MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The jury now has the case in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in the death of George Floyd. The jury deliberated until 8 p.m. Monday and resumed at 8 a.m. Tuesday, according to the court. Live, local coverage is streaming at fox9.com/live.
Both sides delivered their closing arguments Monday. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher delivered the closing argument for the state, followed by the closing argument from defense attorney Eric Nelson. Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell handled the rebuttal.
CHAUVIN TRIAL: Updates & FAQs
Following closing arguments, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill gave the jury their instructions, which is the guide the jurors will use to decide if the state has proven each element of each charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Deliberations began at 4 p.m. CT.
The jury will determine when they begin deliberating each day and when they stop. Jurors will be fully sequestered for the entirety of deliberations. Jurors will stay in hotel rooms overnight and have very limited contact with the outside world until they reach their decision.
While they are deliberating, jurors will get a chance to look over evidence presented in the trial such as videos and still photos. If a juror has a question about any part of the testimony or any legal question during deliberation, they are instructed to address it to Judge Cahill in writing. It will be delivered to the judge, who will consult with the lawyers and receive their input before answering the question.
The jurors need a unanimous decision on each charge, but they have the option to find Chauvin guilty of some charges and not guilty of others. Chauvin is facing charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Who are the jurors?
The 12-person jury consists of five men and seven women. Six of the jurors are white, four are Black and two identify as mixed or multiracial. Two of the jurors are in their 20s, three are in their 30s, three are in their 40s, three are in their 50s and one is in their 60s.
A total of 14 jurors heard all the testimony and arguments in the case, but Judge Cahill dismissed the two alternate jurors before deliberations began.
Chauvin charges - Minnesota statutes
Second-degree murder - unintentional (Minnesota statute 609.19)
Max sentence: < 40 years
Description: Caused the death of George Floyd, without intent to effect the death of any person, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense...namely assault in the third degree.
Third-degree murder - 'depraved mind' (Minnesota statute 609.195)
Max sentence: < 25 years
Description: Caused the death of George Floyd, by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.
Second-degree manslaughter - culpable negligence (Minnesota statute 609.205)
Max sentence: < 10 years
Description: Caused the death of George Floyd by culpable negligence, creating an unreasonable risk and consciously took the chances of causing death or great bodily harm.
Defense delivers nearly 3-hour-long closing argument
Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson spent two hours and 45 minutes delivering his closing argument on Monday.
While the state focused on the nine minutes and 29 seconds of the officers’ restraint of Floyd, Nelson told the jurors he wants them to put the "totality of the circumstances" into context of what a reasonable officer would know and do from the start in Chauvin’s position, based on all the information and observations he had.
"The unpredictability of humans factors into the reasonable police officer’s analysis too because sometimes reasonable police officers take someone into custody with no problem and suddenly they become a problem," Nelson said. "It can change in an instant."
Nelson asked the jury how a reasonable officer in Chauvin’s position would have assessed the situation when they arrived outside Cup Foods. He said Chauvin would have seen two rookie police officers struggling with a subject who appears under the influence and observed active resistance, maybe even active aggression.
"A reasonable police officer would understand this situation, that Mr. Floyd was able to overcome the efforts of three police officers, while handcuffed, with his legs and his body strength," Nelson said.
Nelson explained to the jury that part of what a reasonable officer has to do when deciding whether to use force or de-escalation tactics is determine whether a suspect is intentionally trying to resist or whether they are unable to comply based on other factors, such as a medical condition.
"Human behavior is unpredictable, and nobody knows it better than a police officer," Nelson said. "Someone can be compliant one second and fighting the next."
Nelson emphasized the difference between perspective and perception, explaining that perception is "how you interpret what it is you see and what it is you experience."
He said three critical things happened during Floyd’s deadly arrest at the exact same time, which influenced the outcome: Floyd took his last breath, Chauvin pulled out his mace to deal with the crowd and off-duty Minneapolis firefighter Genevieve Hansen walked onto the scene from behind, startling him.
"All of these facts and circumstances simultaneously occur at a critical moment and that changed Officer Chauvin’s perception of what was happening," Nelson said.
Nelson told the jury Chauvin had "no intent to purposefully use unlawful force" and that the officers were just doing their job in a "highly stressful situation."
"It’s tragic," he said.
Nelson then shifted from whether Chauvin’s use of force was justified to discussing Floyd’s cause of death. He talked about toxicology in the case, telling the jury he is "not suggesting this is an overdose death," but it is part of a "multi-functional" situation related to Floyd’s cause of death.
