Live Updates: "This wasn't policing, this was murder," prosecutor tells Chauvin jurors

  15m ago

Prosecutor: Floyd died because "Chauvin's heart was too small"

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell called the notion "there's two sides to every story" a "dangerous" idea, because it implies "everything is reduced to a story." 

Blackwell said using the police badge to mistreat the public is "wrong — that's not a story. The only two sides to that would be the 'W' and the 'G.'"

He highlighted the plight of the bystanders who were torn between their respect for the badge and their sense of desperation to help George Floyd as he struggled. He said the bystanders could have removed Chauvin, but none of them did, "because they respected this badge even though it tore them up inside."

He said the crowd instead "called the police on the police," and "picked up their phones so it could not be forgotten and could not be misrepresented." He said jurors felt the bystanders' pain and sense of helplessness as they testified. Blackwell said the group didn't deserve to be characterized as unruly, because they were distraught over watching a defenseless man die in front of them.

He showed a picture of a 9-year-old girl, the youngest bystander witness who testified that she felt Chauvin was hurting Floyd with his actions.

"Even a 9-year-old little girl knows it — get off him," Blackwell said. "That's all you need to know in that case."

Blackwell said the defense contended that Floyd died because his heart was too big. But Blackwell said, "the reason George Floyd is dead was because Mr. Chauvin's heart was too small."

  35m ago

Prosecutor: State must prove Chauvin's actions a "substantial factor" in Floyd's death

Blackwell reminded jurors that in more than half of cases when someone has died of asphyxia or low oxygen, there is no evidence uncovered in the autopsy to suggest the  cause of death.

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell delivers the rebuttal in closing arguments of Derek Chauvin's trial for the death of George Floyd, April 19, 2021. Court TV/pool via WCCO

He argued that defense attorney Eric Nelson gave an inaccurate version of the law when he said prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that no other contributing factors played a role in Floyd's death. Rather, Blackwell said prosecutors must show Chauvin's actions were a substantial factor in the cause of death. Other contributing factors, if they exist, don't relieve the defendant of criminal liability, Blackwell said.

Blackwell said Nelson's suggestion that Floyd "happened to die" while he was being restrained by Chauvin "defies common sense."

He showed an illustration demonstrating how many days Floyd had lived in his life — more than 17,000 — without dying from the contributing factors Nelson suggested. The day of his death, May 25, 2020, Floyd was subjected to deadly force by Chauvin, Blackwell said.

  46m ago

In rebuttal, prosecutors urge jurors to use "common sense"

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell is giving a rebuttal statement for prosecutors. He called on jurors to use their common sense. He said Floyd's death is a homicide and jurors should "believe your eyes."

  56m ago

Defense: "Nonsense" that drugs, heart disease didn't contribute to Floyd's death

Defense attorney Eric Nelson pointed to the testimony of a forensic pathologist who reviewed Floyd's case for the defense and found Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia due to his heart disease while he was being restrained. Other contributing factors, the defense expert found, were drugs, a paraganglioma tumor, and possible carbon monoxide poisoning from the squad car's exhaust. Nelson admitted "we don't know" how much of a role carbon monoxide played, but said video shows the car was running.

"Did Mr. Floyd die exclusively of asphyxia, or are there other contributing factors that were not the natural result of Mr. Chauvin's actions?" Nelson asked.

He said Floyd's heart disease and drug use "existed before Mr. Chauvin arrived."

"I would submit to you it is nonsense to suggest none of these other factors had any role — that is not reasonable," Nelson said. He argued the state has not met its burden of proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Nelson has completed his closing argument.


Defense resumes closing argument

Defense attorney Eric Nelson has resumed his closing argument following a lunch break.


Defense focuses on Floyd's drug use, cause of death

Defense attorney Eric Nelson said the state called a series of experts to testify positional asphyxia was the sole cause of Floyd's death, because they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that other factors — like Floyd's drug use and heart disease — did not play a role. But to suggest there are no other contributing factors "flies in the face of reason and common sense," Nelson said.

He said the forensic pathologist who performed Floyd's autopsy found no evidence that Floyd's throat, neck or back was injured from the police restraint, and found drugs and heart disease to be contributing factors.

Nelson also pointed to the testimony of another forensic pathologist who said there were so many factors in Floyd's death that he considered the manner to be undetermined.  

Nelson said he wasn't contending that Floyd's death was a drug overdose, but rather a "multi-factorial" process. He highlighted Floyd's addiction to opioids, and pointed to testimony that showed Floyd previously took opioids during an arrest, resulting in "skyrocketing high" blood pressure. Nelson said a store clerk said Floyd "seemed high" just before his fatal arrest, and a friend who was in the car with him testified he fell asleep suddenly. Nelson said drugs found in Floyd's car were found to be fentanyl and methamphetamine — the same drugs found in Floyd's system.

He showed the jurors pictures of two pills found in the console of the car Floyd was driving. And he pointed to the two other pills found in the squad car with Floyd's DNA.

He pointed to Minneapolis police training, showing the deadly risks of fentanyl. And he reminded jurors that methamphetamine causes blood vessels to constrict, even though many of the prosecution's experts said the methamphetamine level was too low to have factored into his death.

"It's a preposterous notion that this did not come into play here," Nelson said.

Nelson was still continuing his lengthy argument when the judge called a 30-minute break for lunch.

George Floyd Officer Trial
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin listens as his defense attorney Eric Nelson gives closing arguments on Monday, April 19, 2021, Court TV via AP, Pool

Defense: Chauvin did not intend to use unlawful force

Defense attorney Eric Nelson pointed to the testimony of a Minneapolis police trainer who said there are certain circumstances when officers are taught to use their bodyweight to control a person who is resisting until the scene is safe. 

Nelson suggested that Chauvin didn't knowingly apply an unlawful use of force against Floyd because he knew he was being recorded by body cameras, city surveillance video and bystander cellphone video. He said Chauvin was "trained this way," demonstrating a lack of intent, and that Chauvin believed Floyd could breathe because he was talking.

"There is absolutely no evidence Officer Chauvin intentionally, purposefully, applied unlawful force," Nelson said.

Nelson called the case "tragic," but said it was an example of  "officers doing their job in a highly stressful situation."


Defense: Bystanders "changed Officer Chauvin's perception"

Nelson said a reasonable police officer might assume that Floyd could breathe because he was talking, pointing to testimony showing that is a common misconception among police officers, even though talking does not show someone is breathing effectively. He also pointed to a moment in the body camera video during which Floyd extends his leg. A pulmonologist testified Floyd was experiencing a seizure because of oxygen deprivation, but Nelson said officers might not have known that and could have perceived it as resistance.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson gives closing arguments in the trial of Derek Chauvin, April 19, 2021. Court TV/pool via WCCO

Nelson pointed out differences in "perspective and perception." He said the teen who filmed the widely-viewed cellphone video of Floyd's fatal arrest did not know two other officers were also restraining Floyd, because of the position of the squad car. He also pointed to the testimony of a firefighter who believed she saw urine coming from Floyd's body, which was instead fluid from the squad car. And he said a bystander trained in martial arts believed Chauvin was using a "blood choke" on Floyd, but Nelson said Floyd was not restricting Floyd's carotid arteries and was therefore not using a neck restraint.

Nelson again highlighted the bystanders as a potential threat, and pointed to recent training instructing Minneapolis officers to "never underestimate a crowd's potential." Nelson showed video of a "critical moment" when Floyd was taking his last breath. He said Chauvin was shaking his mace at the crowd, threatening force, and was startled by an off-duty firefighter who walked up behind him. Those events "changed Officer Chauvin's perception of what was happening," Nelson said.

Nelson also pointed to testimony from the Minneapolis police medical coordinator who said it was "incredibly difficult" to provide treatment to a patient amid a loud crowd. And he said responding paramedics moved Floyd in the ambulance to another location to treat him because of the crowd.


Defense highlights squad car struggle

Nelson noted that the Minneapolis police department taught officers defensive tactic techniques that included restraining someone on the ground as a way to control them, citing the testimony of a police trainer. 

Nelson argued that a reasonable police officer should take into account the 17 minutes before Floyd was brought to the ground, during which he struggled with officers. He said three officers were unable to get Floyd in the squad car even though he was handcuffed, showing surveillance video of the car rocking back and forth. He played body camera video of the struggle, pointing out that Floyd kicked at another officer, Thomas Lane, and nearly knocked him over.

"All of that comes into play. Why? Because human behavior is unpredictable, and nobody knows it better than a police officer," Nelson said. "Someone can be compliant one second and fighting the next. Someone can be fighting one second and compliant the next."


