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Justice for George Floyd.
Everybody can agree that those four words are the primary objective of the murder trial of a former police officer whose kneeling restraint for about nine minutes is blamed for killing the unarmed Black man in Minneapolis last year.
But whether that justice can actually be achieved is a completely different story, even with the damning evidence of a viral video and the momentum of a racial reckoning sparked by Floyd’s death.
Derek Chauvin, the accused murderer, is now infamous for using his knee to casually apply what seemingly turned out to be deadly pressure to Floyd’s neck on Memorial Day. Floyd was handcuffed as his neck and face were being steadily pushed into the hot concrete while Chauvin, hands in his pockets, stared indifferently at the assembling group of witnesses warning that death was imminent if he didn’t get up.
If you’re looking for footage of the killing, you won’t find it here.
But that fateful moment has prompted a wave of protests demanding change to policing in America in order to invest in the Black and brown communities that are disproportionately affected by law enforcement.
Just last week, ahead of Monday’s jury selection, the House passed the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act, sweeping legislation that reimagines how police departments operate through accountability and transparency.
Most relevant to Chauvin’s murder trial, the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act aims to hold police accountable in part by collecting data about officers accused of misconduct and worse behavior. Chauvin, who turns 45 on March 19 and has pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree unintentional murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s killing, has a history of using brutal neck restraints, other suspects have claimed.
Advocates say Chauvin shouldn’t even have been working as a police officer on Memorial Day considering his violent past. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office is hoping to introduce these claims as evidence of a pattern of Chauvin’s renegade style of policing that also appeared to kill Floyd.
Adding insult to literal injury, Chauvin has a notable history of being placed on leave for officer-involved shootings and he remains the subject of “a dozen police conduct complaints that resulted in no disciplinary action.” During his 19-year-career, Chauvin was praised for valor by his department, even after shooting a Black man back in 2008 who survived the shooting.
A judge in October upheld the most serious murder charge against Chauvin in Floyd’s death. As of March 5, a judge was considering whether to add third-degree murder charges; the same charges that were dropped in October on a legal technicality.
Chauvin was bailed out in October on a $1 million bond.
If convicted, Chauvin — who began his career with the Minneapolis Police Academy in October 2001 — could be sentenced to 55 years in prison.
Even though three other Minneapolis police officers were assisting Chauvin when Floyd died, Chauvin’s trial will be alone. Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng — the other cops with Floyd — will be tried together, apart from Chauvin, in a trial scheduled to begin in August. The three of them stand charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
NewsOne will be constantly updating this file as the Derek Chauvin murder trial progresses. Check back for developments and keep reading to find compelling photos, video and other key moments from the trial.
Justice For George Floyd: The Derek Chauvin Murder Trial Begins
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1. March 7
A law enforcement officer stands with members of the National Guard outside the Hennepin County Government Center surrounded by fencing in Minneapolis.
2. March 7
St. Paul Public Schools Board Member Chauntyll Allen speaks to the crowd after they returned to the Hennepin County Government Center during a silent march in memory of George Floyd a day before jury selection for the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin begins in Minneapolis.
3. March 7
Protesters march through the city during a silent march in memory of George Floyd a day before jury selection for the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin begins in Minneapolis.
4. March 7
Protesters carry a fake casket during a silent march in memory of George Floyd a day before jury selection for the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin begins in Minneapolis.
5. March 7
A demonstrator carries a rifle during the “I Cant Breathe – Silent March for Justice” protest in front of the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis.
6. March 7
Demonstrators participate in the “I Cant Breathe – Silent March for Justice” protest in front of the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis.
7. March 6
People visit George Floyd Square, the memorial created around the site where he was killed in Minneapolis.
8. March 6
Gianna Floyd, daughter of George Floyd, stands next to a podium during a news conference in downtown Houston.
9. March 6
LaTonya Floyd, sister of George Floyd, wipes tears from her eyes after speaking at a news conference in downtown Houston.
10. March 6
Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, holds a sign with George Floyd’s picture on it outside the Minnesota Governor’s residence during a protest in St.Paul, Minnesota.
11. March 3
Workers install security fencing at the Hennepin County Government Headquarters in Minneapolis. Security measures are being increased and more police and National Guard soldiers are expected in downtown Minneapolis before jury selection begins at former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial in the death of George Floyd.