Legal expert weighs on what to expect during closing arguments in Chauvin trial
Over the course of nearly three weeks, jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial heard from 44 witnesses.
The state called 39 of those witnesses.
Philonise Floyd described his brother as a community leader, father and athlete. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told the jury he “vehemently” disagreed that Chauvin’s use of force was appropriate for the situation, medical expert Dr. Martin Tobin explained why Floyd couldn’t breathe due to the officers’ restraint, and bystanders described pleading with the officers on scene.
“When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad, I look at my brothers, I look at my cousins, my uncles because they are all Black,” said Darnella Frazier, who took the widely-shared cell phone video of the incident. “It’s been nights I stayed up apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more and not physically interacting and not saving his life but it’s like it was not what I should have done, it’s what he should have done.”
The defense presented just six witnesses, including calling back a state witness, Minneapolis Police Department Medical Coordinator Nicole MacKenzie.
Use of force expert Barry Brodd testified Chauvin’s actions were reasonable. Retired forensic pathologist Dr. David Fowler told the jury he would’ve ruled Floyd’s death undetermined rather than a homicide.
“This is one of those cases where you have so many conflicting, different manners [of death],” Fowler said.
University of St. Thomas law professor Rachel Moran said the jurors have an unusually long time to process what they’ve seen and heard.
“With the trial ending on Thursday morning, they actually have several days to kind of have their own deliberations privately by themselves before they even come together on Monday to talk about it,” Moran said. “I think maybe more than in many cases, the jurors will be coming into those deliberations with perhaps a fairly solid opinion for each of themselves about what should happen. The question then is are they in agreement? Or is there significant disagreement? And if so, are they were willing to work through it?”
The jurors will hear closing arguments from both sides on Monday.
“You want the jury to think that the verdict they are going to reach is the right one,” Moran said. “There are a variety of ways they can do that, of course, but you really want to leave the jury not just with a legal understanding but with an emotional sense of why the verdict you’re asking for is the right one.”
She expects the state will remind jurors of the themes they presented in opening statements, including that Chauvin wasn’t making a split-second decision. The defense, on the other hand, will focus on creating doubt for the jury, according to Moran.
“It may take an hour, an hour and a half,” said Moran on the timing of opening statements. “It’s also very possible to give an effective closing argument in half an hour or less. I’m just guessing, based on what the deliberate nature of the evidence as the attorneys have presented it so far, that they will probably take their time with closing arguments as well. So we may expect them to last most of the morning.”
As for deliberations, she said the jury could come back with a verdict in a couple of hours or a couple of days.