The trial of Derek Chauvin, former Minneapolis police officer charged with the killing of George Floyd, has begun.
The trial, which commenced on Monday, comes 10 months after the death of Floyd.
Floyd, an African American, died after Chauvin pinned him to the ground and knelt on his neck when he was arrested for allegedly spending a counterfeit $20 note in a shop.
The video of the incident went viral and sparked major protests within and outside the US.
An autopsy later confirmed that the cause of Floyd’s death was linked to pressure on his neck.
Consequently, Chauvin was sacked from his job alongside three other officers involved in the incident.
Chauvin is charged with unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
In his opening statement on Monday, Jerry Blackwell, the prosecution lawyer, asked the jury to note the time Chauvin pinned Floyd to the floor with his knee on the deceased neck.
Blackwell said the evidence will show that despite the presence of fentanyl in his blood, Floyd did not die of an opioid overdose.
He noted that someone who died of such an overdose “would not be awake and calling out for help”, adding that Chauvin “betrayed this badge” when he used “used excessive and unreasonable force” against Floyd.
“The evidence is going to show you that there was no cause in the first place to use lethal force against a man who was defenceless, who was handcuffed, who was not resisting,” Blackwell said
“What happens in those 9 minutes and 29 seconds where Mr. Derek Chauvin was applying this excessive force.”
He, thereafter, played a video of the incident that lasted 9 minutes, 29 seconds.
Blackwell told the jurors to “believe your eyes” and cast aside defence arguments that anyone other than Chauvin might have caused Floyd’s death.
“You can believe your eyes that it’s homicide. It’s murder. You can believe your eyes,” Blackwell said.
“That he put his knees upon his neck and his back, grinding and crushing him until the very breath — no, ladies and gentlemen — until the very life was squeezed out of him.”
But Eric Nelson, defence attorney, countered Blackwell, arguing that the video showed that Chauvin “did exactly what he had been trained to do over the course of his 19-year career”.
“The use of force is not attractive, but it is a necessary component of policing,” he said.
Nelson argued that Chauvin is not to blame, saying Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia caused by hypertension and coronary disease, combined with the presence of drugs in his body.
He said Floyd displayed “none of the telltale signs of asphyxiation” and that there was “no evidence that Mr. Floyd’s airflow was restricted”.
The trial is expected to last about four weeks.
The jury in the murder trial is made up of nine women and five men; eight of the jurors are white, four are black, and two are mixed race.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, had earlier said President Joe Biden will “be watching closely”.
“At the time of George Floyd’s death, he talked about this as being an event that really opened up a wound in the American public and really brought to light for a lot of people in this country just the kind of racial injustice and inequality that many communities are experiencing every single day,” Psaki had said.
Psaki also said Biden would not weigh in any further on the matter while the trial is in progress.