Closing arguments finished in Derek Chauvin trial, jurors to deliberate

KSTP
Updated: April 19, 2021 05:17 PM
Created: April 19, 2021 05:48 AM


3:50 p.m.

Judge Cahill is addressing the jurors after both sides have rested their respective cases.

The jurors were told specific items from Cahill before leaving the courtroom to convene on a decision for this case.

Nelson also motioned for a mistrial due to numerous reasons, but Cahill denied it. 

The court will reconvene when the jury reaches a verdict. 


3 p.m.

Cahill says the state wanted to go into chambers for a motion. Instead, the judge sends the jury to another room while they sort through some things to note.

Schleicher says he wants a curative as to the issue of intent and adds Nelson misstated, saying the defendant had to intend to apply unlawful force. 

Cahill denies the motion but says he will re-read a portion of the instructions telling jurors to disregard statements made by attorneys and to follow his instructions. 

The jury was then brought back in ahead of the state's rebuttal.  

Jerry Blackwell is presenting for the state. 

"There is a 46th witness, and that witness, ladies and gentlemen, is common sense," Blackwell began. "A child did understand it. When the nine-year-old girl said, 'get off of him,' that's how simple it was ... common sense."

He added, "you can believe your eyes ladies and gentlemen ... it was homicide."

Blackwell goes over the studies Nelson brought up in his closing arguments. 

He noted to Nelson stating that Chauvin was "reasonable" in his response: "Reason is as reasonable does."

"WE turned to Dr. Baker ... you were told that homicide was a medical term. That's not what Dr. Baker said. Dr. Baker said homicide means killed at the hands of another," Blackwell told the jury. 

 Blackwell called the defense's arguments "stories."

"If we treat each day Mr. Floyd lived ... and we looked at over his lifetime ... Mr. Floyd was living, breathing, and had a being with every single disorder that Mr. Nelson has chronicled," Blackwell said.

"What you heard from doctor after doctor is that they recognize first and foremost that there was a use of force by Mr. Chauvin that set off a number of things medically for Mr. Floyd that culminated in his death," he stated. 

 "If you are looking at the totality of the evidence ... there were five grown men police officer right there and four right there on the scene ... there's a radio to call for back up," Blackwell noted. 

He described the crowd at the scene that day as "a bouquet of humanity," noting they were comprised of different ages, genders, races, and they all wanted to intervene to stop the suffering of Floyd. 

"They were in a very difficult spot there. You felt the anguish even a year after the fact, they felt torn between their love for the sanctity of life itself ... and on the other hand, their respect of authority that the badge represents."

Blackwell says the bystanders didn't deserve to be called "unruly" by the defense.

"The fact of the matter is there can be no excuse for police abuse," Blackwell stated. The state continued to knock down Nelson's argument that Floyd's death was attributed to drugs. 

"Why are we talking about pills that aren't in his system?" he asked, noting the toxicology reports did not find any evidence that there was a large number of drugs in his system. 

"You heard references and talking about Dr. Tobin and his 46 years of experience studying the way people breathe but Mr. Chauvin's not a medical doctor ... he didn't need it ... because you know who else is not a medical doctor? A nine-year-old girl," Blackwell said. 

Blackwell stated, "The use of unreasonable force is an assault."

Blackwell adds there really aren't two sides to the story of whether this force was unreasonable. "It was not authorized by the Minneapolis Police Department," he said.

Blackwell concluded his rebuttal argument. 

"You were told for example that Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big ... you know the truth and the truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead because Mr. Chauvin's heart was too small."


2:40 p.m.

The court is back in session. Nelson resumes his argument. 

"Every other doctor that has testified has gone to great lengths to dismiss the role of Mr. Floyd's heart disease and hypertension in this case ... they just want you to ignore significant medical issues," Nelson said.

"The brain demands more oxygen ... it is the most sensitive to the loss of oxygen ... when someone is experiencing hypoxia to the brain as Dr. Tobin stated, you would see an increased ventilation or respiratory rate."

The defense rests its argument.  


2:10 p.m.

Cahill interrupts Nelson to call a 30-minute lunch break. Nelson will resume his argument when the court is back in session.


11:35 a.m.

The defense starts their closing argument. 

Defense attorney Eric Nelson is addressing Chauvin as being innocent until proven guilty. 

