Jurors began deliberating Derek Chauvin’s fate around 5pm Monday afternoon. It was a powerful closing argument from the prosecution. Prosecutor Steve Schleicher reminded jurors what they saw unfold on video over the course of 9 minutes as Chauvin pressed his knee on George Floyd’s neck, “Believe your eyes. What you saw happened, happened. It happened.” The Washington Post adds:
Schleicher argued that Chauvin not only deprived Floyd of the oxygen he needed to live, but that he did so “on purpose,” knowing full well what was happening to Floyd, beneath his knees.
“This was not policing. It was unnecessary. It was gratuitous. It was disproportionate. And he did it on purpose,” Schleicher said during his closing statement. “He did not trip and fall and find himself upon George Floyd’s … neck.”
"This case is exactly what you thought when you first saw the video … It's exactly what you saw with your eyes. It's exactly what you knew. It's exactly what you felt in your gut. It's what you now know in your heart. This wasn't policing, this was murder," prosecution says pic.twitter.com/ucNbGJOAyp
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 19, 2021
The prosecutor nails the primary questions that have come up as I've endlessly discussed the #ChauvinTrial with law enforcement officers I know:
⁰If Chauvin wasn't TRYING to harm Floyd by kneeling on his neck, what was the actual plan?? What else was he trying to accomplish?? pic.twitter.com/Dvo6UbccES
— Josh Campbell (@joshscampbell) April 19, 2021
Chauvin’s defense attorney, who only called a handful of witnesses to the stand, used his closing arguments to defend Chauvin’s actions as “reasonable.” CBS News writes:
Defense attorney Eric Nelson said jurors must review what facts were known to the officer at the precise moment the force was used when determining whether the force was reasonable. He listed a series of elements officers must consider, including their immediate surroundings and whether the suspect was under the influence. A reasonable officer can also try to predict future behavior based on their past experience with a suspect, Nelson said.
He also tried to put some of the blame on the crowd and on George Floyd himself.
During closing arguments, Eric Nelson, the defense lawyer, says it is "not uncommon for suspects to feign, or pretend to have, a medical emergency to avoid being arrested. Unfortunately, that is the reality.” pic.twitter.com/waQ92vDn6m
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 19, 2021
Nelson argued, “There is absolutely no evidence Officer Chauvin intentionally, purposefully, applied unlawful force.”
"This was an authorized use of force, as unattractive as it may be, and this is reasonable doubt," Derek Chauvin's attorney Eric Nelson tells jurors during closing arguments. https://t.co/o5kG8DyMgl pic.twitter.com/ZaaQGXCbp0
— ABC News (@ABC) April 19, 2021
Nelson’s closing argument was put on pause around 3:15 pm Monday afternoon as the judge dismissed jurors to eat lunch. This came after he spoke for about two-and-a-half hours, longer than the entirety of the prosecution arguments. CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said:
“There’s no science but there’s common sense. You have to read the room. Juries have short attention spans. He’s going too long. If you as a viewer are going, when does this end? Where is he going? I guarantee you the jurors are thinking the same thing, especially when it’s 2:15 in Minneapolis… I’m sure they’re thinking of lunch. I think the judge did him a favor when he cut him off when he did.”
Nelson wrapped soon after resuming his arguments.
As the jury began deliberations, the Floyd family reportedly felt hopeful and their attorney says “the prosecution made a clear case that Derek Chauvin is guilty of second-degree murder.”
"They felt that the defense argument was like fishing without a bait on the hook… they're looking forward to a verdict and a conviction at the highest level possible."
– Attorney Antonio Romanucci shares the feelings of George Floyd's family following Monday's trial proceedings pic.twitter.com/9U1laU5SG2
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) April 19, 2021
This case is being watched around the country, and perhaps around the world. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi released a statement Monday saying:
“Today is a solemn day as the closing arguments are presented in the George Floyd murder trial. I commend the Floyd family for their dignified calls for justice, which were heard around the world.
As outraged as we are by his death, let us be prayerful that the truth will prevail and will honor George Floyd’s memory.”
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny adds, “President Joe Biden is keeping a watchful eye on this week’s closing arguments in the Minneapolis trial of Derek Chauvin, fearful that a controversial verdict could inflame new racial tensions and further escalate a deepening crisis in confidence with the nation’s police forces.”
Biden's statement — and the overall White House response — is expected to incorporate feedback gleaned from recent conversations he and Vice President Kamala Harris have conducted with civil rights activists and members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
— Geoff Bennett (@GeoffRBennett) April 19, 2021