Derek Chauvin Trial Live Updates: Closing Arguments Begin

We can expect Schleicher’s remarks to go for about an hour and 15 minutes, I’m told, and he is expected to walk the jury one last time, frame by frame, through the famous and harrowing bystander video of Derek Chauvin restraining George Floyd for more than nine minutes.

“His name was George Perry Floyd Jr., and he was born on Oct. 14, 1973, in Fayetteville, N.C.” That’s how prosecutor Steve Schleicher started his closing argument. I can’t help but think about the idea of humanity, and that in the many police killings of Black people, community members have said that the officers just don’t see the humanity in Black people. Schleicher, in a very subtle way, is trying to bring forth that humanity.

Schleicher further addresses tropes often used against Black victims: “There was no super human strength that day. There’s no such thing as a super human. Just a man lying on a pavement being pressed upon, desperately crying out.”

A sign marking Day 15 of the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis.
Credit…Still image, via Court TV

Steve Schleicher, a prosecutor for the state, began making closing arguments on Monday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, marking the final stage of the trial before 12 jurors begin to decide Mr. Chauvin’s fate.

The closing arguments from prosecutor Mr. Schleicher and Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric J. Nelson, are the lawyers’ last chance to leave an impression with jurors before they are sequestered and begin deliberating on the three charges that Mr. Chauvin faces: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The closing arguments follow three weeks of evidence and testimony, during which jurors have heard from a host of policing and medical experts, Mr. Floyd’s loved ones and witnesses who saw Mr. Chauvin kneel on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes last May.

Mr. Schleicher will make prosecutors’ closing argument first, followed by Mr. Nelson. Another prosecutor will then have an opportunity for a rebuttal, after which the jury will begin deliberating.

For the most serious charge that Derek Chauvin is facing, second-degree murder, the prosecution has to prove that Chauvin assaulted George Floyd — or that he intentionally committed or attempted to commit serious bodily harm, Judge Peter Cahill tells jurors. One important thing here is that Chauvin does not have to have had the intent to kill Floyd, per the jury instructions. Just that his assault was intentional, and that it was a substantial factor in causing Floyd’s death

The jurors in this case received the judge’s very lengthy instructions in writing, which I imagine is very helpful. I’ve covered cases in New York in which judges don’t give jurors a copy of the instructions — they have to rely on memory.

Derek Chauvin faces three charges in the death of George Floyd: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

  • Second-degree murder, also called unintentional murder or felony murder, is killing someone in the course of committing another felony — in this case, the prosecutors will argue that Mr. Chauvin was assaulting George Floyd. This charge does not require the prosecution to prove that Mr. Chauvin had any intent to kill. It carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, but Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines recommend a sentence of 10.5 years for someone who, like Mr. Chauvin, has no prior convictions.

  • Third-degree murder is a death that occurs when someone is acting extremely dangerously, without regard to human life and “evincing a depraved mind.” Prosecutors will argue that Mr. Chauvin knew that the restraint he used on Mr. Floyd was potentially lethal and a violation of police procedure and training. Third-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 25 years. The guideline recommendation is 10.5 years.

  • Second-degree manslaughter is death by “culpable negligence,” in which the perpetrator knowingly risks causing death or serious harm. It’s punishable by up to 10 years, but under the state guidelines a likely sentence would be four years.

The judge’s jury instructions include specific instructions to the juror for what to consider when the accused is a police officer. Because officers are authorized to use deadly force in some circumstances, the jury has to evaluate whether the force would have been reasonable to an officer in the moment, not reasonable in hindsight.

As the judge discusses in his jury instructions what constitutes intent, I’m reflecting that one thing that did not come up during the trial is whether Derek Chauvin and George Floyd knew one other. They worked as bouncers at the same nightclub, and there was a lot of speculation about whether there was something personal between them. But no proof of that has emerged.

