John Minchillo / AP
Monday marks the start of an end to the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of killing George Floyd last year by kneeling on his neck for more than 9 minutes. The defense and the prosecution have stopped their cases and both sides will present their closing arguments on Monday.
After three weeks of emotional testimony and expert opinion, along with two fatal police shootings since the trial began, the pressure has risen as the world watches Gemini. Monday will give both sides one last chance to be heard before the jury decides Chauvin’s fate.
Chauvin faces three charges: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree murder.
Before the jurors left for the weekend, Judge Peter Cahill suggested they prepare for a long deliberation.
“If I were you, I would have planned long, and hoped short,” Cahill said. “It’s basically up to the jury how long you’ve been thinking and how long you need to make a unanimous decision on any issue.”
In its case against the former police officer, the prosecution relied on eyewitness statements, video recordings of the arrests, as well as medical experts. Chauvin’s defense attorney Eric Nelson worked to instill reasonable suspicion in the jurors. He claimed that the history of drug use and possible carbon monoxide poisoning from the detachment’s exhaust contributed to Floyd’s death.
“Evidence will show that Mr. Floyd died of a cardiac arrhythmia that occurred as a result of hypertension, his coronary heart disease, ingestion of methamphetamine and fentanyl, and adrenaline flowing through his body – all of which acted to further compromise the compromised heart,” Nelson he said in his introductory speech.
However, prosecutors hired experts who stressed the excessive use of force by police officers. In his testimony, Dr. Andrew Baker – Hennepin County Medical Examiner who ruled Floyd’s death murder – he said he did not believe that the drugs in Floyd’s system directly caused his death.
Baker told the court, “In my opinion, the concealment of the law, restraint, and compression of the neck were just more than Mr. Floyd could bear, thanks to those heart diseases.”
Both sides are likely to repeat and emphasize their side in the closing remarks. But the prosecution is waiting for a difficult path. It’s the police rarely convicted of murder after the on-duty shooting, let alone while detaining the suspect.
A a study conducted by Bowling Green State University revealed that between 2015 and 2019, a total of 104 non-aligned sworn police officers were arrested for murder or manslaughter as a result of on-duty shooting in which a police officer fatally shot someone. Only four were convicted of murder. Eighteen were convicted of manslaughter, while others were charged with minor charges, including official violations of the law and federal criminal deprivation of civil rights.
Jim mone / ap
Floyd’s death last May followed a previous incident in which police killed another unarmed black woman. Breonna Taylor, 26, was shot and killed by police who broke into her home in Louisville, Ky, in March last year.
A week ago, a 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot and killed by police during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minn. Officials said Officer Kim Potter mistakenly fired an official weapon believing he was deploying Taser.
On Friday, thousands of protesters marched through Chicago’s Logan Square after releasing a police camera footage from the body shows last month’s fatal shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo as he raised his arms.
All in all, the tensions are high. Faries Morrison, who visited a Floyd memorial at the intersection where he died in Minneapolis on Saturday, said failure to convict Chauvin could lead to huge unrest.
“It’s going to explode,” he said. “It won’t cause a riot; it will explode. It will be a rebellion.”
Adrian Florido of the NPR contributed to this report.