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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UWindsor chapter.


A lot of the world has been closely following Derek Chauvin’s trial after the murder of George Floyd. The defense attorney for Chauvin is Eric Nelson, who claims that Chauvin took adequate measures as a police officer and that Floyd’s death was caused by other underlying medical conditions coupled with substance use. There is a jury of nine women and six men, with nine of them White, four of them Black, and two of mixed race. Chauvin’s charges involve second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. 


The prosecution is being led by Keith Ellison, the state’s Attorney General. Ellison is a Black attorney and is also a Muslim. The Ellison team of lawyers will not be paid for this and are doing a lot of this work out of the goodness of their hearts, striving for justice and ensuring that they bring the Floyd family closure, peace, and justice. The prosecution is also being led by the head of Minnesota’s criminal division, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank. Steven Schleicher, an outside lawyer and former federal prosecutor, was also involved in jury selection. Jerry Blackwell, one of the founders of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, was involved in the prosecution’s opening arguments. The judge, in this case, is Peter Cahill. 


The case involved several witnesses, medical professionals, police officials, and other individuals who took an oath to tell what they had witnessed the day that Floyd was murdered. The trial itself was weeks long, and for the sake of brevity, I will be discussing key moments. Firstly, Dr. Martin Tobin, a world-renowned pulmonologist (a lung/breathing specialist), claimed that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen to his brain due to the force applied by Chauvin’s knee. Tobin provided excellent testimony and used 3-D images and an evidence-based approach that involved viewing the video footage from various angles. Tobin was able to pinpoint the exact moment Floyd died, claiming, “That’s the moment the life goes out of his body.”Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck for 90% of the nine minutes and 29 seconds. Additionally, Floyd experienced the total weight of Chauvin’s gear, Chauvin’s weight himself, and then the knee (close to 180 pounds in total) all on his neck, which is just brutal if you think about it.  


Next came Daniel Isenschmid, a forensic toxicologist, who was testifying for the prosecution to refute Floyd’s drug use claims. Isenschmid found the levels of fentanyl and methamphetamine to be “normal” and very “low level” traces. Another police surgeon, Dr. Bill Smock, further supported this claim by stating that a drug overdose did not result in Floyd’s death. During the autopsy, the drugs found in Floyd were at low levels and could not have caused a severe effect. Other professionals involved in Floyd’s autopsy, such as Dr. Andrew Baker, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, also said that Floyd died of “cardiopulmonary arrest, complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.” This means Floyd’s lungs and heart stopped working due to the force that was imposed upon him due to Chauvin’s knee. Another pathologist, Dr. Lindsey Thomas, claimed that Floyd died due to asphyxia and made a powerful statement: “This was not a sudden death,” later adding that “there is no evidence to suggest [George Floyd] would have died that night except for the interactions with law enforcement.”


This trial has been very emotionally draining for many BIPOC individuals from all across the world. Many parents have had to give their Black and brown children the “talk” about what not to do if you see a police officer and they pull you over. This is heartbreaking, and this trial is personal for many people. Aside from this, George Floyd’s family had to relive the moments from the day that Floyd was murdered over and over again. The court sessions featured audio and visuals from that day, which was traumatizing for viewers and Floyd’s family. The witnesses taking the stand have had to feel hopeless and could not intervene as they watched the evidence in court. Although the odds may look grim for Chauvin, it is important to remember that racism and Black police brutality will continue to be an issue unless White people stop sympathizing with murderers and start taking action against the systems of oppression that they’ve established. 



Update (April 20th, 2021): Chauvin was found guilty of all three counts – second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter


Information is obtained from these sources: