The jury of 12 people — six White, four Black and two multiracial — watched as both sides on Monday played back the viral footage of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd for more than nine minutes until the 46-year-old went limp.
Schleicher summed up weeks of damaging testimony from witnesses, medical experts and police officers by arguing to the jury that Chauvin “had to know” that he was killing Floyd when the officer had his knee on his back as the man was handcuffed, face down on the street, crying out for breath and for his dead mother. Schleicher on Monday pointed to Chauvin’s ego and refusal to take his knee off Floyd when onlookers yelled at him to do so as to why Floyd had died.
“Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw,” Schleicher said. He added, “The defendant, he chose pride over policing.”
For the defense, Nelson asked the jury to consider the “totality of the circumstances,” including what happened before Chauvin arrived at Cup Foods. Throughout the trial, Nelson argued that Floyd died of a combination of drugs in his system and preexisting health issues, not his client’s knee. The defense attorney spent most of his closing arguments defending Chauvin’s use of force and behavior, saying Chauvin had behaved as any “reasonable officer” would.
“The nine minutes and 29 seconds ignores the previous 16 minutes and 59 seconds,” Nelson argued.
As Minneapolis braces for potential unrest — buildings have been boarded up and National Guard members are fanning out around the city — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) and local officials sought to show solidarity with community activists and emphasize that they intend to prioritize de-escalation in the coming days.
“Our goal is de-escalation and nonconfrontation at all chances,” Walz told reporters.
On Tuesday, President Biden said he was praying for the “right verdict” in the trial.
“It is overwhelming in my view,” the president said.
Here are the three charges brought against Chauvin
Twelve jurors will decide whether Chauvin will be found guilty on any of the three charges he faces in the killing of Floyd.
The charges are second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Second-degree unintentional murder is the most serious charge brought against the former Minneapolis police officer. For a conviction, jurors must conclude that prosecutors showed beyond a reasonable doubt that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death while kneeling on him for more than nine minutes last May.
Since Chauvin has no previous criminal record, the second-degree unintentional murder charge carries a presumptive prison sentence of 12.5 years, according to Minnesota sentencing guidelines. If he had a criminal past, Chauvin would have been looking at a maximum sentence of 40 years.
For the third-degree murder charge, the state attempted to prove that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death “by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.” Cahill initially dismissed the charge, but the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the judge was wrong to do so. He reinstated the charge last month.
Like the other murder charge, third-degree murder in Minnesota carries a presumptive prison sentence of 12.5 years. Because Chauvin does not have a criminal record, he would avoid a maximum sentence of 25 years, according to the sentencing guidelines.
For second-degree manslaughter, prosecutors had to prove Chauvin was “culpably negligent” and took an “unreasonable risk” with Floyd’s life. The state did not have to prove for this charge that Chauvin’s actions intended to kill Floyd.
The charge carries a presumptive prison sentence of four years, according to the state, compared to 10 years if Chauvin had a criminal record.
How long will it take to come to a verdict?
It remains unclear how long the jury will take to come to its verdict in Chauvin’s trial. As of midday Tuesday, the jury had already deliberated for several hours over two days.
Ahead of the deliberations last week, Cahill instructed the jurors to pack enough clothes for what has the potential to be a long process.
“If I were you, I would plan for long and hope for short,” Cahill told jurors on Thursday. “Basically, it’s up to the jury how long you deliberate, how long you need to come to a unanimous decision on any count. And so because that’s entirely up to you — whether it’s an hour or a week — it’s entirely within your province.”
During deliberations, the jury will remain sequestered in a hotel until reaching a verdict. The jury is expected to deliberate from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
The judge could declare a mistrial if the jury ends up being hung, meaning it cannot reach a decision on at least one of the charges.
While it’s uncertain how long deliberations will take, past high-profile cases offer suggestions as to when a verdict might be expected.
The jury in the O.J. Simpson murder trial took less than four hours to deliberate before returning a verdict of not guilty in 1995. A jury needed about eight hours in 2018 to find former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Black teenager Laquan McDonald.
In Minneapolis, a jury took close to 11 hours in 2019 to convict former police officer Mohamed Noor of third-degree murder in the death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond. Noor is the only police officer ever to be convicted of murder for an on-duty incident in Minnesota — and Chauvin would be the second.
Prosecution’s strategy focused on days of damaging testimony, hoping to leave no doubt about what killed Floyd
The 12 jurors are weighing a case by the prosecution that featured weeks of powerful testimony from eyewitnesses, police officers and medical experts.
Throughout the trial, the prosecutors called to the stand witnesses who they hoped would confirm their main argument: Floyd died because the White police officer’s knee was on him more than nine minutes.
“Believe your eyes,” Schleicher reiterated to the jurors Monday as they re-watched the viral footage of the 46-year-old’s death.
The prosecution’s case began last month with testimony from eyewitnesses who were outside Cup Foods on May 25. Some who took the stand were children scarred by the experience. As witnesses recounted the scene and their interactions with police that day, some were emotional in saying they wish they could have done more to help save Floyd’s life.
The state then turned its attention to current and former Minneapolis police officers and paramedics who had either responded to the scene or had specialized training that was taught to Chauvin. Law enforcement officers and medical staff emphasized to the court that what they saw either in person or on the videos went against training at the Minneapolis Police Department.
The prosecution concluded its arguments with medical experts, including the coroner who performed the autopsy on Floyd. The testimony from outside experts sought to undercut the defense’s argument that Floyd died of a combination of factors, namely his history of drug use and preexisting health conditions to his heart, instead of the pressure from Chauvin’s knee.
Chauvin’s defense strategy leaned on Floyd’s drug use and preexisting conditions
Nelson focused his defense strategy around doubt, on any and every level possible.
If any juror harbors a reasonable doubt about Chauvin’s guilt, they must not convict him, Nelson reminded the jury throughout the trial — and reasonable doubt can be found anywhere, he suggested.
Was it oxygen deprivation, as prosecutors alleged, that killed Floyd, or could it have been Floyd’s defective heart? Could the drugs in his system have played a role? Wouldn’t it be common sense to consider those possibilities, Nelson argued — or at least to doubt the “preposterous” notion that they played no role whatsoever?
Did Chauvin ignore his police training, as prosecutors alleged — or did he do exactly what he was trained to do, taking into consideration the stressful circumstances of Floyd’s arrest, and everything Chauvin saw and believed: a large man, who appeared to be under the influence of drugs, who didn’t want to get into a squad car, and with whom his junior colleagues appeared to be struggling.
To convict Chauvin of murder or assault, he would also need to have demonstrated intent, Nelson reminded them. But the Chauvin team argued: Is it really plausible that the officer intended to kill or seriously harm Floyd, knowing full well that his actions were being videotaped — not just by his own body-worn camera, but by those of the other officers, by nearby surveillance cameras, and by the cellphones of bystanders?
“You have to take into account that officers are human beings, capable of making mistakes in highly stressful situations,” he told the jurors in his closing argument.
A single juror out of line with the others’ decision would be enough to lead the judge to declare a mistrial.