Jurors have begun deliberations in the high-profile trial of former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin, charged with the murder of George Floyd.
After weeks of testimony and a day of oral argument, the jury must now decide whether Chauvin used excessive force when he knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes while stopping him under suspicion of using a fake $ 20 bill.
During his nearly two-hour argument Monday, prosecutor Steve Schleicher returned to a theme raised at the start of the trial: jurors can believe what they saw in the video of Floyd’s death.
“You can believe your own eyes,” he said. “This case is exactly what you thought when you first saw it with this video. . . This is what you felt in your stomach. This is what you now know in your heart. It wasn’t from the police, it was murder.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson later told jurors the state had failed to shoulder its onus of proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He stressed that Chauvin should be tried based on what a reasonable agent would have known during the incident.
“No crime is committed if it was an authorized use of force,” he said. “Period. End of conversation.
“The standard is not what the officer should have done in these circumstances,” he added. “This is not what the officer could have done differently under these circumstances. The norm is what facts were known to this officer at the precise moment he used the force and. . . what a reasonable policeman would have done. “
The case is closely watched in Minneapolis and the United States as Referendum on the extent to which American police will be held responsible for the murder of black Americans.
Many residents of the metropolitan area said riots could ensue if the jury acquitted Chauvin. The National Guard is on the streets of Minneapolis and nearby in the suburb of Brooklyn Center, where police used tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters last week as they demonstrated against the murder of another black man by a policeman.
Chauvin’s lawyers argued that he had not been able to get a fair trial given extensive media coverage of the proceedings. Judge Peter Cahill also expressed concern over comments over the weekend from Maxine Waters, a Democratic congresswoman from California, who urged protesters to “become more confrontational” if Chauvin is acquitted.
The comments “may result in this whole trial being quashed” on appeal, Cahill said Monday, as he sent jurors to deliberate.
Chauvin is charged with second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. The maximum potential sentence ranges from 10 years for manslaughter to 40 years for second degree murder.
Closing arguments allow lawyers to summarize their perspective on a case, place all testimony and other evidence in context to support their theory of events. Prosecutors have the burden of proving the guilt of an accused “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Conviction in the US legal system requires a unanimous jury vote.
Schleicher told jurors they should put aside any preconceptions that police officers cannot commit crimes or that police are generally brought to justice.
“You have to put aside the idea that it’s impossible for a police officer to do something like this,” he said. “He is not judged for who he is. He is judged for what he has done.
“What the accused did was not the police,” he added. “What the accused did was assault. . . He betrayed the badge.
Referring to a spectator who told Floyd ‘you can’t win’, Schleicher said: “George Floyd replied, ‘I’m not trying to win, I’m scared’.”
“But the accused was trying to win,” added Schleicher. “We wouldn’t tell him what to do. He wasn’t going to challenge his authority. He was trying to win, and George Floyd paid for it with his life.
Schleicher also tried to counter stereotypes about black men, telling the jury to ignore Floyd’s addiction to opioids and an officer’s testimony about the suspects’ potential for “superhuman strength.”
“George Floyd is not on trial here,” he said.
The trial lasted six weeks, including three weeks to select the jury and three weeks of testimony.
A video of Floyd’s death, broadcast repeatedly, was a key part of the prosecution’s case. They called 38 witnesses during the trial, including Medaria Arradondo, Chief of Police of Minneapolis, who condemned the actions of Chauvin, saying: “It is not part of our training and it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values . ”
One of the questions at the heart of the case was what caused Floyd’s death and whether Chauvin’s actions amounted to a reasonable use of force. Nelson blamed Floyd’s health problems and drug use for his death as he tries to create reasonable doubt about Chauvin’s guilt.
Testifying on behalf of the prosecution, pulmonologist Martin Tobin and former Hennepin County medical examiner Lindsey Thomas both testified that Floyd died of lack of oxygen.
Andrew Baker, the current Hennepin County medical examiner, testified that the force Chauvin and other agents used to stop Floyd was more than his own. weakened and enlarged heart might resist. He ruled the death last May a homicide.
Chauvin did not testify during the trial, citing his Fifth Constitutional Amendment on the right against self-incrimination. Defense witness Barry Brodd, a use of force expert, said Tuesday that Chauvin’s actions were justified and that he acted “with reasonable objectivity in following the policy of the Minneapolis Police Department.”
Four days later, vandals left a severed pig’s head near a house in Santa Rosa, California, where Brodd lived, “apparently targeting Mr. Brodd for his testimony,” according to the Santa Rosa Police Department.
David Fowler, a former chief medical examiner for Maryland, said he believed Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, because his heart was in poor condition when police detained him and that he was additionally taxed with fentanyl and methamphetamine.
But in final words to jurors before receiving their instructions from the judge, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell said Floyd did not die because his heart was too big – but “because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small” .