Judge Cahill cut off Nelson after over two hours and 30 minutes to allow the jury to take a lunch break. After the lunch break, Nelson spoke for fewer than 15 minutes before ending his closing argument.
"We have to look at the cause of death to determine if Mr. Floyd died exclusively of asphyxia or if were there other contributing factors that were not the natural result of Mr. Chauvin’s acts," Nelson told the jurors. "Things that happened that were set in motion before Mr. Chauvin ever arrived."
Nelson said it is "nonsense" for the state to suggest that none of the other factors such as Floyd’s enlarged heart, his heart disease or the drugs he ingested prior to the deadly arrest had any role in Floyd’s death.
"The state has failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and therefore mr. Chauvin should be found not guilty of all counts," he concluded.
Prosecutor: 'This wasn't policing. This was murder'
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher delivered the closing argument for the state for 103 minutes, ending by telling the jury, "This wasn’t policing. This was murder."
Schleicher began his closing argument with a biography of George Floyd.
"His name is George Perry Floyd, Jr.," he said. "He died face down on the pavement…a knee to the neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds."
Schleicher told the jury they have to set aside any biases that a police officer would ever hurt or kill someone.
"Imagining a police officer committing a crime might be the most difficult thing you have to set aside because that’s just not the way we think of police officers," Schleicher said. "We trust the police. We trust the police to help us. We believe they’re going to respond to our call for help. We believe they’re going to listen to us."
He emphasized that this is not an anti-police prosecution, that the case is "the State of Minnesota vs. Derek Chauvin. It’s not the State of Minnesota vs. police." Policing is a noble profession, he said.
Prosecutor says Chauvin 'had to know' Floyd stopped breathing
Schleicher repeatedly pointed to the fact that Chauvin kneeled on Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds, even as Floyd lost consciousness and became unresponsive, not getting up until paramedics arrived. He argued Chauvin had to know what was right beneath him.
"[Floyd] was completely limp. The defendant had to know that," Schleicher said. "He was there. He was on top of him."
Schleicher addressed the defense’s claim that Floyd was non-compliant. He displayed a screenshot of a scared Floyd as officer Thomas Lane held a gun inches away from his face. Schleicher argued that Floyd did what the officers asked - he got out of the vehicle and allowed the officers to handcuff him. But, when it came time to get inside the squad SUV, he could not bring himself to get in.
"He tried to explain himself to the officers that he had anxiety, that he had claustrophobia. He explained this over and over. They wanted him to get into the back of this little car. He wasn’t able to bring himself to do it."
"He couldn't bring himself to get in and sometimes people can't bring themselves to get in," Schleicher said. "This is not new. This is not groundbreaking. People have emotions, people have things happen to them. The police train for this. You don’t get to meet the police on your best day very often."
A reasonable officer in Chauvin’s place, with all of his training and his experience, should have known and recognized what was going on, Schleicher said, but the officers shoved Floyd in the squad SUV anyways. Schleicher asked the jurors where the critical thinking model went for Chauvin and the other officers during Floyd’s arrest.
"The predictable thing to happen, happened. He just couldn’t be in the back of that car. So they pulled him out," he said.
The officers then pushed Floyd to the ground, into the prone position, when he was already handcuffed.
"Proning him was completely unnecessary," Schleicher said.
Schleicher tells the jurors they need to ask themselves whether Floyd would have died that day were it not for Chauvin and the other officers’ actions.
Schleicher addressed the issue of "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" with the jury, instructing the jurors to "believe your eyes" in this case. He said they are "not required to accept" that Floyd died from carbon monoxide poisoning from the squad car exhaust, a drug overdose or a preexisting heart condition or that his death was the bystanders’ fault for distracting the officers.
Chauvin 'knew better, he just didn't do better'
Schleicher used clips from the officers' body camera videos to explain Chauvin's alleged crimes. He argued Chauvin could have listened to the bystanders, like off-duty firefighter Genevieve Hansen, or he could have listened to his fellow officers, like Lane, who asked Chauvin if they should roll Floyd onto his side.
"In your custody means in your care," Schleicher told the jury. He said Chauvin was required, as a police officer, to provide CPR or medical assistance to Floyd - all things he was trained to do.
"He knew what to do, he just didn’t do it," the prosecutor said. "He knew better. He just didn’t do better."
The Derek Chauvin trial began with jury selection on March 8, with opening arguments taking place on March 29. During the three weeks of testimony, jurors heard from eyewitnesses, Floyd’s girlfriend and brother, Minneapolis police officials including Chief Medaria Arradondo, use of force experts and medical experts. Chauvin choose not to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
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