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Apr. 19 highlights for the murder trial of Derek Chauvin

Highlights from the trial of Derek Chauvin. The case was handed over to the jury, who met for four hours of deliberation Monday evening.

The jury has started deliberations in Derek Chauvin's trial in the death of George Floyd after prosecutors and Chauvin's lawyers presented their closing arguments on Monday and the judge provided instructions on the charges, which include second-degree murder.

The 12 jurors deliberated for four hours Monday and will resume Tuesday.

The case was handed over to the jury after nearly three weeks of witness testimony. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, declined to take the stand last week.

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Defense argues bystanders distracted Chauvin at ‘critical moment’

Derek Chauvin’s defense argued Monday that concerns about the bystanders gathered around the scene of George Floyd’s fatal interaction with police distracted the former officer at the “critical moment” when Floyd took his last breath.

“As this crowd grew more and more upset or deeper into crisis, a very critical thing happens at a very precise moment,” attorney Eric Nelson told jurors Monday afternoon during closing arguments.

He said at that moment, Floyd took his last breath. At the same time, Nelson said Chauvin pulled out his can of pepper spray in response to the crowd’s reactions and another bystander who was an off-duty firefighter approached from behind, “startling him.”

“All of these facts and circumstances simultaneously occur at a critical moment,” Nelson said. “And that changed Officer Chauvin’s perception of what was happening.”

Throughout the trial, the defense has sought to portray the bystanders as a potential concern for the officers' safety and as a distraction.

Analysis: Defense showing videos of Floyd's death is a considerable risk

The defense must have felt they absolutely needed the jury to see certain things in the video because there was considerable risk in showing the prosecution’s strongest evidence.

I suspect the prosecution is likely pleased by this decision, reminding jurors of George Floyd repeatedly telling police that he couldn't breathe. 

Defense tells jurors to consider all evidence in determining what a ‘reasonable officer’ would have done

Derek Chauvin’s defense told jurors Monday to consider the “totality of circumstances and facts” known to the former officer when considering if a “reasonable officer” would have restrained George Floyd the way he did.

“The proper analysis is to take those 9 minutes and 29 seconds and put it into the context of the totality of the circumstances that a reasonable police officer would know,” attorney Eric Nelson said in discussing whether Chauvin’s use of force was justified. 

The argument seemed an attempt to redirect jurors from a refrain made by the prosecution to jurors during their opening statements and closing arguments, “Believe your eyes.” The prosecution has sought to focus jurors on the more than nine minutes Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck as he lay pinned to the ground in handcuffs.

The jurors have seen extensive video footage of Floyd’s fatal encounter with police from multiple angles and from different sources.

Biden to deliver remarks after Derek Chauvin trial verdict

President Joe Biden is expected to deliver remarks after the jury in the Derek Chauvin trial renders a verdict, according to multiple administration officials.

The White House is monitoring the trial’s developments and is preparing a statement for Biden, who has been gaming out with his team for the last two weeks how to react to various verdicts.

The administration has also planned for possible public demonstrations in response to the verdict, including meetings with counterterrorism and homeland security advisers and Cedric Richmond, the White House director of public engagement.


Defense: Derek Chauvin is presumed innocent

Derek Chauvin’s defense attorney began his closing argument Monday by reminding jurors that his client is presumed innocent of the charges he faces over the death of George Floyd and that the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“He’s presumed innocent of these charges and this presumption remains with him throughout the course of the trial, the presentation of the evidence, throughout the course of your deliberations, until and unless the state has proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Eric Nelson said Monday morning. 

“The defendant doesn’t have to try to catch up,” he said.

He reminded jurors that “proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” according to the definition read earlier by the judge, was “such proof as ordinary, prudent men and women would act upon in their most important affairs.” Meanwhile, “reasonable doubt” was defined as “a doubt that is based upon reason and common sense,” Nelson said.

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

Chauvin took off his mask for the defense's closing argument, and looked at the jury while his attorney spoke. He has worn a mask throughout the trial and seemed to be taking notes while both sides argued their cases.

Prosecution: ‘Being large and being on something is not a justification for the use of force’

Prosecutor Steven Schleicher told jurors Monday that George Floyd “being large and being on something is not a justification for the use of force” that Derek Chauvin used against him during his fatal interaction with police.