Judge Peter A. Cahill is going through the elements of the three charges that Derek Chauvin is facing, starting with the most severe. He is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. Cahill explains the elements of what the jury must determine in order to find him guilty of each charge.

We are back in session for Week 4 of the Derek Chauvin murder trial, and Judge Cahill is reading the jury the instructions they will need to follow when deliberating over the verdict after closing arguments later this morning.

Sometimes judges read instructions before the laywers give their closing arguments, and sometimes after. Lawyers tend to prefer that they be read before closings, so they can refer to them in their final remarks to the jury.

Damik Wright, center, the brother of Daunte Wright, who was fatally shot by a police officer on April 11, was among the demonstrators who participated in a march against police brutality on Sunday in Minneapolis. The march followed a rally in front of Minnesota Governor Timothy James Walz’s home. The area is making preparations for a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, which is expected this week.

As we await closing arguments, one thing I’m eager to hear today is if and how Derek Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, addresses the fact that his client knelt on George Floyd for more than nine minutes and what role that played in his death, as many prosecution witnesses testified to. Nelson’s goal has been to make this trial all about the other things that could have killed Floyd. So far, he hasn’t seemed to directly address that elephant in the room.

To get a conviction, the prosecution needs to prove that Chauvin’s actions were a substantial causal factor in Floyd’s death, not that it was the only factor.




‘He Was Suffering’: Teenager Who Filmed Floyd’s Arrest Testifies at Trial

Darnella Frazier, who was 17 years old when she filmed video of George Floyd’s arrest, testified on Tuesday in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in Mr. Floyd’s death.

“And is this as you are approaching Cup Foods on May 25?” “Yes.” “Now see, there, your cousin goes into the store. Why did she go into the store, and then you turned around and then came back toward the squad cars?” “I wanted to make sure she got in.” [inaudible] “When you walk past the squad car there, did you see anything happening there on the ground as you were walking towards Cup Foods with your cousin?” “Yes, I see a man on the ground and I see a cop kneeling down on him.” “Was there anything about the scene that you didn’t want your cousin to see?” “Yes” “And what was that?” “A man terrified, scared, begging for his life.” “Is that why you directed your cousin to going into Cup Foods?” “Yes.” “And, and then when you saw what was happening there, at the scene, what was it about the scene that caused you to come back?” “He wasn’t right. He was he was suffering. He was in pain.” “So tell the jury what you observed, what you heard when you stopped to look at what was happening there at the scene.” “I heard George Floyd saying, ‘I can’t breathe. Please get off of me. I can’t breathe.’ He he cried for his mom. He was in pain. It seemed like he knew. It seemed like he knew it was over for him. He was terrified.”

Video player loading
Darnella Frazier, who was 17 years old when she filmed video of George Floyd’s arrest, testified on Tuesday in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in Mr. Floyd’s death.CreditCredit…Still image via Court TV

In the three weeks of the trial of Derek Chauvin, dozens of witnesses have testified; hours of video of George Floyd’s arrest have been played, paused and replayed; and two sides of the courtroom have presented opposing narratives to a jury tasked with determining the guilt or innocence of a former police officer charged with murder in one of the most watched trials in decades.

Through witness testimony, several distinct themes have emerged as the most crucial points of contention: whether Mr. Chauvin violated policy when he knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes; what role, if any, drugs played in Mr. Floyd’s death; and what kind of impact the arrest may have had on the people who witnessed it.

The trial for officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd is shown on the outdoor televisions at the Fox News headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.
Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

The trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd is unusual for many reasons: It is being livestreamed from Minneapolis, attendance is severely limited because of the coronavirus and the public’s interest in the case may make this one of the highest-profile trials in recent memory.

Closing arguments are expected to begin around 10 a.m. Eastern on Monday and can be watched on, via a livestream provided by Court TV, which is also airing the trial in full. Afterward, the jury will begin to deliberate over the verdict.

