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Jury concludes first day of deliberating in Derek Chauvin trial without verdict

Police Shooting Minnesota
eric nelson derek chauvin
George Floyd Officer Trial
George Floyd
Posted at 9:24 AM, Apr 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 21:44:48-04

MINNEAPOLIS — According to CNN and NBC News reporter Gabe Gutierrez jurors in the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin have concluded deliberating for the day.

Deliberations will resume Tuesday morning.

WARNING: This story and attached videos contains descriptions and images of situations that may be disturbing.

Jurors began deliberating Monday afternoon the charges against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.

Chauvin is facing second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Floyd. Widely-shared bystander video showed Chauvin and other officers on top of Floyd for more than nine minutes, including Chauvin with his knee on the man's neck and back.

Prosecutors say this position, with a knee on his neck, and holding Floyd down on the pavement for so long is what caused his death, by asphyxiation. The defense argued there were other contributing factors in Floyd's death, including health concerns and drug use.

The defense and prosecution both presented their closing statements today, giving the jury the case around 5 p.m. ET. The jury needs to come to a unanimous decision on the charges.

After the jury left the room, attorneys discussed issues about what news or information the jury may have been in contact with during the trial.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson made a motion for a mistrial, bringing up statements made by a lawmaker, later identified as Representative Maxine Waters, over the weekend in addition to fictional storylines in tv shows that mirror the case.

"I hope we get a verdict that says guilty, guilty, guilty," Waters told reporters Saturday night. "And if we don't, we cannot go away. We've got to stay on the street. We get more active, we've got to get more confrontational. We've got to make sure that they know that we mean business."

Judge Peter Cahill expressed his frustration about lawmaker statements, but said he told the jury each day to stay away from the news.

"I admit that Rep. Waters may have given you something to bring up on appeal," the judge told Nelson.

"I wish lawmakers would stop talking about this case. I think if they want to give their opinions, they should do so in a respectful way," Cahill continued. "I think it's abhorrent, but I don't think they did so in a way that has prejudiced the jury."

"A congresswoman's opinion doesn't really matter a whole lot," the judge added, before denying the defense's motion.

Also, Chauvin told the court that if he is convicted, he would like the judge to determine aggravating factors that may make his prison sentence longer, rather than having a jury decide the factors.

Below is a live blog of Monday's closing statements.

UPDATE, 4:10 p.m. ET: A prosecutor offered a rebuttal closing statement. State attorney Jerry Blackwell reminded jurors to use common sense, bringing up the testimony of the 9-year-old witness who told officers to "get off him."

Watch Court TV's live coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial:

He called "common sense" the 46th witness in this trial, who will follow the jurors back to the jury room.

Blackwell told the jury they only have to prove that the defendant's actions were a substantial cause of Floyd's death, not the only cause. "Those other factors were not the direct cause of death," he told the jury, referencing the other factors the defense has brought up in the case.

"They say there are two sides to every story," but Blackwell told the jury he believes that statement incorrectly boils down situations to two equal stories.

"The unreasonable use of force is an assault," Blackwell said. "We only have to show he intended to do what he did," the prosecutor continued, saying prosecutors do not need to show intent of the action was death.

"You were told Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big," Blackwell said, but after hearing all the evidence, "the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin's heart was too small."

UPDATE, 3:45 p.m. ET: After a lunch break, defense attorney Eric Nelson continued with his closing statements.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson closing statement

"A person can hold their breath for 39 seconds, and that does not result in hypoxia," Nelson told the jury, after walking through a timeline of what statements Floyd made to officers while being held down.

Defense attorney Nelson wrapped up his closing argument. Judge Peter Cahill sent the jury to their room for about five minutes so the lawyers and him could discuss a question about the jury instructions.

UPDATE, 12:35 p.m. ET: Defense attorney Eric Nelson started his closing arguments to the jury by reminding them that the defendant, former officer Derek Chauvin, is presumed innocent under the law and it is the responsibility of the prosecution to prove their case.

"The highest standard in this country is 'proof beyond a reasonable doubt,'" Nelson said, repeating words from Judge Cahill's jury instructions and the prosecutor's closing argument. He explained that as being proof that leaves out everything except "unreasonable doubt. It doesn't mean beyond all possibility of doubt."

Nelson started by bringing up the possibility he presented during the trial of carbon monoxide poisoning from George Floyd being held near a car. He points out that Floyd was given oxygen when he was treated by paramedics and so his oxygen level at the time of his death may not be reliable or necessarily show any results of carbon monoxide.