Defense urges jurors to look at "totality of the circumstances"

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.

Nelson said the prosecution has sought to focus the case on nine minutes and 29 seconds, but he urged jurors to put those minutes "into the context of the totality of the circumstances" surrounding what a reasonable officer would have known.

A reasonable officer would have known a business is requesting help, the suspect is still on the scene, is large in stature and may be under the influence, Nelson said. He cited the testimony of a dispatcher who told Chauvin to respond to the scene as a "Code 3," meaning respond quickly with lights and sirens. The dispatcher said she heard "the sounds of a struggle." All of that information would factor into the reasonableness of a use of force, Nelson argued.

When Chauvin responded to the scene, he saw officers struggling with Floyd attempting to put him in the squad car, Nelson said. Nelson played a brief portion of Chauvin's body camera video to demonstrate his perspective before the restraint.

"What he sees at a minimum is active resistance," Nelson said. 

Per his training, Nelson said, Chauvin had use-of-force options available to him at that point, including conscious neck restraints. A reasonable officer would take into consideration that the two officers on scene were rookies, and that foam around Floyd's mouth might indicate he is under the influence, Nelson said. The reasonable officer would also assess Floyd's size in relation to his own, Nelson said. The reasonable officer would need to determine whether Floyd's resistance was intentional, or whether he was experiencing a crisis, Nelson said. 

Using those assessments, a reasonable officer would determine that the force being used by the other two officers was insufficient to gain Floyd's compliance, Nelson said.

"The futility of their efforts became apparent — they weren't able to get him into the car," Nelson said. "Three Minneapolis police officers were unable to get Mr. Floyd into the car."


Defense: State has not met burden of proof

Defense attorney Eric Nelson reminded the jurors that Chauvin is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and that prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt is a high standard, Nelson said, and must eliminate all doubt except for "capricious, fanciful" doubt. 

"Space aliens flew in and inhabited the body of Derek Chauvin and caused this death. That's fanciful," Nelson said.

Nelson suggested to jurors that the state has not met its high burden of eliminating reasonable doubt. He pointed to the testimony of a paramedic who inserted an airway breathing device for Floyd after the restraint. Nelson suggested that could account for why Floyd had 98% oxygen saturation in his blood, a measure that prosecutors have used to discount the defense suggestion that Floyd may have died of carbon monoxide poisoning from the squad car's exhaust. 

Prosecutors must prove that Chauvin caused Floyd's death as one of the elements of proving their case.


Defense begins closing argument

Defense attorney Eric Nelson has begun his closing statement by thanking jurors for their service.


Prosecutor: "This wasn't policing, this was murder"

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher said the bystanders at the scene of Floyd's death were strangers to him, "randomly chosen by fate" to witness "a shocking abuse of authority — to witness a man die." The bystanders were powerless to help as the police restraint continued, Schleicher said, but they were able to "gather those precious recordings" and testify about what they saw.

Schleicher again urged jurors to focus on the video. 

"This case is exactly what you thought when you first saw it — when you first saw the video," he said. "It's exactly that. 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."

Schleicher urged jurors to find Chauvin guilty on all three counts. Court is now in a break, after which Chauvin's defense is expected to give its closing argument.


Prosecutor: "Impossible" to justify Chauvin's actions

Schleicher said jurors must determine whether Chauvin's use of force was legally justified as a police officer. Evidence has shown "over and over" that Chauvin did not act as a reasonable officer would in the same situation, Schleicher said, citing the legal standard jurors must use to determine whether the force was lawful.

Schleicher played video showing Chauvin speaking to a bystander. In the video, Chauvin said Floyd was a large man and "it looks like he's probably on something." But Schleicher asked jurors to consider the difference between a threat and a risk.

"The act of being large — it's not a crime, it's not a threat, it's merely a risk," Schleicher said. "Being on something — it's not a threat. It may be a risk, but it's not a threat, and force is not authorized against someone just because they're on something."

He said Chauvin's explanation is "not good enough." Floyd was never a threat, Schleicher said.

"A reasonable officer follows the rules. A reasonable officer follows the training," Schleicher said.

Schleicher pointed to the testimony of police chief Medaria Arradondo, who said Chauvin violated the department's policy and values, and the testimony of a high ranking Minneapolis police lieutenant who said the force was "totally unnecessary." 

Schleicher said it's "impossible" to justify Chauvin's use of force. Schleicher said Chauvin continued the restraint even after Floyd was unresponsive.

