© Reuters. Murder trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin
By Jonathan Allen
MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – A prosecutor told the jury that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin betrayed his badge and murdered George Floyd in the fatal arrest last year when the final arguments began in Chauvin’s trial on Monday.
Steve Schleicher, a district attorney for the Minnesota attorney general, kept repeating one sentence: “Nine minutes and 29 seconds” – the length of time Chauvin was videotaped on May 25, 2020 and his neck kneeling on the dying Floyd.
Schleicher stressed that the jury will weigh only one man’s guilt, although its verdict will nonetheless generally be viewed as a reckoning of the way the United States is monitoring blacks.
“This is not a police prosecution,” Schleicher told the jury. He quoted the Minneapolis Police Department motto that Chauvin and three other officers involved released the day after Floyd’s arrest: “Protect with Courage and Serve with Compassion.”
“George Floyd was not a threat to anyone,” said Schleicher. “Given George Floyd that day, which didn’t take an ounce of courage and none was shown that day, no courage was required. All that was required was a little compassion and none was shown that day.”
Chauvin, who is white, put his knee on the back of the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, for more than nine minutes in front of the grocery store that Floyd accused of using a fake $ 20 bill to buy cigarettes with handcuffs.
“He was trapped with the unyielding band-aid beneath him, as unyielding as the men who held him,” said Schleicher, before playing some of the lengthy videos of Floyd’s death. “What the defendant did not do was not police work. What the defendant did was an attack.”
Chauvin pleaded guilty of unintentional second degree murder, murder of depraved thoughts of third degree, and second degree homicide. He waived his right to testify before the jury and his senior attorney, Eric Nelson, was due to make his own final argument later Monday.
A viewer’s video of Floyd begging for his life before going limp scandalized people around the world. A picture of Floyd’s face has since become an icon for the largest protest movement in the United States in decades.
Hennepin County’s chief medical officer ruled that Floyd’s death was a police murder.
Prosecutors say Chauvin used unreasonable, and therefore illegal, force to push Floyd’s neck and torso against the street in such a way that he was deprived of oxygen.
Chauvin’s attorneys argued that he correctly followed the training he received over 19 years with the Minneapolis Police Department in an attempt to cast doubt on the cause of Floyd’s death.
Hennepin District Judge Peter Cahill defined some key terms for the jury on the indictments before them, such as “grievous bodily harm” and “cause of death”.
“The fact that other causes contributed to the death does not absolve the accused of criminal liability,” said Cahill, reading from written instructions from the jury, copies of which were also made available to the jury.
National news networks broadcast much of the testimony live after the first of more than 40 witnesses spoke up three weeks ago, although coverage was sometimes interrupted by new episodes of police violence caught on camera.
The next case came just a few miles from the courthouse in downtown Minneapolis when a white police officer fatally shot and killed a black motorist, Daunte Wright, in the suburb of Brooklyn Center on April 11 after trying to arrest him for being believed to have missed a dish appearance. The officer, Kimberly Potter, had intended to use her taser to prevent him from driving away, but police said he pulled out the wrong weapon. She was charged with manslaughter.
As angry protests mounted, Minneapolis and state officials tightened security in the city. The tower that houses the courtroom is surrounded by barbed wire, tall barriers, and armed National Guard soldiers, and nearby companies have boarded up their windows. Huge, monotonous military vehicles have become a common sight on the city streets.
For the second-degree murder charge, 12 jurors must agree that prosecutors have proven beyond doubt that Chauvin committed a crime, in this case an assault, that was a major cause of Floyd’s death. You don’t need to find out that Chauvin wanted to kill Floyd.
This crime carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison, although Minnesota sentencing guidelines provide for a shorter sentence of up to 15 years for someone like Chauvin with no conviction. Prosecutors have asked Hennepin District Judge Peter Cahill to deviate from these guidelines and give Chauvin more time if convicted.
The jury is made up of two representatives from six white women, two white men, three black men, one black woman and two multiracial women. As soon as they receive the case, they will be confiscated at a hotel outside of deliberation times.