Among the people allowed in the courtroom, on the 18th floor of the Hennepin County Government Center, are the judge, jurors, witnesses, court staff, lawyers, Mr. Chauvin and a handful of spectators.

The judge, Peter A. Cahill, wrote in an order on March 1 that only one member of Mr. Floyd’s family and one member of Mr. Chauvin’s family would be allowed in the room at any time. Two seats are reserved for reporters and various journalists that have been rotating throughout the trial.

The lawyers, spectators, jurors and witnesses are required to wear masks when they are not speaking. Spectators are prohibited from having any visible images, logos, letters or numbers on their masks or clothing, according to Judge Cahill’s order.

Businesses in Minneapolis are boarded up in anticipation of a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.
Credit…Aaron Nesheim for The New York Times

As Minneapolis awaits a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, which could come down this week after closing arguments on Monday, there is a sense of life suspended — an inability to imagine what the world will look like after the jury of seven women and five men reaches its decision.

“A lot of people are immobilized, they are afraid,” said Andre Marshall, a deacon at Zion Baptist Church, in Minneapolis’s historically Black neighborhood of Near North. He said he was optimistic about the outcome after seeing the evidence, but even so, “personally, I’m afraid of an acquittal.”

A not-guilty verdict could bring anger, chaos and destruction to Minneapolis once again, a year after unrest following George Floyd’s death led to what the city said was $350 million in losses, with more than a thousand buildings either destroyed or damaged. Last week, hundreds in the Twin Cities region came out to protest after Daunte Wright was shot dead by a police officer following a routine traffic stop in the suburban community of Brooklyn Center.

Sara Stamshror-Lott, a therapist who specializes in trauma therapy in Minneapolis’s minority communities, said that the trial, and the painful emotions it has resurfaced among Black citizens who have suffered from abusive policing, have consumed her sessions.

If Mr. Chauvin is found guilty of murder, the verdict would certainly bring a sense of relief to many in the community. But at the same time, any celebration of a conviction of one officer would be weighed against the reality of persistent racial disparities that Mr. Floyd’s death has forced Minneapolis to reckon with.

“It’s not a one-and-done thing,” Ms. Stamshror-Lott said. “Even if he’s found guilty, that is like literally scraping at the very beginning of all the justice reform that needs to happen, from the schools to the prison system, to the health care system, to everything in between.

“Yes it would be a victory, but it wouldn’t mean the system is changed.”

Black Lives Matter initials, written in chalk on the plaza outside the Hennepin County Government Center, on Thursday.
Credit…Jim Mone/Associated Press

The presentation of evidence in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd, concluded on Thursday without testimony from Mr. Chauvin himself.

Lawyers will give their concluding arguments on Monday, and then the jury will begin its own deliberations. Whether Mr. Chauvin would testify was a major question in this trial, one of the most-viewed in decades. Though the death of Mr. Floyd sparked a national reckoning around the intersection of race and policing — and ignited a wave of protests that rocked big cities and small towns across America — the public has heard very little from the former officer.

Throughout the trial, Mr. Chauvin displayed little, if any, emotion. (With a face mask, it can be more difficult to see a person’s expressions.) He listened and took notes as people who watched the arrest in person broke down in tears on the stand, and as numerous expert witnesses from the prosecution placed the blame of Mr. Floyd’s death squarely on his shoulders.

Mr. Chauvin’s defense team called two expert witnesses to the stand this week, along with a handful of other witnesses, most of whom spoke only briefly. A use-of-force expert testified that he acted within the bounds of normal policing when he knelt on Mr. Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds, and a medical expert said the restraint was not a contributing factor in Mr. Floyd’s death.

Both witnesses faced dogged cross-examination from prosecuting attorneys. And on Thursday, prosecutors called back to the stand Dr. Martin J. Tobin, a pulmonologist, who refuted a notion pushed by the defense’s medical expert that carbon monoxide from vehicle exhaust contributed to Mr. Floyd’s death. Here are the takeaways from Mr. Chauvin’s defense.

