By Stéphanie Le Bars
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StoryDerek Chauvin, the police officer who caused George Floyd’s death in May 2020, is appearing in Minneapolis court starting March 8. The trial goes beyond the case of man: it is also that of the methods of the American police.
On the street side, mazes of barriers and barbed wire control access to the court in Minneapolis (Minnesota). For several days, the National Guard has been on alert in the city and the police force has been reinforced. On the courtyard side, the courtroom is dotted with Plexiglas plaques. Jurors, lawyers and witnesses will have to respect the distancing measures imposed by the Covid-19. The public will not be allowed to attend the debates. The accused will appear behind glass.
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Exceptional, the trial which opens Monday, March 8 in Minneapolis is in more ways than one. In a few chilling minutes, captured by the lens of a cell phone, police officer Derek Chauvin and his victim, George Floyd, have become two symbols of the same scourge: the violence and racism that are rife within the American police.
In May 2020, the cold gaze of the policeman holding his knee on the victim’s neck for long minutes shocked America and the world. These images caused an unprecedented explosion, throwing millions of black and white demonstrators into the streets, united against the brutalities of the police and the institution’s discrimination against blacks. For the first time in the city of Minneapolis, a white policeman will therefore be tried for the death of an African-American. Charged with second degree murder without premeditation, Derek Chauvin faces up to forty years in prison.
Read also: George Floyd’s family sues the city of Minneapolis
At the time of reckoning, and while the symbolic burden of this trial escapes no one, the authorities fear new gatherings and violence. The expectation is all the stronger as legal proceedings against the police are infrequent, and the sentences handed down against them are even rarer. “This case is special, confirms Ashley Heiberger, a former police officer who became a consultant on police practices. It has sparked unprecedented attention to police methods and the institution’s need to be held to account. “ But make no mistake about it. While police methods will no doubt be at the heart of the debate, Derek Chauvin’s trial remains above all that of a man. A police officer like America has thousands.
Nine months have passed since the disastrous meeting between the veteran Minneapolis civil servant and George Floyd, a 46-year-old unemployed. Excluded from the police the next day and arrested four days after the fact – two exceptionally rapid procedures – Derek Chauvin spent a little over four months in prison, before being released on bail set at $ 1 million. He has since lived in a place unknown to the public, but his professional career, uneven, and his personal life, upset, have revealed almost all their secrets. His wife, a former Miss Minnesota, filed for divorce the day after George Floyd died. A separation formalized in early February, but whose financial arrangements have not been revealed. The couple are suspected of having concealed part of their property from the tax authorities.
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