Criminal Justice

Jurors Have The Case In Chauvin Trial; Prosecutors Ended With Call For Common Sense

The former Minneapolis police officer faces manslaughter and murder charges in George Floyd’s death. The prosecution and defense get one last chance to be heard before the jury begins deliberation.

A protester stands across the street from the Hennepin County Government Center on Tuesday, where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin stands trial for the death of George Floyd.

RELATED | ‘Believe Your Eyes’: Prosecution Presents Closing Arguments In Derek Chauvin’s Trial

UPDATED 4:23 p.m. CT

The prosecution offered its rebuttal to the closing arguments of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s defense lawyer.

It presumably was the last time the jury would hear from the lawyers in the murder trial before starting deliberations.

Chauvin is facing counts of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. He held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds last Memorial Day.

Chauvin’s defense lawyer, Eric Nelson, has argued that Chauvin acted like a reasonable police officer would. The prosecution repeatedly said that Chauvin acted counter to his training, and that convicting him should not be seen as anti-police.

Prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell delivered the state of Minnesota’s rebuttal, telling jurors that they’ve been hearing from another witness all along and that witness will continue to be alongside them as they enter deliberations.

“That witness is common sense,” Blackwell said, adding, “Common sense will continue talking with you all the while.”

After hours and hours of listening to Chauvin’s defense, Blackwell said the duty before them “really isn’t that complicated in what it is you have to decided with respect to excessive use of force and the issue of causation.”

“It’s so simple,” he said, “that a child could understand it.”

Blackwell then reminded the jury of the 9-year-old witness who was present the day Floyd was killed and who was among the first to testify in the three-week long trial.

“Get off of him,” the child was heard saying in one of the bystander videos shown in court.

Blackwell insisted, if a child could grasp that Chauvin was applying an excessive use of force on Floyd’s body, then the jurors should reach the same conclusion.

“Why is it necessary to continue applying deadly restraint to a man who is defenseless, who is handcuffed, who is not resisting, who is not breathing, who doesn’t have a pulse?” he asked the jury.

MORE | Defense Presents Closing Arguments In Derek Chauvin Trial

Echoing prosecutor Steven Schleicher’s words from earlier in the day, Blackwell said: “You can believe your eyes, ladies and gentlemen. It was what you thought it was. It was what you saw. It was homicide.”

Defense attorney Eric Nelson, he said, spent a significant amount of time asking jurors to consider all of the evidence before a “reasonable officer.”

But Blackwell tried to dispel the notion that a reasonable officer is somehow exempt from responding in the same way a regular person is expected to respond in any given situation.

The words “reasonable officer,” Blackwell said, “are not a magic words that you simply apply to Mr. Chauvin and then he becomes a reasonable officer because you applied those words.”

“Reasonable is as reasonable does,” Blackwell said.

He also told jurors that they “didn’t get the whole truth,” from Nelson, whom he accused of omitting key facts in order to tell the jury a “story.”

“Notice how when you had the discussion about reasonable officer and Mr. Chauvin, the whole narrative cut off before we got to the point that Mr. Floyd was not moving, that he was not conscious, that he didn’t have a pulse, and that Mr. Chauvin was still on top of him even when the EMTs showed up and he still didn’t get off of him.”

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher gives closing arguments Monday in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

He also accused Nelson of misleading the jury about the law and the jurors’ instructions.

Nelson, Blackwell said, told jurors that the state is responsible for showing that no other factors, outside of Chauvin’s actions, played a role in Floyd’s death. That would include Floyd’s health and history of drug use.

“That’s not true,” Blackwell said.

“What we need to show is that the defendant’s actions were a substantial causal factor in his death. It doesn’t have to be the only causal factor, it doesn’t have to be the biggest substantial factor. It just has to be one of them.”

In an image taken from video, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill reads instructions to the jury before closing arguments in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, on Monday.

Here are the highlights of Judge Peter Cahill’s instructions:

Second degree murder – unintentional is defined as causing death without intent to do so, while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense. Chauvin’s alleged felony is assault in the third degree, the infliction — or attempted infliction — of substantial bodily harm upon another by using unlawful force.

Cahill said it is not necessary for the state to prove that Chauvin intended to inflict substantial bodily harm on Floyd, “or knew that his actions would.” The prosecution must only prove that Chauvin “intended to commit the assault and that George Floyd sustained substantial bodily harm as a result.” The charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.

Third degree murder is defined as causing death to an individual by “perpetrating an act imminently dangerous to others and evidencing a depraved mind without regard for human life” but without the intent to cause death, the judge said. To be found guilty, the jury must find that the defendant acted with “reckless disregard” for human life, he said. The maximum sentence for this charge is 25 years.

Second degree manslaughter is causing the death of another by “culpable negligence, creating an unreasonable risk” in which the defendant “consciously takes the risk of causing death or great bodily harm to another individual.”

Cahill said that an unreasonable risk would be understood to be so by an “ordinary and reasonably prudent” individual. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Additional reporting by Scott Neuman.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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