"The greatest skeptic of this case among you — how can you justify the continued force on this man when he has no pulse? No pulse," Schleicher said.


Prosecutor: Chauvin showed "indifference" to Floyd's pleas

Schleicher discounted the suggestion that a paraganglioma, a tumor in Floyd's pelvis, or carbon monoxide poisoning that may have come from a nearby police car, caused his death.

 "That's just a story, and it's simply wrong," he said.

Schleicher pointed to a pulmonologist's testimony indicating that Floyd's oxygen saturation levels indicated he had no more than 2% carbon monoxide in his system.

He pointed to "multiple moments in time things could have gone different," saying the officers could have placed Floyd on his side or began CPR. Schleicher cited the testimony of a forensic pathologist who testified for the defense, who agreed officers should have started chest compressions on Floyd when they could not find a pulse.

Schleicher noted that prosecutors need to prove that Chauvin applied force to Floyd on purpose, but don't have to show he intended to cause Floyd's death.

"Someone telling you they can't breathe, and you keep doing it, you're doing it on purpose," Schleicher said.

Schleicher said Chauvin should have known that the restraint could cause death, because the dangers of breathing complications of prone restraint have been documented for decades. He said Chauvin also chose to ignore the pleas of bystanders urging Chauvin to ease up.

"It was plain and apparent to everyone who was there what was happening," Schleicher said. "He's going unresponsive. He's passed out. He's not talking. What are you doing?"

He said Chauvin showed "indifference" to Floyd's struggle, playing video that showed Chauvin saying "uh huh" to his pleas for help.

"This isn't protection -- this isn't courage," Schleicher said. "And it certainly is not and was not compassion. It was the opposite of that."


Prosecutor dismisses defense's explanations for Floyd's death

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher dismissed a defense expert's suggestion that Chauvin's restraint of Floyd was not a use of force because it did not cause pain.

"You're not required to believe something that just flies in the face of common sense. You don't have to accept someone who says that. You'd be better off asking the 9-year-old," Schleicher said, referring to a child bystander who testified.

Schleicher also scoffed at the notion that "the car killed George Floyd," referring to the defense suggestion that carbon monoxide from the exhaust may have played a role, or that the bystanders distracted the officers. He said jurors are "not required to believe the amazing coincidence" that after a restraint of more than nine minutes, Floyd died of heart disease.

"Believe your eyes," Schleicher said. "Unreasonable force, pinning him to the ground — that's what killed him. This was a homicide."


Prosecutor: "Believe your eyes"

Schleicher pointed to the events before the fatal arrest, saying Floyd complied with officers, spelling his name. When officers tried to place him inside the squad car, the back of the cruiser must have looked like "a little cage" to him, Schleicher said. Schleicher played a portion of bodycam video showing the struggle as officers tried to force him inside. Floyd, he said, tried to explain he had claustrophobia.

Officers are trained to recognize the signs of someone who can't comply with commands not because they are resisting, but because they are in crisis. But the officers "wouldn't listen to him" or recognize the signs of what they had prepared for, Schleicher said.

"You saw the look on George Floyd's face when he glanced over into that car — looked like he'd seen a monster," Schleicher said.

When officers pulled Floyd out of the car, he said, "Thank you." Schleicher said Floyd wasn't trying to escape, was handcuffed, was on his knees and posed no risk. But officers pushed him to the ground anyway.

"For what? He's handcuffed," Schleicher said.

Initially, Floyd was on his side, a position that allowed him to breathe. But the officers then forced him into a prone restraint, known to pose a danger of breathing complications, and pinned him to the ground.

"Proning him was completely unnecessary, and this is where the excessive force begins," Schleicher said.

Schleicher dismissed the defense's suggestion that drugs, an enlarged heart and possible carbon monoxide poisoning led to Floyd's death. He urged jurors to "use your common sense."

"Believe your eyes — what you saw, you saw," Schleicher said.


Chauvin "chose pride over policing," prosecutor says

Schleicher noted that the case was not a prosecution against the police, calling policing a "noble profession."

"This case is called State of Minnesota vs. Derek Chauvin — this case is not called the State of Minnesota vs. the police," Schleicher said.

Schleicher said police officers are required to follow policy and hundreds and hours of training. During the trial, Minneapolis police trainers took the stand and told jurors, "we don't train this," Schleicher said. He reminded jurors that Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo took the stand and condemned Chauvin's actions.