Schleicher said Chauvin “explained the basis of his actions” to one of the bystanders, 61-year-old Charles Charles McMillian. 

In police video, Chauvin could be heard saying in footage to McMillian that Floyd was a "sizable guy" who was "probably on something."

“His two justifications were that George Floyd was big, and that he might be ‘on something,'” Schleicher said Monday during his closing argument. 

Schleicher told the jurors they had heard the standards for use of force during testimony and that officers are authorized to use force “to respond to a threat, they’re not authorized to use force to respond to a risk.”

The attorney said while Floyd could have been a potential “risk,” his size and whether he had taken drugs alone did not make him a “threat” to Chauvin or the other officers and was not a crime.

“When questioned, their force expert witness conceded that the combination of the two, being large and being on something is not a justification for the use of force,” he said of one of the defense witnesses. “It just isn’t. That’s not what they get to do.”

Schleicher said Chauvin’s explanation was “not good enough” and was not following use of force policy or procedure. 

“He is not following the rules,” he added.

'Believe your eyes': Prosecution has a simple message behind its exhaustive argument

Behind the prosecution's detailed argument is a simple message to the jury: believe your own eyes.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Steven Schleicher repeated the same maxim with which the prosecution began. 

“You can believe your eyes,” said Schleicher, who has relied heavily on video and images of the events leading up to Floyd’s death to make his point.

It is an emotional appeal to the jury and a remarkably straightforward one. It was precisely the video of Floyd’s death that sparked the global uprising last summer and brought people to the streets in protest. Schleicher, it seems, ultimately believes that same video is his best argument for conviction.

"This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video. It is exactly that," Schleicher said. "You can believe 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. This wasn't policing; this was murder. The defendant is guilty of all three counts. All of them. And there is no excuse." 

An 'enormous burden': Chauvin trial jurors will face scrutiny — no matter their verdict

Henry King Jr. was a utility worker in Southern California when he was picked as a juror in one of the nation's most notable televised trials: the case against four Los Angeles police officers accused in the beating of a Black motorist, Rodney King.

King Jr., no relation to Rodney King, had seen the now-infamous camcorder footage of the traffic stop on March 3, 1991, and found himself as a key player in the courtroom drama the following year. The jury's decision nearly 30 years ago to acquit the officers — three white and one Hispanic — unleashed days of deadly rioting that devastated parts of Los Angeles and cleaved the city's communities along racial lines.

Now, King Jr. says that while he's aware that the trial in Minneapolis of former Police Officer Derek Chauvin is winding down with closing arguments Monday, his thoughts are with the panel of 12 jurors tasked with delivering a verdict — one that could become a catalyst for a fresh wave of protests like the ones that rocked dozens of American cities last year with the killing of George Floyd.

"This reminds me so much of my time and what we were going through," King Jr., 78, said.

"They're going to be going through a lot," he said of the jurors in Chauvin's trial. "I feel for them. They're going to have a tough time, no matter which way they go."

Click here to read the full story.

Prosecution's closing remarks highlight the daunting task ahead for the jury

The prosecution’s closing arguments are a reminder of just how much information jurors in this case have to consider, synthesize and reference while deliberating.

Prosceutor Steven Schleicher presented a chart to the jury, depicting the main points of his arguments for conviction. The chart also showed the experts whose testimony argued that the defense's case didn't add up. The prosecution called 38 witnesses, many whose testimony included detailed medical explanations.

The judge’s initial jury instructions served as a similar reminder, when he described the burden of proof and what the charges mean under state law.

After more than three weeks of arguments, evidence, and expert testimony, the task at hand for the jury is not a simple one, even if they already have their minds made up. It's why many experts don't expect a decision to be announced today.

Prosecution asks jurors: 'Would George Floyd have died' without Chauvin's actions?

Prosecutor Steven Schleicher asked the jurors “would George Floyd have died that day?” if Derek Chauvin hadn't restrained him for nine and a half minutes.

Schleicher, addressing the defense’s main arguments, dismissed claims that a drug overdose, enlarged heart, or carbon monoxide killed Floyd.

“Use your common sense. Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw,” he said. 

During testimony the prosecution played extensive video of Floyd’s fatal interaction with police, including video from bystanders, officer body camera footage and surveillance video.