Apr 1

Image credit: Reuters

The trial of Derek Chauvin, the policeman accused of killing George Floyd in May last year, is due to begin later on Monday.

The former Minneapolis Police officer knelt on George Floyd's neck for 4 minutes and 45 seconds as he cried out for help. Chauvin stayed on his neck as Floyd struggled and had seizures for 53 seconds. He then remained on him for another 3 minutes and 51 seconds, prosecutors said during opening statements on Monday.

"Mr. Derek Chauvin betrayed this badge when he used excessive and unreasonable force upon the body of Mr. George Floyd," prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell said.

The incident sparked protests in the US and across the world against police brutality and racism.

Mr Chauvin, 45, is one of four officers involved to stand trial.

He is facing the most serious charges of the four, including second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison. Mr Chauvin, who was fired from the police, has pleaded not guilty.

Three witnesses, including a 911 dispatcher and two bystanders, also took the stand for the prosecution on Monday to lay the groundwork for Floyd's final moments. The witness testimony phase of the trial is expected to take about a month.

The bystander video of Floyd's final moments, which shocked the nation last year, was also played for jurors in its entirety. Blackwell emphasised that Chauvin was on Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds -- an update on the initially reported 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

The trial is being held at a heavily fortified Hennepin County courthouse in downtown Minneapolis, surrounded by fencing and law enforcement. Due to Covid-19 precautions, plexiglass barriers have been set up inside the courtroom and witnesses and attorneys are required to wear masks when not speaking.

Fifteen jurors - nine women and six men - have been selected; nine of them are white and six are black or multiracial.

What happened to George Floyd?

Mr Floyd, 46, bought a pack of cigarettes at a convenience store in South Minneapolis on the evening of 25 May 2020.

A shop assistant believed he had used a counterfeit $20 bill and called the police after he refused to give the cigarettes back.

Officers arrived and handcuffed him, but when they tried to put him into the squad car, he resisted. A struggle ended with Mr Floyd face down on the pavement.

Floyd cried out more than 20 times that he could not breathe. The video shows him go limp and get carried away by police. He was pronounced dead in hospital an hour later.