"The highest standard in this country is proof beyond a reasonable doubt ... essentially the state has to convince you is that the evidence in this case completely eliminates any reasonable doubt," Nelson said. 

Nelson said, "I've told you that lawyers like to present evidence that favors them. But we have to be intellectually honest about the evidence, we have to present it in an honest and intellectually cohesive and coherent manner."

The defense attorney says an example of that is Dr. Fowler's testimony about how he considered carbon monoxide as a contributory factor and how the state used Dr. Tobin as a rebuttal. 

"I submit to you that the state has failed to meet its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt," Nelson said. 

The defense addressed the charges against Chauvin, telling the jury they must determine that beyond a reasonable doubt if Chauvin is either guilty or not guilty. 

"You saw the spreadsheet the state put up ... some of these elements will take less of your consideration," Nelson said.

"The state has focused your attention on nine minutes and 29 seconds," Nelson said, arguing that the jurors need to look at the context of it. "The proper analysis starts with what would a reasonable officer know at the time of dispatch."

Nelson then explained what was done prior to Floyd being pinned on the pavement. He showed video of J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane arriving at 8:08 p.m. He noted the dispatcher and Minneapolis Park police officer heard sounds of a struggle in another body camera video.

"Literally this demonstrates to you ... how quickly a situation can change from second to second, minute to minute ... the situation is dynamic and it's fluid."

He points out what a "reasonable officer" would do in Chauvin's position, pointing out Lane and Kueng being "rookies" responding to the incident.

"A reasonable officer will hear the words 'I'm a good guy, I'm claustrophobic' and he's going to compare those words to the actions of the individual," Nelson stated.

He noted officers struggled with Floyd for about a minute before he was pinned down. Nelson then played body-worn cameras that were worn by the four officers on May 25, 2020, showing the struggle between Floyd and the officers. 

"A reasonable police officer understands the intensity of the struggle," Nelson noted. 

He reiterated that the state has focused on nine minutes and 29 seconds, and how it wasn't a "proper analysis."

"Human behavior is unpredictable ... someone can be compliant one second and fighting the next," Nelson said. 

The defense states that a reasonable police officer wouldn't believe Floyd pleading for air or in pain because "most" arrestees say something to get out of the situation they are in. 

Nelson shares that he, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Darnella Frazier, the girl whose recorded video of the incident went viral last summer, all attended the same high school. He says they all come from the same place, but have different perspectives on things.

"We had the same perspective, sat in the same classrooms ... but our perception of our experiences there is going to be much more different," Nelson said.

Nelson then addressed some of the witnesses brought to the stand that saw what happened that day.

"A reasonable police officer would understand that his actions were actually being recorded ... officers wear cameras for a very specific reason ... they would know if citizens take out their cellphones and start filming," Nelson stated. "He's comparing his actions, his own actions, in response to what the crowd is saying."

Nelson also advised the jury that one can "never underestimate a crowd's potential" because a reasonable police officer has to be aware and alert to his surroundings. He also noted how it is difficult to administer EMS to someone with a crowd gathered around the area. 

"[Lt. Johnny Mercil] recognized the concept of 'awful but lawful,' right. Sometimes the use of force is just not that attractive," Nelson said. 

Nelson says police officers need to be recognized as human beings who are capable of making mistakes in high-stress situations. 

"Did Officer Chauvin intentionally, apply unlawful force, that's what you're being asked to decide," Nelson tells the jury.

He tells the jury that Chauvin made a decision to not use higher levels of force when he would have been authorized to do that, including punching, kicking, and elbowing.  

Nelson then goes through the testimonies provided by medical backgrounds on the witness stand.

"I submit to you that the testimonies of Dr. Tobin, Isenchmid, Smock, Thomas and Rich — it flies in the absolute face of reason and common sense. It's astounding," Nelson proclaimed.

Nelson, speaking at length for over two hours, is addressing every aspect that the state prosecution team presented as evidence in this case. 


9 a.m.

The court is in session for the day. Judge Peter Cahill is reading off jury instructions before closing arguments begin. 

State prosecutor Steve Schleicher opens with the state's closing arguments. 

"His name was George Perry Floyd Jr.," Schleicher began. 

"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, the knee to the back, twisting his fingers, holding his legs for nine minutes and 29 seconds," he stated.

"A grown man, crying out for his mother. A human being," Schleicher said. 

