By AMY FORLITI and TAMMY WEBBER, Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Attorneys at trial against a former Minneapolis police officer charged with the murder of George Floyd will make their final arguments on Monday. Each side tries to testify for three weeks to convince the jury to give their opinion on the correct judgment.
For prosecutors, Derek Chauvin Floyd ruthlessly pulled his life off when he and two other officers put him on the street 9 minutes and 29 seconds outside a corner market, despite Floyd’s repeated screams that he couldn’t breathe – acts they say They do not justify a conviction. Only for manslaughter, but also for two murder cases.
In defense, Floyd, who was black, put himself at risk by swallowing fentanyl and methamphetamine, and then defied the officers who tried to arrest him – factors that made his heart vulnerable and doubtful enough that chauvin who knows it should be acquitted.
Each side will be making vital statements to support their story of what killed Floyd in a case that messed America 11 months ago and continues to resonate. The anonymous jury is later found in a courthouse surrounded by concrete barriers and barbed wire, in a frightened town heavily fortified by members of the National Guard, and just days after the outbreak of renewed outrage over the murder of a 20-year-old black all in one near suburb.
Lawyers are not limited in time, although legal experts say excessively long arguments lose the judges’ attention and may be less effective. Prosecutors Steve Schleicher and Jerry Blackwell will share the closure, with Schleicher at the helm and Blackwell standing for the final rebuttal of defense attorney Eric Nelson’s closure.
The 45-year-old chauvin is charged with second degree murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter. Experts expect Schleicher to lead the jury through the elements of the indictment. All three require the jury to conclude that Chauvin’s actions were a “major causal factor” in Floyd’s death – and that his use of force was unreasonable.
Schleicher was able to remind the jury of key testimony from a variety of prosecutor’s medical experts who testified that Floyd died of suffocation because he was stuck on the sidewalk. He and Blackwell can cite numerous testimonies from violence experts who said Chauvin’s actions were clearly inappropriate, as well as officials from the Minneapolis Police Department who said they were outside of his training.
Video played a huge part in the trial, both to back up the expert testimony and to bring home the emotional impact of Floyd’s fear and death. Prosecutors can replay videos during their closure, and experts say they expect it to.
Guilty verdicts must be unanimous, which means Nelson can only put doubts on the various points in the mind of a single judge. His degree will certainly return to the topics of his cross-examination of prosecutor’s witnesses and the brief defense case he brought up.
Nelson is sure to point out that the county coroner, Dr. Andrew Baker, failed to conclude that Floyd died of asphyxiation – which puts him in conflict with prosecutor’s medical experts, despite the fact that Baker describes Floyd’s death as murder and testifies that he believes Floyd’s heart gave in part, because it was pinned to the ground.
Nelson is sure to remind the jury of Floyd’s drug use as well, perhaps in the same language he frequently used during testimony – with questions highlighting words like “illegal”. Despite the long duration of Floyd’s reluctance, he is likely to re-portray Chauvin’s use of force as dictated by “flowing” and “dynamic” factors that should not be questioned, including the prospect of Chauvin being distracted by a threatening group of onlookers has been.
Nelson is also likely to question what is perhaps the strongest part of the state’s case – the video of Floyd’s arrest, including the video of viewer Darnella Frazier, which largely established the public’s perception of events. Nelson argued that camera angles can be deceiving and used other views to suggest to judges that Chauvin’s knee wasn’t always on Floyd’s neck.
“If I were Nelson, I would be doing a lot of things because a lot of things need to be done,” said Joe Friedberg, a local defense attorney not involved in the case. “He’s in desperate trouble here.”
Fourteen jurors heard testimony, two of them took turns. If Judge Peter Cahill follows the normal practice of dismissing the last two as proxies, the twelve advisors will include six white and six black or multiracial jurors.
In the case of a second-degree murder, prosecutors must prove that Chauvin is trying to harm Floyd. Third degree murder requires evidence that Chauvin’s actions were “extremely dangerous” and were committed with indifference to the loss of life. In the case of second degree manslaughter, the jury must believe that he negligently caused Floyd’s death and deliberately seized the opportunity to cause serious injury or death.
Each count carries a different maximum sentence: 40 years for accidental second degree murder, 25 years for third degree murder, and 10 years for second degree manslaughter. The guidelines for sentencing require much less time, including 12 1/2 years for both murders.
Webber reported from Fenton, Mich.
For full AP coverage of George Floyd’s death, please visit: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd
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