Nelson said he is going to focus on two topics: "were Mr. Chauvin's actions authorized use of force" and "what caused Mr. Floyd's death."

"The standard is not what should the officer have done," Nelson said, "the standard is what were the facts known to this officer at the exact moment he used force," and "would a reasonable police officer, what would a reasonable police officer have done."

Nelson then walks through what led up to the situation outside Cup Foods, and what Chauvin would have seen and heard when he appeared on scene. Chauvin arrived on scene after initial officers had tried to put Floyd in the back of a squad car and, while playing Chauvin's body-worn camera footage for the jury, Nelson says the former officer would have pieced together what his options were seeing a man not complying with getting into the car.

"If a person is actively resisting," Nelson said, Chauvin would have gone through options or techniques he could have used at the time.

"It was reasonable for these officers to put Mr. Floyd in the squad car, it was reasonable how they responded when he wouldn't get into the car," Nelson said. "It was the point that Mr. Floyd was brought to the ground that the questionable of reasonableness" comes in based on the expert testimony in this case.

Nelson tells the jury that focusing on the 9 minutes and 29 seconds showing Chauvin on top of Floyd ignores the previous 16 minutes and 5 seconds, and ignores what happened before.

"It all comes into play because human behavior is unpredictable and nobody knows it better than a police officer," Nelson said.

Nelson then talked about subjects who may pretend to have medical emergencies to evade arrest. "Unfortunately, that's the reality," Nelson said.

The defense attorney then talked about the constraints of the courtroom, including blocked views from cameras, plexiglass and other barriers, and how the perspective may cause different perceptions. He then talked about a handful of witnesses at the scene outside Cup Foods on May 25, 2020, and how their perspective may have caused their perception of what they were seeing to be different.

Nelson brought up the volume and distraction of the crowd outside the store during the time, saying it may have impacted the quality of care or response of officers because they were assessing the crowd and the commotion. He referenced the paramedics who testified they wanted to move Floyd to the ambulance in order to get him away from what was happening with the crowd.

"Did he purposefully apply unlawful force to another person?" Nelson asks the jury, using language in their instructions about the charges Chauvin faces. Nelson says this comes back to intent.

Officers know they are being watched when they are on the job, Nelson argues.

"Do you do something purposefully that is an unlawful use of force when you know there are 4 body-worn cameras," when there are surveillance cameras and witnesses recording the situation?

"You have to be convinced that the defendant's acts caused the death of Mr. Floyd," Nelson told the jury. He said the prosecution is claiming asphyxiation was Floyd's "only cause of death," Nelson argued this ignores other context from the situation and Floyd's health.

Addressing Floyd's cause of death, Nelson brought up the death certificate and Dr. Andrew Baker's testimony about the autopsy. Baker had said if there was something mentioned on the death certificate, then it was significant to the person's death, and defined the death as multi-factoral process, meaning there were multiple factors.

The death certificate listed that Floyd had heart disease, hypertension and sickle cell trait.

At 3:10 p.m. ET, the judge called for a lunch break. Defense attorney Eric Nelson will continue his closing argument when they return.

Court TV will be the only network with cameras in the courtroom and will provide live, gavel-to-gavel coverage. The entire trial will be on live TV as well as available online at CourtTV.com, and the Court TV app for Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android and Apple devices.

UPDATE, 12:15 p.m. ET: Shortly after noon on the East Coast, the prosecution wrapped up its closing argument by telling the jury that only they have the power to convict Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.

“The state, we have power. We cannot convict the defendant. The judge has power, but he cannot convict the defendant. That power, that power belongs to you," said prosecuting attorney Steve Schleicher. "You have that power, and only you have the power to convict the defendant of these crimes. And so doing, declare that this use of force was unreasonable. It was excessive. It was grossly disproportionate. It is not an excuse for the shocking abuse that you saw with your own eyes."

Schleicher ended the prosecution's closing remarks by telling the jury that they can believe their eyes.

"This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video. It’s 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. It’s what you felt in your gut. It’s what you now know in your heart," said Schleicher. "This wasn’t policing. This was murder. The defendant is guilty of all three counts, all of them. And there’s no excuse."

Prosecutor tells jury they can believe their eyes in closing argument

After the prosecutors finished, Judge Peter Cahill said the court would be taking a 20 min. break and would resume with the defense's closing arguments.

Watch Court TV's live coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial:

Court TV will be the only network with cameras in the courtroom and will provide live, gavel-to-gavel coverage. The entire trial will be on live TV as well as available online at CourtTV.com, and the Court TV app for Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android and Apple devices.