  • Mr. Chauvin told the judge on Thursday that he would not testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. He faces second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges for the death of Mr. Floyd. Eric J. Nelson, Mr. Chauvin’s attorney, said they had several discussions about whether he should testify, including one lengthy meeting on Wednesday. Judge Peter A. Cahill told Mr. Chauvin that the jurors would be instructed to not hold his decision to avoid testifying against him.

  • Prosecutors called Dr. Tobin, the pulmonologist, back to the stand on Thursday to rebut the notion that vehicle exhaust contributed to Mr. Floyd’s death. One of the two expert witnesses from the defense, Dr. David Fowler, a former chief medical examiner of Maryland, testified on Wednesday that carbon monoxide from the exhaust of the police cruiser that Mr. Floyd was pinned next to might have been a contributing factor. He placed more emphasis on drug use and pre-existing heart conditions, saying there were likely many factors at play. Ultimately, he said Mr. Floyd’s manner of death was “undetermined.”

    Dr. Tobin said the carbon monoxide argument was “simply wrong.” He said tests performed by Hennepin County showed that Mr. Floyd had a normal level of oxygen saturation in his blood, and that his level of carboxyhemoglobin — something formed in the blood during by carbon monoxide poisoning — could not have been more than 2 percent; Dr. Fowler said it might have been as high as 10 to 18 percent, though he acknowledged he had not seen any tests to confirm his assumption.

  • One of Dr. Fowler’s primary assertions was that the prone position where Mr. Floyd was kept for nine and a half minutes was safe. He cited several studies to support this notion, and said there was no hard evidence that putting someone in a prone position with their hands cuffed behind their backs for an extended period of time could be dangerous. Some prosecution witnesses criticized the studies that Dr. Fowler cited, saying they do not reflect real-world policing. They also said that it is well-known among police officers that suspects should not be kept in the prone position for too long because it can make it harder to breathe, particularly when the suspect is being pinned down under the weight of an officer. In a win for the prosecution, Dr. Fowler said Mr. Floyd should have been given medical aid.

  • The other primary witness from the defense was Barry Brodd, an expert on the use of force whose testimony contradicted that of several witnesses called by the prosecution, including the chief of the Minneapolis Police Department. Mr. Brodd testified that the officers who arrested Mr. Floyd had acted appropriately every step of the way, and even said that the restraint used by Mr. Chauvin did not constitute a “use of force” at all.

    During cross-examination, though, he conceded that the restraint did qualify as a use of force under the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department. He also said that the prone position does not typically hurt suspects and that it was an accepted way to control someone during an arrest. But he faced tough cross-examination on this point, when a prosecutor played body camera footage from the arrest which captured Mr. Floyd saying, “Everything hurts,” and crying out in pain. Mr. Brodd said that he had heard these exclamations during his review of the tapes, but that he didn’t “note it.”

  • While the two expert witnesses gave testimony that supported Mr. Chauvin, it is unclear what impact they will have on jurors. Cross-examination from prosecutors was effective in that it drew some concessions from both witnesses on the stand. And the defense was less thorough than the prosecution. The prosecution called several medical specialists to the stand, including a cardiologist and a pulmonologist, and allowed its experts to walk through the arrest moment by moment, identifying key points and breaking down the video tapes in meticulous detail. The defense witnesses spoke more broadly, and appeared less knowledgeable about the particulars of the arrest.

The local CBS station in Minneapolis covering the trial of the former police officer Derek Chauvin. 
Credit…Still image, via WCCO

Viewers tuning into the Minneapolis NBC affiliate expecting to see Hoda Kotb or Jenna Bush Hager on the “Today” show are instead seeing the inside of a courtroom and hearing experts discuss police use of force.

