Prosecutors accuse Derek Chauvin of killing George Floyd as trial starts

Jerry Blackwell told jury that ex-officer used excessive and unreasonable force ‘without regard for Floyd’s life’

Defense attorney Eric Nelson sits beside Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 29 March. Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

Prosecutors accused former police officer Derek Chauvin of killing a defenceless George Floyd by “grinding and crushing him until the very breath, the very life, was squeezed out of him”, at the opening on Monday of a murder trial regarded by millions as a litmus test of US police accountability.

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The prosecutor, Jerry Blackwell, told the jury that the death of Floyd last May, which reignited the Black Lives Matter movement and set off months of protests across America and around the world, was caused by Chauvin keeping his knee on the neck of the dying man for more than nine minutes even after he stops breathing.

“What Mr Chauvin was doing, he was doing deliberately,” Blackwell said as he outlined his case to the jury in the court room in Minneapolis, the city where Floyd was killed.

The prosecutor said Chauvin used excessive and unreasonable force “without regard for Floyd’s life”.

Blackwell said it was “an assault” that led to the victim’s death.

Chauvin, 45, has denied charges of second- and third-degree murder, and manslaughter, over the death of the 46 year-old African American man who was detained on suspicion of trying to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill last May.

The former officer, who was fired, faces up to 40 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.

Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, told the jury in his opening statement that the evidence will show that Floyd was under the influence of drugs and that the force used against him was reasonable because of his behaviour.

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