After 3 weeks and over 40 witnesses called to the stand, the fate of Derek Chauvin now rests with jury, as deliberations are underway in the high-stakes and at times emotional trial for the murder of George Floyd. Two alternate jurors have been dismissed and the 12 remaining jurors “sequestered” in a hotel until they reach unanimous decisions on all charges.
During closing arguments, the Prosecution focused on the “common sense” of the jury when considering the arguments and charges of the trial. “‘Use your common sense. Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw,’ the Associated Press quoted Prosecutor Steven Schleicher as saying. Some members of the jury were reported to have been visibly shaken when first viewing the 9 min 29 sec video.
Schleicher argued that the main cause of death was oxygen deprivation and that particularly Chauvin but other officers also had used “unreasonable” force against Floyd.
He also dismissed several proposed causes of death, and in response to the argument that Floyd was in a state of “excited delirium” and therefore the actions taken by the officers against Floyd were justified said: “there are no super humans.”
The Defense argued that Chauvin acted as any “’reasonable officer’ in the same situation would have done,” which the AP reported was “a point the defense stressed repeatedly.”
Eric Nelson, the defense attorney, argued that Floyd died not of asphyxia from the pressure applied to his neck and back, as he was pressed down against the pavement, but instead of drug abuse and an enlarged heart.
Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell followed the defense’s remarks saying that the facts of the trial were such “common sense” a child could see that Chauvin’s excessive force had caused Floyd’s death. He cited the 9 year-old girl who had said ‘Get off of him,’ witnessing Chauvin with his knee pressed to Floyd, the AP reported.
Chauvin, the defendant and former Minneapolis police officer has pled not guilty to charges of second- and third- degree murder and second- degree manslaughter, and pleaded the 5th when called to testify.
“The charges are to be considered separate, so Chauvin could be convicted of all, some or none of them,” CNN reported. “If convicted, Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder, and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.”
The jury must decide whether each charge has been “proven beyond a reasonable doubt”; therefore, “All three charges require the jury to conclude that Chauvin’s actions were a ‘substantial causal factor’ in Floyd’s death and that his use of force was unreasonable,” the AP said.
Prosecutors Schleicher and Blackwell, and Defense Attorney Nelson, however, were not the only ones to offer their final arguments and thoughts, as U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters’ (D-CA) impassioned weekend remarks calling for protesters to ‘stay on the streets’ and ‘get more confrontational’ if the jury were to acquit Chauvin surged across national news outlets and filled the air inside the courtroom, threatening to derail the entire trial.
Nelson complained he had trouble believing the jury “can really be said to be free from” outside influence given its pervasiveness. He cited the Congresswoman’s statements as cause for the judge to declare a mistrial.
“I’ll give you that the Congresswoman may have given you something out of appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned,” Judge Cahill said in response.
Cahill went on the say: “I wish elected officials would stop talking this case, especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function.”
Ultimately he said the Congresswoman’s remarks were irrelevant, saying they “don’t really matter” in terms of the jury’s review of the facts and arguments put forth in the trial.
Schleicher had explained that the jury by law is instructed to follow Judge Cahill’s rules and that he was confident in their ability to do so. “The law presumes that the jury follows the judge’s instructions and the court has instructed the jury today that they are not to let any outside influences or public opinion sway their deliberation,” Schleicher said. “And the law presumes they would be capable of doing that.”
Just as Schleicher said in his closing remarks that the “the countdown [of 9 min 29 sec] began” when officers pressed Floyd into a “prone position,” now, for George Floyd’s surviving family, for Americans, and for the world, “the countdown” to a verdict has begun.