Wide Reactions To Derek Chauvin Conviction
Public figures around the nation reacted to the verdict announcement that Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
Here are a few of the most notable statements released after the news came on Tuesday afternoon.
Minneapolis Tensely Awaits Derek Chauvin Verdict As Jury Deliberates
A Hennepin County, Minn, jury continued deliberating on Tuesday (April 20) in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after being given the case once closing arguments concluded.
Chauvin, 45, is charged with second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in May 2020. The two-week trial was sent to the jury by Judge Peter Cahill late Monday. If convicted on all charges Chauvin stands to serve as much as nearly 40 years behind bars on aggravated charges. Currently, he remains free on bond.
The 12-person jury is being sequestered as they deliberate and can only contact family members -- under orders not to discuss the case -- until the verdict is read. The group consists of six people who are white, four who are Black, and two who identify as multiracial.
Meanwhile, the community in the Minneapolis area remains on edge, anticipating the verdict. Massive demonstrations last year was largely peaceful, but some of it gave way to looting and vandalism that cost millions of dollars in damage. Although Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz have pledged to support peaceful demonstrations, thousands of Minnesota National Guard troopers and law enforcement officers are standing ready in the event of any violence.
Kenza Hadj-Moussa, public affairs director for activist group TakeAction Minnesota told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that the presence of the military and increased law enforcement makes the tension "1,000 times worse."
"It's just compounding the trauma, especially with what Black Minnesotans are going through right now," Hadj-Moussa said. "A guilty verdict won't bring justice, won't bring a life back," she continued. "But it's what do we do after this? We do have agency, we do have power."
Suburban Brooklyn Center, Minn., saw several days of unrest after the police shooting death of Daunte Wright on April 11. Wright, 20 was killed in a traffic stop by former officer Kim Potter, who officials say mistook her service weapon for a taser, firing and fatally wounding him. She was charged with manslaughter and is free on bond after resigning from the police force.
Closing Statements End in Derek Chauvin Trial, But Rep. Maxine Waters Name Is Brought Into It
The fate of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is now in the hands of jurors, who were given instructions and sent to their quarters by Judge Peter Cahill to deliberate.
The second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter case went to the jury after a rebuttal to the defense closing from special prosecutor Jerry Blackwell.
He refuted the defense contentions that bystanders were unruly and a threat to responding officers, and that the drugs found in George Floyd’s system were directly contributing factors in his death.
Ultimately, Blackwell ended the day’s statement’s with an argument that rejected the defense notion about Floyd’s enlarged heart being a contributing factor in his death.
“You were told, for example, that Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big,” said Blackwell. “The truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small.”
In a hearing after the jury was sent to their quarters, defense attorney Eric Nelson made a motion for a mistrial because of a statement from California Rep. Maxine Waters over the weekend calling for demonstrators to become more confrontational in the event of an acquittal.
"We got to stay on the street. And we've got to get more active, we've got to get more confrontational. We've got to make sure that they know that we mean business," Waters said in Brooklyn Center, Minn., while supporting protesters reacting to the police shooting death of Daunte Wright on April 11.
Cahill denied Nelson’s motion but did say the remarks could give the defense a strong tool to use on appeal. The commentary “may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.”
He also sternly admonished Waters and other public officials who have made comments about the trial.
"I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case especially in a manner that is disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch and our function," Cahill said.
After that, Nelson informed Chauvin of his right to either have the jury decide on sentencing or to have Cahill decide. Chauvin waived that right, allowing the judge to make the sentencing decision.
Chauvin is accused of second degree unintentional murder, and third degree murder, both of which carry 12 ½ years in prison; and manslaughter, which carries four years in prison.
Chauvin’s Defense Takes Nearly Three Hours To Present Its Closing Argument
Defense attorney Eric Nelson focused on two things in his closing argument to the jury in the Derek Chauvin murder trial: whether or not Chauvin’s actions were an authorized use of force, and what caused George Floyd’s death.
“There are things that a police officer is entitled to take into consideration above and beyond the facts,” said Nelson.
Nelson took two hours and 45 minutes presenting the end of his case to the jury before Judge Peter Cahill decided to take a break in proceedings, allowing for lunch.
He continued the narrative that he has contended throughout the trial that Floyd’s death was caused by other factors than Chauvin’s knee on his neck. Those include the amount of fentanyl found in his body during an autopsy, his heart condition, the demeanor and potential hostility of witnesses at the scene, and that Floyd was given medical treatment by emergency workers shortly after an EMS arrived.
“It is not uncommon for suspects to feign or to pretend to have a medical emergency in order to avoid getting arrested. Unfortunately, that is the reality,” Nelson said.“Dr. Tobin described how even medical doctors sometimes have problems assessing the legitimacy of a patient’s needs.”
Nelson was referring to the prosecution testimony of Dr. Martin Tobin, who agreed with other experts that Chauvin’s actions were the primary cause of Floyd’s death.
