Jury resumes deliberations in Derek Chauvin’s trial in death of George Floyd

Out Of Sight But Center Stage, Jurors Weigh Chauvin’s Fate
POOL

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin listens as his defense attorney Eric Nelson gives closing arguments as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill preside Monday, April 19, 2021, in the trial of Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd.

(CNN) — The jury resumed deliberations Tuesday in Derek Chauvin’s trial on charges of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

The jury of five men and seven women began deliberating Monday afternoon at 5 p.m. ET and continued until 9 p.m. ET. Jurors resumed deliberating Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET, according to the Hennepin County Court. They are being sequestered from the public during deliberations.

The deliberations began after three weeks of testimony in one of the most closely watched cases of the Black Lives Matter era. In a first for Minnesota, the trial has been broadcast live in its entirety to accommodate Covid-19 attendance restrictions, giving the public a rare look into the heart of the legal system.

The prosecution’s case against Chauvin featured 38 witnesses as they sought to show the former Minneapolis Police officer committed murder when he kneeled on the neck and back of Floyd, handcuffed and prone on the street, for 9 minutes and 29 seconds on May 25, 2020.

Prosecutors have repeatedly told jurors to “believe your eyes” and rely on the infamous bystander video of Floyd’s death.

“This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video. It is exactly that. You can believe your eyes. It’s exactly what you believed. It’s exactly what you saw with your eyes. It’s exactly what you knew, what you felt in your gut. It’s what you now know in your heart,” prosecuting attorney Steve Schleicher said in closing arguments. “This wasn’t policing. This was murder.”

The defense called seven witnesses of its own — but not Chauvin himself, as he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson argued that Chauvin’s use of force was unattractive but appropriate and said he was distracted by a crowd of hostile bystanders on the scene. He also argued that Floyd died due to fentanyl and methamphetamine use, his resistance of officers and his underlying heart problems, rather than due to Chauvin’s actions.

Chauvin, 45, pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The second-degree murder charge says Chauvin intentionally assaulted Floyd with his knee, which unintentionally caused Floyd’s death. The third-degree murder charge says Chauvin acted with a “depraved mind, without regard for human life.” And the second-degree manslaughter charge says Chauvin’s “culpable negligence” caused Floyd’s death.

If convicted, Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter. The charges are to be considered separate, so Chauvin could be convicted of all, some or none of them.

Six of the jurors are White, four are Black and two are multiracial, according to information released by the court. Two other jurors who were initially selected as alternates were dismissed prior to the start of deliberations.

Floyd’s death last May set off unrest and mass protests challenging the ways that police treat Black people in the US. Though the trial has focused specifically on Chauvin and Floyd, the stakes of the case were made clear last week when a police officer in nearby Brooklyn Center was charged with manslaughter after she fatally shot a 20-year-old Black man during a traffic stop.

Tensions are high throughout the Twin Cities region, and authorities have ramped up security in anticipation of a verdict. The Hennepin County Government Center has been surrounded by fencing and barricades since jury selection began in March.

More than 3,000 Minnesota National Guard members have also been activated in the Twin Cities, while businesses in Minneapolis have boarded up windows.

Closing arguments took up all Monday

In the prosecution’s first phase of the trial, video from the scene and bystanders’ testimony revealed Floyd gasping for air and saying “I can’t breathe” 27 times under Chauvin’s restraint. Next, a series of police supervisors and use-of-force experts — including Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo — criticized Chauvin’s continued kneeling as excessive and unreasonable, particularly after Floyd had passed out, stopped breathing and had no pulse.

Finally, five separate medical experts explained that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen when Chauvin restricted his ability to breathe in what’s known as “positional asphyxia.”

In the state’s closing argument, Schleicher said Chauvin kneeled on Floyd for so long because of his pride and his ego in the face of concerned bystanders.

“He was not going to let these bystanders tell him what to do. He was going to do what he wanted, how he wanted, for as long as he wanted. And there was nothing, nothing they can do about it because he had the authority. He had the power, and the other officers, the bystanders were powerless,” he said. “He was trying to win, and George Floyd paid for it with his life.”

He contrasted Chauvin’s “ego-based pride” with the proper feelings of pride in wearing a police badge and praised policing as a noble profession. He insisted the state was prosecuting Chauvin individually — not policing in general.

“This is not an anti-police prosecution; it is a pro-police prosecution,” he said. “There is nothing worse for good police than bad police.”

In response, Nelson said Chauvin acted as a “reasonable officer” would in that situation and said there was no evidence he intentionally or purposefully used force that was unlawful.

“You have to look at it from the reasonable police officer standard. You have to take into account that officers are human beings, capable of making mistakes in highly stressful situations,” Nelson said. “In this case, the totality of the circumstances that were known to a reasonable police officer in the precise moment the force was used demonstrates that this was an authorized use of force, as unattractive as it may be. This is reasonable doubt.”

Prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell then delivered a rebuttal rejecting the defense’s claim that Floyd died because of an enlarged heart.

“The reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin’s heart is too small,” he said.