One of the most watched criminal cases in recent US history is now in jury hands: they must decide whether ex-white cop Derek Chauvin was responsible for the murder of African American George Floyd. Chauvin faces a long prison sentence if convicted.
The prospects for the trial are enormous in the United States: Many people, including most blacks, hope for a verdict that will lead by example against racism and police violence.
If Chauvin is acquitted or given a short prison sentence, mass protests are likely. Minnesota Gov. Tim Falls mobilized the National Guard and asked for more help. He and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frye urged people to demonstrate peacefully after the verdict was announced and to not allow “chaos.”
Facebook, too, fears violence – and is taking precautions. The network said online that parts of Minneapolis have been declared an internally high-risk area. Therefore, Facebook will delete all calls to bring weapons there. Additional measures will also be taken to stop the spread of false information.
The main proceedings against Chauvin were ended Monday afternoon (local time) with closing arguments from the prosecution and defense. Attorney General Steve Schleicher argued that Chauvin’s excessive and powerful use of force killed Floyd. Floyd asked Chauvin to allow him to breathe until his last breath, as he knelt down on him for nine minutes and 29 seconds, Schleicher told the jury. He said Chauvin had “shockingly” violated police guidelines on the permitted use of force and should be condemned. “It wasn’t a police operation, it was a murder,” said Schleicher.
The attorney general continued to tell the jury that Floyd’s struggle to stay under Chauvin’s knee lasted 9 minutes 29 seconds – even though Floyd was only arrested on suspicion of paying with fake $ 20 bills. Schleicher stated that Floyd asked Chauvin 27 times in the first five minutes to allow him to breathe before he was silent.
Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, asserted his client’s innocence. He said his actions in Chauvin’s arrest were a legitimate use of force as part of a “dynamic” police operation because Floyd had resisted the arrest. There are also legitimate doubts as to why Floyd died. Nelson said that the prosecution has not proven his client’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is why there must be an acquittal.
46-year-old Floyd was killed in detention in Minneapolis on May 25 last year. Videos documented how the police pushed the unarmed man to the ground. Chauvin pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes while Floyd pleaded with him to breathe. According to the autopsy, Floyd was lost and died soon afterwards.
The decision of guilt or innocence in the US legal system rests with the jury. There is no time limit for advising the twelve jury members – they can make the decision within an hour or a week later, Judge Peter Cahill explained last week. The court gave them a 14-page document containing instructions to assist them in their deliberations. The jury is no longer allowed to return home during interviews, but is housed in a hotel. For security reasons, the jury will remain anonymous until further notice.
Jury selection took a long time in this case. Defense attorneys, prosecutors, and the court interviewed dozens of candidates for two and a half weeks in order to find a more fair and impartial jury, despite the great importance of the case. The prosecution also wanted to ensure that blacks and other minorities were adequately represented on the jury.
The most dangerous charge against Chauvin is second-degree murder. They have been imprisoned for up to 40 years in the US state of Minnesota. According to German law, this would be more like manslaughter. In addition, Chauvin is also accused of committing third-degree murder, which can carry a sentence of up to 25 years in prison. He must also be held accountable for the second-degree manslaughter, which is followed by ten years in prison. According to German law, this charge is consistent with negligent homicide. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty.
Floyd’s fate sparked a wave of demonstrations against racism and police violence in the United States amid the pandemic – and became the largest protest movement in decades.
The Minneapolis trial is taking place under tight security. The police and the National Guard have already significantly bolstered their presence in the city, and many stores have already fortified their facades for fear of riots. Protests broke out in Minneapolis after Floyd’s death. Several buildings were set ablaze.
Chauvin was released after the accident. He was released on bail and was present throughout the trial. In addition to Chauvin, three other former police officers who participated in the operation against Floyd, who will be brought to trial in a separate trial, have been charged starting August 23. They are charged with helping. They also can face lengthy prison sentences.
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