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George Floyd: US braced for Derek Chauvin trial
SALLY LOCKWOOD: Once again, the eyes of the world are on Minneapolis. The city braced for the trial of the former police officer accused of murdering George Floyd-- tense in the knowledge this will be a defining moment for America.
The intersection where George Floyd died has become a sacred space, a police-free zone, with heightened emotions by day, increased shootings and gang violence by night. In the coming weeks, the jury will have to decide if what happened here was murder, If police officer Derek Chauvin intended to kill George Floyd when he knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Ken Rants, who served on Minneapolis Police Conduct Review Panel, is clear this trial is a big test for America.
KEN RANTS: The US is at a-- is at a racial crossroads. And it's one of the things that we've never truly addressed as a nation. And until we do, it is going to continue to pull us apart.
And I've reviewed my share of cases, but this was the worst, the most egregious violation of civil rights I've ever witnessed. And for eight minutes and 46 seconds, he had his knee on this man's neck. I've-- I've asked myself, what was his intent? When was enough enough?
He had eight minutes and 46 seconds to think about his actions. Was he going to let George Floyd up after nine minutes? After 10 minutes? What was he waiting-- was he waiting for help?
SALLY LOCKWOOD: Derek Chauvin is appearing in court in person in the first criminal trial to be televised in Minnesota. Released on a $1 million bail, the former officer pleads not guilty to the murder and manslaughter of George Floyd. It's alleged Derek Chauvin has a history of excessive force as a police officer.
I'm good. Good to meet you.
I went to meet Lesean Braddock, who was arrested by Derek Chauvin in 2013 after a mistaken identity. The mental health worker later filed a complaint about his aggressive treatment.
LESEAN BRADDOCK: So I went down on my knees, and then I went down to the ground. Then they jumped all over me. Then they put the cuffs on me super tight. And I kept complaining that these cuffs are tight; can you lose them, please?
And then they were saying, they're not built for comfort, you know? And I understand that. I'm like, but they're cutting off my circulation, you know? And they just kept repeating the same thing, and they still hadn't told me why I was even pulled over at that time.
SALLY LOCKWOOD: How did it make you feel to be treated like that?
LESEAN BRADDOCK: Like an animal. Like, I was no-- like, I was-- like my life didn't matter.
SALLY LOCKWOOD: When you saw that video, did you see yourself in George Floyd?
LESEAN BRADDOCK: Yes, because he was just on his neck for no reason, and he was already subdued in the handcuffs. Like-- and pretty much, I was in the same position. It's scary because you don't know if you're going to live. It makes you feel like if they would have took me seriously, or all the other people that complained against him seriously, that it may not have gotten to the point where someone died.
SALLY LOCKWOOD: Lesean said his complaint essentially went nowhere. But it was only after George Floyd was killed that he learned he wasn't alone. There were more than a dozen other people who filed official complaints about Derek Chauvin's behavior as a police officer.
Lesean's complaint wasn't upheld, and nor were the others where the data is publicly available. In court, the judge has ruled to limit the evidence about previous incidents allowed in the trial.
Michelle Gross has collected the data of police complaints and deaths of citizens involving law enforcement in the state of Minnesota since 2000.
MICHELLE GROSS: I knew the history of Derek Chauvin. In fact, when I saw the video, the first thing I noticed was-- I thought, that looks like Derek Chauvin, oh, my gosh. There's certain officers whose names you hear over and over again, and his was one of them.
SALLY LOCKWOOD: The Minneapolis Police Department is not commenting on Derek Chauvin's case. Protests last summer revealed the fragile relationship between the force and the community. A police precinct burnt to the ground as public trust went up in smoke, with angry calls for an overhaul of the system.
KEN RANTS: Where were the checks and balances? Where were the reviews? Where were the psychological evaluations?
You know, what might some of those other complaints of, you know, have led to? And were they addressed where this individual could still be on the streets harming people? And that's completely unacceptable. And unfortunately, Black people in this country bear the-- bear the brunt of that.
SALLY LOCKWOOD: The heavy security outside court is a fraction of what we'll see in the coming weeks. 2,000 members of the National Guard will be mobilized by the time of the verdict, with law enforcement ramping up throughout the trial.
In court, Derek Chauvin's lawyers will argue he was just doing his job and following his training as a police officer. It's expected they will seek to discredit George Floyd's character, and claim his death was related to drugs and a medical condition. The prosecution will say, none of this is relevant. That George Floyd wouldn't have died had a knee been on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
George Floyd isn't here to see the impact his death has had on the world. And for many, this trial is about far more than one life. It's seen as a verdict on America's stance on police brutality against its Black citizens.
Sally Lockwood, "Sky News," Minneapolis.