For three weeks, KARE, the affiliate, has packed its daytime schedule, usually full of morning shows and soap operas, with legal experts giving analysis of the trial of the former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin. It’s the same on the local Fox station: gavel-to-gavel coverage starting at about 8:30 a.m. every morning until the judge sends the jury home. That’s usually followed by a panel discussing takeaways from the day’s testimony. CBS and ABC affiliates are interrupting programming for key developments.

It’s less Nancy Grace of Court TV fame and more a sober examination of legal concepts, medical theories and testimony. On Thursday, Mary Moriarty, the former chief public defender in Hennepin County, explained the morning’s events, including why Mr. Chauvin had invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not testify and why the prosecution submitted new evidence about a medical report it just found.

The defense rested on Thursday, and the jury is expected to start deliberating on Monday. And while Minneapolis residents are closely watching coverage of the trial, there is one group that isn’t allowed to. Every night, Judge Peter A. Cahill thanks the 12 jurors for their service and leaves them with a thought about the TV coverage.

“Have a good night,” he says. “And don’t watch the news.”




How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody

The Times has reconstructed the death of George Floyd on May 25. Security footage, witness videos and official documents show how a series of actions by officers turned fatal. (This video contains scenes of graphic violence.)

It’s a Monday evening in Minneapolis. Police respond to a call about a man who allegedly used a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Seventeen minutes later, the man they are there to investigate lies motionless on the ground, and is pronounced dead shortly after. The man was 46-year-old George Floyd, a bouncer originally from Houston who had lost his job at a restaurant when the coronavirus pandemic hit. Crowd: “No justice, no peace.” Floyd’s death triggered major protests in Minneapolis, and sparked rage across the country. One of the officers involved, Derek Chauvin, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The other three officers have been charged with aiding and abetting murder. The Times analyzed bystander videos, security camera footage and police scanner audio, spoke to witnesses and experts, and reviewed documents released by the authorities to build as comprehensive a picture as possible and better understand how George Floyd died in police custody. The events of May 25 begin here. Floyd is sitting in the driver’s seat of this blue S.U.V. Across the street is a convenience store called Cup Foods. Footage from this restaurant security camera helps us understand what happens next. Note that the timestamp on the camera is 24 minutes fast. At 7:57 p.m., two employees from Cup Foods confront Floyd and his companions about an alleged counterfeit bill he just used in their store to buy cigarettes. They demand the cigarettes back but walk away empty-handed. Four minutes later, they call the police. According to the 911 transcript, an employee says that Floyd used fake bills to buy cigarettes, and that he is “awfully drunk” and “not in control of himself.” Soon, the first police vehicle arrives on the scene. Officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng step out of the car and approach the blue S.U.V. Seconds later, Lane pulls his gun. We don’t know exactly why. He orders Floyd to put his hands on the wheel. Lane reholsters the gun, and after about 90 seconds of back and forth, yanks Floyd out of the S.U.V. A man is filming the confrontation from a car parked behind them. The officers cuff Floyd’s hands behind his back. And Kueng walks him to the restaurant wall. “All right, what’s your name?” From the 911 transcript and the footage, we now know three important facts: First, that the police believed they were responding to a man who was drunk and out of control. But second, even though the police were expecting this situation, we can see that Floyd has not acted violently. And third, that he seems to already be in distress. Six minutes into the arrest, the two officers move Floyd back to their vehicle. As the officers approach their car, we can see Floyd fall to the ground. According to the criminal complaints filed against the officers, Floyd says he is claustrophobic and refuses to enter the police car. During the struggle, Floyd appears to turn his head to address the officers multiple times. According to the complaints, he tells them he can’t breathe. Nine minutes into the arrest, the third and final police car arrives on the scene. It’s carrying officers Tou Thao and Derek Chauvin. Both have previous records of complaints brought against them. Thao was once sued for throwing a man to the ground and hitting him. Chauvin has been involved in three police shootings, one of them fatal. Chauvin becomes involved in the struggle to get Floyd into the car. Security