Schleicher asked jurors to "set aside the notion" that it's impossible for a police officer to do something like this. Schleicher said Chauvin is not on trial for who he is, but for what he did. He said Chauvin "betrayed the badge," abandoned his training and "killed a man" in front of shocked bystanders.

"What the defendant did was not policing, what the defendant did was an assault," Schleicher said.

Chauvin "did what he did on purpose — and it killed George Floyd," Schleicher said.

Schleicher pointed to Chauvin's body language, saying Chauvin's ego and pride was evident as he stared down the bystanders filming him.

"He was not going to be told what to do — he was not going to let these bystanders tell him what to do," Schleicher said.

Chauvin used the authority of the badge, rendering the bystanders powerless, Schleicher said..

"The defendant, he chose pride over policing," Schleicher said.


Prosecutor: "All that was required was some compassion"

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher began by describing the harrowing final moments of Floyd's life. 

"Nine minutes and 29 seconds — during this time, George Floyd struggled, desperate to breathe," Schleicher said.

Floyd "pushed with his face — with his face — to lift himself to give his chest, his lungs room to breathe," Schleicher said.

Floyd, he said, was not a "superhuman" that day, but "a grown man crying out for his mother. A human being."

Schleicher said Floyd pleaded with Chauvin, whom he called "Mr. Officer," that he couldn't breathe.

"And he said those words to 'Mr. Officer' — he said those words to the defendant," Schleicher said. "He asked for help with his very last breath."

Schleicher said the motto of the Minneapolis police department is "To Protect with Courage,  To Serve with Compassion." He said compassion, rather than courage, was required that day, but Chauvin showed no compassion.

"All that was required was some compassion — humans need that, people need that," Schleicher said.

Schleicher said Chauvin continued the assault after the time Floyd no longer had a pulse, and "would not get up, would not let up" even when paramedics arrived.

"He was not responsive and the defendant had to know what was beneath him," Schleicher said.


Closing arguments begin

Prosecutors have begun closing statements by talking about Floyd's relationship with his mother.


Judge instructs jurors on the law

Judge Peter Cahill instructed jurors to base their deliberations solely on the evidence presented in court. Chauvin, he said, is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and noted the burden of proving guilt rests with prosecutors.

Cahill described the elements of the charges Chauvin faces: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Under the second-degree murder charge, Cahill said jurors must believe Chauvin caused Floyd's death while committing an assault on Floyd that resulted in great bodily harm. Prosecutors do not need to show Chauvin intended to cause death or great bodily harm to Floyd, Cahill said.

Cahill said police officers are justified in using reasonable force in the line of duty while making an arrest or attempting to apprehend a fleeing suspect, but the degree of force is limited by what a reasonable police officer would believe to be necessary in the same situation. Prosecutors have the burden of proving the force Chauvin used was unreasonable, Cahill said.

Cahill told jurors that they should not draw any inference from the fact that Chauvin did not testify. 


Court resumes session

Court has resumed session. The judge is reading instructions to the jury before closing arguments begin.


Tensions high as verdict looms

Minnesota National Guard troops have been stationed throughout Minneapolis and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has called in the Ohio State Highway Patrol to assist local officials with their security plan, Operation Safety Net. Walz is calling for calm with tensions high ahead of a looming verdict. Jamie Yuccas reports.


What to expect in closing arguments

CBS News legal contributor and civil rights attorney Alexis Hoag discusses what to expect from the prosecution and defense during closing arguments Monday.


The charges

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

In order to convict Chauvin of second-degree murder, prosecutors will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Chauvin caused Floyd's death while committing or attempting to commit a related felony, in this case third-degree assault. To convict the former officer of third-degree murder, prosecutors must convince the jury that Chauvin caused Floyd's death during an act that was "eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life." 

The third-degree charge was initially dropped by Judge Cahill, but was reinstated last month after an appeals court handed a win to prosecutors.

To convict Chauvin of second-degree manslaughter, prosecutors will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Chauvin caused Floyd's death by "culpable negligence," meaning he created unreasonable risk and consciously took a chance of causing death or serious harm.

Prosecutors do not need to prove that Chauvin intended to cause Floyd's death. Since police officers are authorized to use force, prosecutors must prove that the force Chauvin used against Floyd was unlawful.

In Minnesota, second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. Third-degree murder is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Second-degree manslaughter is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

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