After hearing two weeks of testimony, the jury in Derek Chauvin’s trial began deliberations Monday to decide whether to convict the former Minneapolis police officer of murdering George Floyd last year.
The prosecution and defense delivered their lengthy closing arguments before the jurors, who are sequestered during deliberations. It’s unclear how much time the 12 jurors will need to reach a verdict. Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill said last week that jurors should “plan for long” and “hope for short.”
In his roughly two-hour closing statement, prosecutor Steve Schleicher outlined each of the three charges against Chauvin: second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. He said Chauvin “knew what he was doing” when he knelt on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.
“It was unnecessary,” Schleicher told the jury. “It was gratuitous. It was disproportionate and he did it on purpose. No question. This was not an accident. ... He betrayed the badge and everything it stood for.”
He asked the jurors to believe what they saw in videos of the incident. Throughout the trial, the jury was shown videos of the arrest recorded on bystanders’ cellphones, body cameras worn by officers and surveillance cameras.
“It’s what you felt in your gut. It’s what you now know in your heart,” Schleicher said. “This wasn’t policing. This was murder.”
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, took nearly three hours to deliver his closing remarks, arguing that his client acted as any “reasonable officer” would. He contended that Floyd’s underlying health conditions and the presence of fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system, not Chauvin’s actions, were the cause of death.
“There’s lots of what-ifs, what could have happened, what should have happened,” Nelson said. “But we have to analyze this case from the perspective of a reasonable police officer at that precise moment with the totality of circumstances.”
Following the defense’s closing argument, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell gave the state of Minnesota’s rebuttal. He noted that Floyd lived for several years with heart disease, high blood pressure and opioid addiction and only died as a result of Chauvin’s “deadly force.”
“To use this badge as a license to abuse the public, to mistreat the public, to not follow procedures, to not render aid when you should have rendered aid — that’s wrong,” Blackwell told the jury.
“You were told ... that Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big,” Blackwell said in closing. “The truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small.”
All eyes are on Minneapolis as the jury decides the fate of Chauvin and how justice will be delivered in Floyd’s death. The city is on edge as it awaits a verdict in the trial, and city officials have prepared for massive unrest should Chauvin be acquitted of the charges.
Tension in the region has escalated in recent days following the police killing of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center on April 11.
Officials said the officer, Kim Potter, meant to use her stun gun but accidentally discharged her firearm, fatally shooting Wright in the chest during the traffic stop. Both Potter and the Brooklyn Center police chief resigned in the wake of the shooting.
Floyd’s death sparked months-long protests across the country against police brutality and prompted a worldwide reckoning on racial injustice.
Minneapolis has bolstered security in preparation for the trial’s verdict.
Throughout the trial, National Guard troops have been stationed around Hennepin County Government Center, where Chauvin’s trial has unfolded in an 18th-floor courtroom. Temporary fencing and cement barricades have been installed to shield the building from potential unrest.
The 12 jurors deliberating are four white women, two white men, three Black men, one Black woman and two multiracial women.
Cahill has said deliberations are to wrap up each day around 7 p.m., reported The Star Tribune. If the jury has verdicts to return near that time, Cahill said he will wait until the next morning to read them.
In 2019, it took the jury about 10 hours of deliberating to reach a verdict in the trial of Mohamed Noor, a former Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an unarmed woman in 2017.
Noor was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter but acquitted of the most serious count, second-degree murder. He was the first Minneapolis police officer to be found guilty of an on-duty murder.
If convicted of second-degree murder, Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison but is likely to receive 11 to 15 years behind bars.