What will you remember about the trial of Derek Chauvin? I don’t mean the outcome; I mean which details, which words, which images will stay with you, even years from now? There are many seemingly unforgettable moments. The plaintive pleas of George Floyd as he was killed: I can’t breathe. The prosecution’s rebuttal chart, a dot depicting each of Floyd’s 17,026 days of life. The anguished testimony of traumatized bystanders who wished they could have done more. The witnesses who sobbed on the stand.
The searing final words of prosecutor Jerry Blackwell, who said, “You are told. . . that Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big. . . [T]he truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin's heart was too small.”
Certainly the video itself. Nine minutes and twenty-nine seconds of slow-motion murder before your very eyes, though I confess that some things in the video I didn’t focus on in quite the same way until they were pointed out and amplified by the prosecution. For example, the respectful way Floyd addressed his eventual killer: “Mr. Officer.” That was a gut punch. “Mr. Officer, please. I can’t breathe.” Then there was Chauvin’s nonchalance, his legally significant indifference. I had been well aware of Chauvin’s immovable knee and his hands casually tucked in his pockets. But the prosecution orally annotated the video, describing how – even as he was snuffing the life out of George Floyd – Chauvin was picking pebbles out of the tire of his police vehicle. That is how calm and uncaring the defendant was. That was newly horrifying.