Posted on April 19, 2021

Jury in Derek Chauvin Murder Trial Hears Closing Arguments

Joe Barrett and Jacob Gershman, Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2021

Prosecutors on Monday told jurors “you can believe your eyes” in their closing arguments in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, in which video evidence from bystanders, police body camera and other footage played a central role in trying to prove that he murdered George Floyd.

“This case is exactly what you thought when you saw it first, when you saw that video. You can believe your eyes,” said Steve Schleicher, a special assistant attorney general for the prosecution. “It’s what you felt in your gut. What you now know in your heart. This wasn’t policing. It was murder.”

Defense attorney Eric Nelson, who has argued that Mr. Floyd died of a heart condition and the fentanyl and methamphetamine found in his system, asked jurors to look at all the instructions and weigh the evidence against each other as he began his closing argument.

“I submit to you that the state has failed in its burden to prove Mr. Chauvin’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.

For the first time during the trial, Mr. Chauvin removed his mask so the jury could see his face as Mr. Nelson began his remarks.

After a potential rebuttal from the prosecution that could follow the defense closing argument, the jury will begin its deliberations as the Minneapolis region remains on edge, amid fears that the verdict could trigger renewed unrest.

Mr. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to charges of second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter. After the closing arguments, the judge will issue instructions to the jury, and the jurors will remain sequestered until they reach a verdict or become deadlocked and can’t.

Judge Peter Cahill explained to the jurors all the elements of each charge that need to be proven to sustain a conviction. In no case does the state have to prove that Mr. Chauivn had an intent to kill Mr. Floyd, but all the charges require proof that he caused his death.

A conviction of second-degree murder requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Chauvin caused the death of Mr. Floyd while assaulting him by intentionally applying unlawful force without consent that resulted in substantial bodily harm. It isn’t necessary for the state to prove that Mr. Chauvin intended to inflict substantial bodily harm.

The judge explained that third-degree murder requires proof that Mr. Chauvin caused Mr. Floyd’s death by committing an eminently dangerous act that was highly likely to cause death and showed a reckless disregard for human life. To convict Mr. Chauvin of second-degree manslaughter, the jurors would need to believe that it was Mr. Chauvin’s culpable negligence and reckless actions that caused Mr. Floyd’s death.

Judge Cahill also included special instructions that apply to the conduct of a police officer defendant.

“No crime is committed,” he told jurors, “if a police officer’s actions were justified by the police officer’s use of reasonable force in the line of duty in effecting a lawful arrest or preventing an escape from custody.” {snip}


Many businesses throughout the city have boarded up their windows. Minneapolis schools are closed to in-person learning Wednesday through Friday in anticipation of the verdict.