MINNEAPOLIS — Attorneys for the prosecution and defense in the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, charged in George Floyd’s death, are presenting their closing arguments Monday.
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher said Chauvin “chose pride over policing” that day, calling Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck “unnecessary, gratuitous and disproportionate.”
“And he did it on purpose. This was not an accident. He did not trip and fall and find himself on George Floyd’s neck,” Schleicher said, adding, “Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw.”
The attorneys were summarizing their respective evidence and witness testimony, trying to focus jurors on the most important elements and what they argue those elements proved. The prosecution rested its case last week after calling 38 witnesses and playing dozens of video clips over the course of 11 days. The defense rested Thursday after calling seven witnesses over two days.
Judge Peter Cahill opened court Monday morning by instructing the 14 members of the jury on the law in the case. Before the jurors go into sequestration for deliberations later in the day, two members of the jury will be informed that they were alternates and will not be part of deliberations.
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Prosecutor Steve Schleichergives closing argument: Chauvin’s actions ‘a shocking abuse of police power’
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher gave the closing argument for the state Monday morning, repeating throughout the statement, “9 minutes and 29 seconds, 9 minutes and 29 seconds.”
“George Floyd’s final words on May 25, 2020, were: ‘Please, I can’t breathe.’ He asked for help with his very last breath,” Schleicher said. “This was a call about a counterfeit $20 bill. All that was required was compassion.”
Schleicher’s argument evoked the testimony last week of pulmonologist Dr. Martin Tobin, who described Floyd’s last minutes in detail, pointing out his scraped knuckles against the back tire of the police squad car.
“He was trapped,” Schleicher said. “He was trapped with the unyielding pavement underneath him as unyielding as the men who held him down. Pushing him. A knee to the neck, a knee to the back, twisting his fingers, holding his legs, for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. The defendant’s weight on him.”
Calling Chauvin’s actions a “shocking abuse of police power,” Schleicher recalled testimony from previous weeks – bystanders calling the police on the police, and the presence of a 9-year-old watching Floyd restrained under Chauvin’s knees.
He said Chauvin’s actions were “not policing” but “an assault.”
“This is not a prosecution of the police, it’s a prosecution of the defendant,” he said. “And there’s nothing worse for good police than bad police, who doesn’t follow the rules, who doesn’t follow training.”
Schleicher reminded jurors Chauvin had hundreds of hours of training over 19 years with the Minneapolis Police Department. Schleicher said Chauvin should have known how to handle someone in crisis, reminding jurors Floyd told police about his anxiety and claustrophobia. Someone being unable to comply isn’t the same as resisting, he said.
Schleicher told jurors Floyd did not die of a heart attack, drug overdose, “excited delirium” or carbon monoxide poisoning, as the defense has suggested. “Would but for the defendant’s actions, pushing him down, would George Floyd have died that day?” Schleicher said, adding, “Use your common sense. Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw.”
Who are the jurors who will decide whether Derek Chauvin is guilty?
Over about two weeks last month, lawyers for the prosecution and defense quizzed potential jurors about their knowledge of Floyd’s death, their opinions of Chauvin, and their attitudes about police, racial injustice, and the protests and rioting that followed Floyd’s death.
Some of them questioned how much force was used against Floyd, who lay on the ground for more than nine minutes as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck. Several believe the criminal justice system needs to be reformed. More than one questioned the movement to defund police departments. Discussing her opinion about Black Lives Matter, one woman responded, “I am Black, and my life matters.”
Before being selected, the jurors pledged to set their opinions aside. But their answers provide a glimpse into how they might respond to the evidence they heard over the past few weeks. Read more about the jurors here.
Pig’s head left at former home of Chauvin defense witness Barry Brodd
Vandals left a pig’s head at the one-time California home of a use-of-force expert who testified on behalf of the officer accused of killing George Floyd, police said.
Blood was also smeared on the house in Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco, that once belonged to Barry Brodd, a retired police officer who was on the stand in the Minneapolis murder trial last week, according to a police statement Saturday.
Brodd, a former Santa Rosa police officer, testified at the murder trial that he believes former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin’s restraint of Floyd was “justified” – the first witness to claim the restraint on Floyd was acceptable.
“It appears the suspects in this vandalism were targeting Mr. Brodd for his testimony,” the Santa Rosa Police Department said. “Mr. Brodd has not lived at the residence for a number of years and is no longer a resident of California.” No arrests were announced. Read more here.
– Associates Press
People gather in George Floyd Square ahead of Chauvin closing arguments
Organizers advertised the event as “a safe space for sharing grief and also creating joy” during tense times in the city and dedicated it to Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in nearby Brooklyn Center last week.
Tri Vo, 25, said he usually visits George Floyd Square when there are no crowds so he can reflect and because he feels that space is reserved for Black and indigenous people. Vo, a digital organizer with Southeast Asian Diaspora Project, said he came Sunday to help educate southeast Asians about “what their stake is in this.” Read more.
How jury deliberations will work at Derek Chauvin trial
After closing arguments, Cahill will explain each charge and the legal elements that underlie those charges. Jurors must decide whether or not the government proved all of the elements of a given charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense bears no burden of proof, and Chauvin is deemed innocent unless convicted at trial.
The jurors will be sequestered during deliberations. The court will provide meals for the jurors and put them up for the night in a hotel, where security will be provided by marshals. The jurors are not allowed to discuss the case with anyone else, or even with each other when they’re outside the deliberation room.
They are allowed to review any of the exhibits that were entered into evidence. They also are allowed to re-hear specific testimony from any of the witnesses. The jurors may send written messages out to the judge with any questions that arise.
“If I were you, I would plan for long (deliberations) and hope for short,” Cahill told jurors Thursday. More on how jury deliberations will work here.
Derek Chauvin tells court he won’t testify as defense rests its case
Chauvin, who has actively taken notes and participated in sidebars with his attorneys throughout the trial, smiled at one point when lead defense attorney Eric Nelson mentioned that they had “gone back and forth” about the issue of testifying many times. He offered short, direct answers to each question from Nelson and the judge.
Arthur Reed, George Floyd’s cousin, was in the Floyd family seat in the courtroom. Asked about Chauvin’s decision not to testify, Reed said he felt the prosecution “would have chopped him down second by second” when asked why he knelt on Floyd for so long.
“We didn’t think they were going to put him on at all,” he said, adding, “We’re just ready to get this over with, make sure he gets the justice he deserves. We think the state has put on an excellent case.”