camera footage from Cup Foods shows Kueng struggling with Floyd in the backseat while Thao watches. Chauvin pulls him through the back seat and onto the street. We don’t know why. Floyd is now lying on the pavement, face down. That’s when two witnesses begin filming, almost simultaneously. The footage from the first witness shows us that all four officers are now gathered around Floyd. It’s the first moment when we can clearly see that Floyd is face down on the ground, with three officers applying pressure to his neck, torso and legs. At 8:20 p.m., we hear Floyd’s voice for the first time. The video stops when Lane appears to tell the person filming to walk away. “Get off to the sidewalk, please. One side or the other, please.” The officers radio a Code 2, a call for non-emergency medical assistance, reporting an injury to Floyd’s mouth. In the background, we can hear Floyd struggling. The call is quickly upgraded to a Code 3, a call for emergency medical assistance. By now another bystander, 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, is filming from a different angle. Her footage shows that despite calls for medical help, Chauvin keeps Floyd pinned down for another seven minutes. We can’t see whether Kueng and Lane are still applying pressure. Floyd: [gasping] Officer: “What do you want?” Bystander: “I’ve been —” Floyd: [gasping] In the two videos, Floyd can be heard telling officers that he can’t breathe at least 16 times in less than five minutes. Bystander: “You having fun?” But Chauvin never takes his knee off of Floyd, even as his eyes close and he appears to go unconscious. Bystander: “Bro.” According to medical and policing experts, these four police officers are committing a series of actions that violate policies, and in this case, turn fatal. They’ve kept Floyd lying face down, applying pressure for at least five minutes. This combined action is likely compressing his chest and making it impossible to breathe. Chauvin is pushing his knee into Floyd’s neck, a move banned by most police departments. Minneapolis Police Department policy states an officer can only do this if someone is, quote, “actively resisting.” And even though the officers call for medical assistance, they take no action to treat Floyd on their own while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Officer: “Get back on the sidewalk.” According to the complaints against the officers, Lane asks him twice if they should roll Floyd onto his side. Chauvin says no. Twenty minutes into the arrest, an ambulance arrives on the scene. Bystander: “Get off of his neck!” Bystander: “He’s still on him?” The E.M.T.s check Floyd’s pulse. Bystander: “Are you serious?” Chauvin keeps his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost another whole minute, even though Floyd appears completely unresponsive. He only gets off once the E.M.T.s tell him to. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes, according to our review of the video evidence. Floyd is loaded into the ambulance. The ambulance leaves the scene, possibly because a crowd is forming. But the E.M.T.s call for additional medical help from the fire department. But when the engine arrives, the officers give them, quote, “no clear info on Floyd or his whereabouts,” according to a fire department incident report. This delays their ability to help the paramedics. Meanwhile, Floyd is going into cardiac arrest. It takes the engine five minutes to reach Floyd in the ambulance. He’s pronounced dead at a nearby hospital around 9:25 p.m. Preliminary autopsies conducted by the state and Floyd’s family both ruled his death a homicide. The widely circulated arrest videos don’t paint the entire picture of what happened to George Floyd. Crowd: “Floyd! Floyd!” Additional video and audio from the body cameras of the key officers would reveal more about why the struggle began and how it escalated. The city quickly fired all four officers. And Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder. Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting murder. But outrage over George Floyd’s death has only spread further and further across the United States.

Video player loading
The Times has reconstructed the death of George Floyd on May 25. Security footage, witness videos and official documents show how a series of actions by officers turned fatal. (This video contains scenes of graphic violence.)

On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, after a convenience store employee called 911 to report that Mr. Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Mr. Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life.

By combining videos from bystanders and security cameras, reviewing official documents and consulting experts, The New York Times reconstructed in detail the minutes leading to Mr. Floyd’s death. Our video shows officers taking a series of actions that violated the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department and turned fatal, leaving Mr. Floyd unable to breathe, even as he and onlookers called out for help.

Source link