MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Prosecutors opened their case against Derek Chauvin Monday telling the jury the former Minneapolis police officer had his knee on George Floyd’s neck longer than eight minutes and 46 seconds.
They say it was actually nine minutes and 29 seconds.READ MORE: Judge Stops Testimony For Day Due To Technical Difficulties
“Nine-two-nine, the three most important numbers in the case,” attorney Jerry Blackwell said. “Nine minutes and 29 seconds is how long that went on. For half of that time, Mr. Floyd was unconscious, breathless, pulseless … At the end of this case, that you find Mr. Chauvin guilty for his excessive use of force against George Floyd that was an assault, that contributed to taking his life. And for engaging in eminently dangerous behavior, putting the knee on the neck, the knee on the back for nine minutes and 29 seconds without regard for Mr. Floyd’s life.”
For roughly an hour, prosecutors led off opening statements by humanizing Floyd.
“He was somebody to a lot of other bodies in the world,” Blackwell said.
Blackwell reinforced that his death was the result of Chauvin’s use of excessive force by kneeling on his neck. The infamous cell phone video played out in its entirety for the jury.
“You can believe your eyes that it’s a homicide, it’s murder. You can believe your eyes,” Blackwell said.
The defense countered by emphasizing Floyd died for different reasons.
“The evidence will show that Mr. Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia that occurred as a result of hypertension, coronary disease, the ingestion of methamphetamine and fentanyl and the adrenaline flowing through his body,” defense attorney Eric Nelson said. “Derek Chauvin did exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his 19-year career.”
After opening statements, the prosecution called their first witnesses, including a 911 dispatcher, a former employee at a nearby gas station and a bystander who witnessed what happened.
Also in court Monday, never-before-seen footage from a surveillance camera at 38th and Chicago. It shows the moments before the widely-seen bystander video taken last May in Minneapolis.
For roughly an hour, the prosecution led off opening statements, with the defense only taking half that time to make their case.
One of the key arguments for the case: how did Floyd die?
Prosecutors say it was Chauvin’s actions, while the defense argues it was Floyd’s health and drug use.
“You will see that he does not let up and that he does not get up,” Blackwell said.
Describing Chauvin’s actions was just part of the minute-by-minute breakdown prosecutors laid out for the courtroom of the infamous cell phone video of Floyd’s deadly arrest. It was shown unedited in its entirety. Some jurors had only seen it in brief clips or not at all.
Blackwell says Chauvin keeping his knee on Floyd’s neck was an excessive use of force that should’ve been evaluated minute by minute.
“What may be reasonable in the first minute, may not be reasonable in the second minute, the fourth minute or the ninth minute and 29 seconds,” Blackwell said.
The defense claims Chauvin was just following his police training.READ MORE: For Many, Video Evidence Shown During Derek Chauvin Trial Is Reopening Old Wounds
“The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing,” Nelson said.
They also say Floyd’s death was a result of his heart problems, drugs in his system and adrenaline.
“All of which acted to further compromise an already compromised heart,” Nelson said.
The first witness to take the stand was Jena Scurry, the 911 dispatcher who handled the initial call.
Through a city surveillance camera near the intersection, she watched the officers pin Floyd to the ground, prompting her to call a police sergeant about possible use of force.
“There just, something wasn’t right,” Scurry said. “I don’t know how to explain it. It was a gut instinct to tell me that now we can be concerned.”
During cross examination, Scurry admits she doesn’t know the Minneapolis Police Department’s standards for use of force.
Scurry then told prosecutors her feelings on why she called a police sergeant have not changed despite the defense’s questioning.
Following her nearly two hours of testimony, the prosecution called its second witness, Alisha Oyler, who worked at the Speedway gas station at 38th and Chicago.
She recorded several cell phone videos of the arrest showing the agitated crowd gathering near police.
“I always see the police, they’re always messing with people and it’s wrong and not right,” Oyler said.
The final witness was Donald Williams, who was in the crowd of people near the arrest.
He shared what he saw based on his experience as a mixed martial arts fighter.
“It’s like in MMA you can tell when someone gets tired or you can tell when someone’s getting choked out or things like that,” Williams said. “His breathing was getting tremendously heavy and tremendously harder for him to breathe and you actually could hear him, you could see him struggling to actually gasp for air.”
Williams’ testimony took an interesting turn.
The judge paused questioning and had the jury step out, because not only is Williams a witness, but the prosecution is leaning on him as an expert based on his knowledge of MMA fighting. They’re using his opinions to analyze how Chauvin was handling Floyd.
Williams’ testimony will continue first thing Tuesday morning.
Chauvin is charged with murder and manslaughter in George Floyd’s death.