UPDATE, 10:30 a.m. ET: Attorney Steve Schleicher began delivering the prosecution's closing argument. He first laid out how George Floyd died.

“On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died face down on a pavement right on 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis. Nine minutes and 29 seconds, nine minutes and 29 seconds, during this time, George Floyd struggled to breathe, desperate to breathe, to make enough room in his chest to breath,” said Schleicher. “But the force was too much. He was trapped. He was trapped with the unyielding pavement underneath him, as unyielding as the men who held him down, pushing him, a kneed to the neck, a knee to back, twisting his fingers, holding his legs for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, the defendant’s weight on him.”

George Floyd Officer Trial
In this image from video, prosecutor Steve Schleicher gives closing arguments as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Monday, April 19, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

Schleicher went on to reiterate that Floyd wasn't on trial.

“This is not the trial of George Floyd. George Floyd is not on trial here," said Schleicher. "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, that there was never any evidence introduced that he knew it was fake in the first place. But he is not on trial. He didn’t get a trial when he was alive. And he’s not on trial here."

He then began to play body camera footage of the scene, narrating how Floyd reacted when officers approached the car that the 46-year-old was in before officers took him into custody.

Schleicher took some time to push back on some of the theories that were presented by the defense regarding how Floyd died. He said it wasn’t cardiac arrest or a drug overdose.

"You know how George Floyd died," said Schleicher. "It was the low level of oxygen; it was the asphyxia that caused him to die."

UPDATE, 10:15 a.m. ET: Judge Peter Cahill started by giving instructions to the jury and explaining the terms of the charges against Derek Chauvin before the prosecution and defense began delivering their closing arguments in the murder trial.

Original story below:

Prosecutors and defense lawyers involved in the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin will begin making their closing arguments to the jury Monday as the city of Minneapolis and the U.S. await a verdict in one of the highest-profile court cases this century.

Chauvin is charged with second- and third-degree murder in connection with the death of George Floyd last May. Floyd’s death and bystander video of his arrest sparked several months of protests against police brutality and racial injustice throughout the country last summer.

The bystander video from the arrest showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd for nearly nine minutes as Floyd struggled to breathe. While prosecutors have attempted to keep the jury focused on that nine-minute span, the defense has pointed to medical factors that may have contributed to Floyd’s death and other circumstances that may have justified Chauvin’s use of force.

The defense rested its case last Thursday when Chauvin notified Judge Peter Cahill that he would not be taking the stand in his own defense, citing his rights against self-incrimination. After both the prosecution and defense finish their closing arguments, the jury will be sequestered and begin deliberations on a verdict.

When deliberating a verdict, the jury will be considering emotional testimony from state-called eyewitnesses, many of whom broke down on the stand as they recalled witnessing Floyd’s death first-hand.

One employee at the convenience store Floyd visited the night of his death said he regretted informing his boss about the counterfeit $20 bill Floyd used to buy cigarettes, noting that “this could have all been avoided” if he had paid for Floyd’s cigarettes out of his own tab.

The then-17-year-old girl who filmed the viral bystander footage of Floyd’s arrest also delivered powerful testimony on the stand and wondered if there was more she could have done to save his life.

The jury will also need to consider dueling testimonies from police use-of-force experts — some called by the state, others by the defense. While Minneapolis police officials like Chief Medaria Arradondo said he believed Chauvin was excessive in his use of force, state called expert witnesses testified that they believe it was justified.

Jurors will also consider varying testimonies from medical experts — a renowned pulmonologist and the Hennepin County medical examiner testified both that Floyd died from a lack of oxygen, primarily due to Chauvin's restraint, while defense witnesses pointed to Floyd’s past drug use as a potential cause of his death.

Monday will mark the start of the fourth week of the trial, dating back to March 29 when opening statements began.

Closing arguments come as the Twin Cities are on edge amid two fatal police shootings in as many weeks.

On Sunday, police in Burnsville, Minnesota fatally shot a suspected carjacker after police say he fired at officers. That shooting came exactly one week after officers in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop.

Wright’s death sparked nearly a week of nightly protests in Brooklyn Center. Police routinely used “less-lethal” rounds like tear gas and rubber bullets to break up demonstrations, and there were reports of looting and vandalism in the area last Sunday and Monday.

Watch coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial here.

Court TV will be the only network with cameras in the courtroom and will provide live, gavel-to-gavel coverage.

The entire trial will be on live TV as well as available online at CourtTV.com, and the Court TV app for Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android and Apple devices.

Find Court TV's full coverage of MN v. Derek Chauvin here.