He noted the motto of the Minneapolis Police Department is to protect with courage and to serve with compassion. "Facing George Floyd that day, no courage was required and none was shown," Schleicher noted. 

"He had no pulse. He was not breathing. He was not responsive, and the defendant had to know what was right beneath him," the state prosecutor said. 

"His head was being held by a paramedic. He was completely limp. Sometimes you ask for the truth. Sometimes you insist on the truth. The defendant was on top of him. And the defendant had to know."

Schleicher says this case is about the state versus Derek Chauvin, not the state versus the Minneapolis Police Department. 

"It is a prosecution of the defendant, not the police. There is nothing worse than a police officer who violates training and policy," he stated. He reiterated the department's motto once more. 

"The defendant was trying to win. He wasn't going to take a challenge to his authority ... and George Floyd paid for it with his life," he continued.

"George Floyd is not on trial here. You've heard some things about George Floyd, that he struggled with drug addiction, that he was being investigated for allegedly passing a fake $20 bill ... but he is not on trial. He didn't get a trial when he was alive."

Schleicher also noted Floyd's reaction to getting into the squad car, noting he said he was claustrophobic and anxious. 

"A reasonable officer is the defendant's place, with all of his training and all of his experience ... should have known that and should have recognized that," he said. 

"... proning him was completely unnecessary. And this is where the excessive force begins. This is where the nine minutes and 29 seconds start because they didn't just lay him down. They did not do that."

Schleicher tells the jury, "believe your eyes, what you saw, you saw."

Schleicher noted Dr. Martin Tobin's testimony, where Tobin stated Floyd died due to a lack of oxygen.

"It was the low level of oxygen, it was the asphyxia that caused him to die ... we know that happened because they observed during the restraint ... they observed an anoxic seizure, the telltale sign of oxygen deprivation. Dr. Tobin told you that, even Dr. Fowler told you that."

 "This was an intentional act," the state prosecutor said, noting the charges against Chauvin. 

The state pointed out they do not need to show the defendant intended to cause harm, violate law or kill him.

"You are doing something that hurts somebody and you know it. You are doing it on purpose," he stated, reflecting on the substantial bodily harm - loss of consciousness language. 

Schleicher walked through the incident as it was happening and how Chauvin didn't heed to any advice from the bystanders or the officers at the scene with him. 

 He also spoke on the second-degree manslaughter charge and the elements the jurors must consider.

"Human beings feel pain, human beings need to breathe. Don't accept any notion to the contrary, you need to reject that testimony. He did not act as a reasonable officer would."

 "Consider the testimony as a whole. Officer after officer after officer got on that stand, raised their hand and told you, the chief of police, that this conduct the 9:29 violates the use of force policy, violates the department's core values," Schleicher said. He showed a graphic to the court that showed all the law enforcement employees who testified in the trial.

"There was nothing they could do ... all they could was watch and gather what they could, gather their memories, gather their thoughts and impressions, gather those precious recordings and they gathered those up and they brought them here," Schleicher said, highlighting the witnesses who took the stand to share their testimony about what they saw on the corner of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue on May 25, 2020.

Schleicher concludes his argument with a final word on the case.

"This wasn't policing ... this was murder."

Cahill states the court will take a 20-minute break before the defense starts their closing argument.


The Associated Press contributed to the following.

Attorneys in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in connection with George Floyd's death will make their closing arguments Monday.

Each side will be seeking to distill three weeks of testimony into a compelling argument that persuades jurors to deliver their view of the right verdict.

For prosecutors, it's that Derek Chauvin recklessly squeezed the life from Floyd as he pinned him to the pavement for more than 9 minutes in a clear misuse of force.

For the defense, it's that Floyd died of a bad heart and made himself more vulnerable by abusing drugs and resisting officers.

The jury will be sequestered during deliberations, meaning they will stay in a hotel overnight until a verdict is reached.

Last week, Judge Peter Cahill told the jury to "plan for long and hope for short" for the deliberation process.

KSTP's complete trial coverage


Copyright 2021 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

Girl in 'very critical condition' after being shot in the head in north Minneapolis

Brooklyn Center City Council approves police reform resolution

50-car train derails in Albert Lea; 2 cars leaking hydrochloric acid

Minnesotans take to the water for fishing opener

With Monday deadline and no budget deal, legislative special session becomes near certainty

Minneapolis homeowners fighting park board after receiving complaint about garden