The jury has begun deliberations following closing arguments in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the fired Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death. The trial is nearing its end after more than 13 days of sometimes tense and emotional testimony at the heavily secured Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis. Judge Peter Cahill sent the jurors to deliberate after attorneys on both sides concluded lengthy closing arguments Monday.
Cahill warned jurors not to allow “bias, prejudice, passion, sympathy or public opinion” to influence their decision as they weigh Chauvin’s fate. He also instructed jurors not to consider any “consequences or penalties” that may arise from the verdict. Cahill dismissed two alternate jurors from service, and the rest of the panel was then sequestered.
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher was first to deliver the statement Monday, urging jurors to focus on the video showing Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
“Believe your eyes,” Schleicher said. “Unreasonable force, pinning him to the ground — that’s what killed him. This was a homicide.”
Schleicher said Chauvin showed “indifference” to Floyd’s pleas for help and continued restraining the man even after he was unresponsive, ignoring the bystanders who were urging him to ease up.
The bystanders, he said, were strangers to Floyd, “randomly chosen by fate” to witness “a shocking abuse of authority — to witness a man die.” The group was powerless to help as the police restraint continued, Schleicher said, but they were able to “gather those precious recordings” and testify about what they saw.
“This case is exactly what you thought when you first saw it — when you first saw the video,” he said. “It’s exactly that. It’s exactly what you saw with your eyes. It’s exactly what you knew. It’s exactly what you felt in your gut. It’s what you now know in your heart. This wasn’t policing, this was murder.”
In his closing argument, defense attorney Eric Nelson said the state has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt and have not been able to definitely show how Floyd died.
He said the state called a series of experts to testify positional asphyxia was the sole cause of Floyd’s death, but to suggest Floyd’s drug use and heart disease did not play a role “flies in the face of reason and common sense,” Nelson said.
Nelson has argued a combination of Floyd’s underlying heart disease, adrenaline and the fentanyl and methamphetamine he had ingested prior to the arrest amounted to a fatal combination.
Nelson said Chauvin followed his training and didn’t intentionally use unlawful force on Floyd. He called the case “tragic,” but said it was an example of “officers doing their job in a highly stressful situation.”
Another member of the prosecution team, Jerry Blackwell, then delivered a rebuttal to conclude the closing arguments. Blackwell said Nelson’s suggestion that Floyd “happened to die” while he was being restrained by Chauvin “defies common sense.”
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder,and second-degree manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty.
The other three officers involved are charged with aiding and abetting, and are expected to be tried jointly in August.