He also showed multiple pieces of footage from the body cameras of officers at the scene where they could be heard discussing how to continue restraining him.
“It was reasonable for officers to put Mr. Floyd into the squad car … every single expert agrees. Up until this point, nothing is contrary to policy,” Nelson said. “This is the policy, that non-deadly force can be physically used to manage a person.”
Nelson took the argument from prosecutors that Floyd’s ordeal lasted nine minutes and 29 seconds, but the time prior must also be considered in the totality of the view of the incident.
“Nine minutes and 29 seconds complectely ignores the previous 16 minutes and 59 seconds,” he said.
Nelson continued with what a reasonable officer would consider, including a chart describing the standard of decision making. He said that Floyd fell within a lawful area for appropriate restraint within the law and with Minneapolis police policy.
“Part of what a reasonable officer has to do is to consider whether a subject’s lack of compliance is a deliberate attempt to resist or an inability to comply,” said Nelson. “A reasonable police officer understands the intensity of the struggle.”
Ultimately Nelson argued that the State of Minnesota failed to prove Chauvin’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
“A criminal case is kind of like baking chocolate-chip cookies. If you have all of the ingredients, you can make chocolate-chip cookies. But if you’re missing any one single ingredient, you can’t make chocolate-chip cookies,” he said.
“When you as members of the jury conclude your analysis of the evidence, when you review the entirety of the evidence, when you review the law as written and you conclude it all within this, all within a thorough, honest analysis,” Nelson said in his final statement. “The state has failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and therefore Mr. Chauvin should be found not guilty of all counts.”
‘Believe Your Eyes.’ Prosecutor Makes Case To Jury To Convict Derek Chauvin
Special prosecutor Steve Schleicher went back to the opening statements of the Derek Chauvin trial when fellow prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell told jurors to believe their eyes, when looking at the video showing George Floyd’s arrest.
“Believe your eyes, what you saw happen, happened,” Schleicher said, in a nearly 1 hour, 45 minute closing statement, urging jury members to convict Chauvin of second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death. "You're not required to believe...that at that moment he died of heart disease, or a drug overdose. That's nonsense. Believe your eyes."
He went over the events of May 25, 2020 from the time Floyd was approached by police in the vehicle he was driving, saying that he was being compliant with police, never resisted, and attempted to work with the arresting officers despite showing anxiety over being forced into a squad car.
“He is handcuffed. He is on his knees. He is not going anywhere. There are four officers there. Four officers and what did George Floyd say after they pulled him out of the car? ‘Thank you,’ “ said Schleicher.
Focusing on the contention that Floyd’s death could have been caused by circumstances outside of Chauvin’s actions, Schleicher balked at the notion. “Unreasonable force pinning him to the ground. That’s what killed him. This was a homicide.”
He also rejected the argument that drug use was a cause. “This looked nothing like a fatal fentanyl overdose,” Schleicher said. “He did not die of a drug overdose.”
He said that Floyd was proven to have died from asphyxia and lack of oxygen. “You heard him, you saw him. He was not impervious to the pain.”
Schleicher even showed autopsy photos of the scrapes and bruises on Floyd’s face and knuckles to convince the jury that Floyd was struggling to find a way to breathe while Chauvin’s knee was on his neck.
“Make no mistake, these actions were not policing, this was assault,” he said, noting that Chauvin’s actions went beyond police procedure and behaved recklessly without regard for Floyd’s life in his use of force.
“It violated policy. It violated the law. It violated everything that the Minneapolis Police Department stood for,” Schleicher said.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson was set to follow the prosecution’s closing statement with one of his own, and afterward the prosecution has the opportunity for a rebuttal.
Derek Chauvin Murder Trial Enters Closing Argument Phase Before Anticipated Verdict
After 14 days of testimony, hearings and presentation of evidence a jury of 12 people are close to deciding the fate of former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin, accused in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd.
As the world watches the final phases of court proceedings, prosecutors and defense will make their closing arguments beginning Monday morning (April 19) attempting to convince jurors to convict or acquit Chauvin of second and third degree murder and manslaughter.
Each side is expected to take an hour to make their final pitches to the jury -- which actually has 14 members, but the two alternates will be dismissed. The prosecution has maintained all along that the singular act of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck when trying to arrest him was what took his life. It has presented a host of witnesses and experts to make that as clear as they could. The disturbing video of Floyd’s last moments were played multiple times in court in order to prove Chauvin’s guilt.
However, the defense only went through two days of testimony to present its case, bringing in its own set of experts in an attempt to seed doubt in the minds of jurors, arguing that other factors like Floyd’s heart condition and drug use were really what cost him his life.
The jury will vote on each charge individually, and whatever it decides must be unanimous or Judge Peter Cahill could declare it a hung jury.
After the closing arguments, Cahill will send the case to the jury with instructions for deliberations. They will be sequestered while deliberating and that process could take two or more days.
Click here for details from Week 3 of the Derek Chauvin trial.
Photo: Christopher Mark Juhn/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images