Derek Chauvin defense argues George Floyd was physically stronger than ex cop, Internet says 'give me a break'

The defense argued that Chauvin was physically weaker than Floyd, and that the Black man could have apparently overpowered the police officers around him

                            Derek Chauvin defense argues George Floyd was physically stronger than ex cop, Internet says 'give me a break'
A George Floyd mural in Manchester, UK; Derek Chauvin (Getty Images)

Derek Chauvin's ongoing trial for the murder of George Floyd is one of its kind for countless reasons. The May 2020 death sparked the global Black Lives Matter movement, leading to an important trial that questions the very foundations of state police. Over the last few days, Americans have seen the "Blue Wall of Silence" surrounding police officers crumbling as several high ranking officers came forward to testify against Chauvin. The trial is particularly notorious for another reason - what is the point of the defense at all? 

Many social media users have pointed out Chauvin's defense as irrelevant. "What is the Derek Chauvin defense exactly? I didn’t murder the person all of you saw me murder?" as one social media user wrote. But it is indeed noteworthy for its implicit racist message - the defense argues that Chauvin was physically weaker than Floyd, that the Black man could have apparently easily overpowered the police officers around him. 


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A protester holds a sign with an image of George Floyd during a peaceful demonstration over George Floyd’s death outside LAPD headquarters on June 2, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. California Governor Gavin Newsom has deployed National Guard troops to Los Angeles County to curb unrest which occurred amid some demonstrations. Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was taken into custody for Floyd's death and charged with third-degree murder. (Getty Images)


Opening statements

From the get-go, Chauvin's defense wanted to paint a particular picture of Floyd. 

"This was not an easy struggle," Eric Nelson, the attorney for the former cop, said in his opening statements on Monday. Nelson wanted to present the incidents of May 25, 2020, as a struggle between a powerful, strong man and a law enforcement officer who was only trying to do his job. The defense wanted the jurors to visualize Floyd as a threat - that his size alone meant that the use of brute force was warranted.  

“You will see that three Minneapolis police officers could not overcome the strength of Mr Floyd. Mr Chauvin stands five foot, nine (inches) (1.75 m) and 140 pounds (64 kg). Mr Floyd is six (feet) three (inches) (1.9 m) and weighs 233 pounds (106 kg)."

In addition to that, the aim of the defense was also to paint him as a drug addict. "The evidence will show that when confronted by police, Mr Floyd put drugs in his mouth in an effort to conceal them from the police."

"What was Mr Floyd’s actual cause of death? The evidence will show that Mr Floyd died of a cardiac-arrhythmias that occurred as a result of hypertension, coronary disease, the ingestion of methamphetamine and fentanyl and the adrenaline flowing through his body, all of which acted to further compromise an already compromised heart."

Derek Chauvin (George Floyd Footage)

'Give me a break!'

This argument has left many unsettled. "Is Derek Chauvin’s defense lawyer genuinely trying to argue that Chauvin was in a fight for his life with the prone, handcuffed corpse of George Floyd??? #chauvintrial," a social media user tweeted. "In a fight for his life with an unconscious, hand-cuffed, unarmed person while three other armed cops were right beside him. Give me a break!" another user said. 




A social media user pointed out how the trope dates back to slavery. "This “magically super-strong, giant, scary Black brute, hopped up on dope and ready to murder the police” trope is not new. It was successfully used in the Rodney King beating case, and it dates back to slavery. This lawyer is trying it, big time." 


Another user pointed out how that racial stereotyping is dangerous. "They using every stereotype created for our people. Big angry Black man, on drugs; angry violent Black mob (incl. a little girl); rough dangerous Black neighborhood; hustling 20dollar counterfeit bill which we all know Black folks excel in; black crowd shouting mean things...," one user said. 


The defense also wanted to show the jury that Floyd would have become violent had he not been restrained. While cross-examining Genevieve Hansen, a firefighter who witnessed Floyd’s death, Nelson asked about a nasal spray that is used to reverse opioid overdoses. “You’ve had a lot of experience with people overdosing - people become combative when revived?” “Not often. But it happens,” Hansen replied. 

This argument was also something that didn't sit well with social media users. "So The defense implied there was a need to remain on top of Floyd until he was dead because there was a chance he would've regained consciousness & broke out of his cuffs like a MMA fighter or revived overdose patient. So why didnt they guard the EMT against such a scenario?"

Consider for an instance that Floyd indeed was on drugs, wasn't it all the more reason for authorities to call for medical aid instead of using force like that? "Ultimately--the defense is going to say "but for" the drugs in his system, Floyd would not have died. It's absurd. But prosecutors need to highlight that police suspected Floyd was on drugs so that was even MORE reason to call right away for EMTs and use less force," one said.




When questioning a Black witness, Donald Williams, Nelson repeatedly asked him if he was "angry", trying to portray him as an angry Black man. Knowing that that would harm his credibility, Williams said, "No, you can't paint me out as angry". You can watch the tense exchange between them here. 


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