A jury will gather on Monday to hear whether the deadly arrest of George Floyd, which ignited a global protest movement ten months ago, amounts to murder as opening arguments commence in the trial of former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin.
Over two weeks of jury selection, many jurors told Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill and the lawyers on each side that they recognized the scrutiny their deliberations would come under, not least by those who view the trial as a reckoning for how Black people are policed in the United States.
“It’s been a long time coming,” a gospel choir sang on Sunday evening at a prayer service attended by Floyd’s relatives. “But I know a change is gonna come.”
The service was held in a church a few blocks east of where Chauvin was caught on a bystander’s video, with his knee on the neck of Floyd.
Philonise Floyd, a brother of George Floyd, said before the service began that he had faith that prosecutors from the Minnesota attorney general’s office would see Chauvin convicted.
Private memorial service for Floyd:
Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, with his lawyers arguing that he followed his training and that the main cause of Floyd’s death, which the county examiner ruled a homicide, was a drug overdose. He faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted on the most serious charge.
Jurors will head to a courtroom in a tower in downtown Minneapolis ringed with concrete barriers, barbed wire and soldiers from the state’s National Guard. For blocks around, businesses are closed and windows boarded up, fearing a repeat of the arson and other property damage that occurred after Floyd’s death.
Less than three miles away, residents maintain a vigil at the intersection where Chauvin kept his knee on a handcuffed Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes as Floyd uses his final breaths to plead for his life. Chauvin and three other officers were arresting Floyd on suspicion of passing a fake $20 bill at the Cup Foods grocery store nearby.