Jury Resumes Deliberations in Chauvin Trial
The jurors, who began deliberating for four hours on Monday night, must decide whether to convict Derek Chauvin of murder. Here’s the latest.,
Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
Amr Alfiky/The New York Times
Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times
Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times
Amr Alfiky/The New York Times
Demonstrators marched through downtown Minneapolis on Monday as jury deliberations started in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. Damik Wright, the brother of Daunte Wright, who was fatally shot by a police officer on April 11, at a protest outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department. Roosevelt High School students participated in a statewide walkout to protest racial injustice. A couple visited “Say Their Names Cemetery,” a memorial to victims of police violence.
Twelve jurors resumed their deliberations on Tuesday morning in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd, marking their second day of discussions over evidence in the closely watched case.
The jurors are being sequestered in a hotel each night until they reach a verdict or determine that it is impossible for them all to agree. They must be unanimous in order to convict or acquit Mr. Chauvin of any of the three charges he is facing: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The jurors’ identities are secret, but the court has released some demographic information: The jurors include four white women, two white men, three Black men, one Black woman, and two multiracial women. They range in age from their 20s to their 60s.
Before Judge Peter A. Cahill sent jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial home last week, he gave them short and vague instructions on what they might need to pack for deliberations.
“If I were you, I would plan for long and hope for short,” he said. “Basically, it’s up to the jury how long you deliberate, how long you need to come to a unanimous decision on any count.”
So far, the 12 jurors — six white, four Black and two who identify as multiracial — have deliberated for four hours. A verdict could come as soon as Tuesday or stretch into next week or beyond.
On Monday, jurors began discussing the evidence surrounding the death of George Floyd after listening to closing arguments. Prosecutors told them to trust what they saw in a bystander video of Mr. Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, pinning a handcuffed Mr. Floyd to the ground for nine minutes and 29 seconds. The lawyer for Mr. Chauvin emphasized Mr. Floyd’s use of drugs and said the officer had followed department policies.
During deliberations, the jury will have access to the evidence and exhibits presented in court. The jurors will remain sequestered in a hotel, ideally secluded from outside influences, until reaching a unanimous verdict. If the jury is hung, or cannot reach a decision on one or more charges, the judge may declare a mistrial.
Eric Anderson, senior trial counsel at Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae in California and a former prosecutor, said that jury deliberation lengths vary widely.
“There’s no way of telling how long this will take, particularly when I think that the jurors will try to do the right thing, whatever they think that is,” he said. “And to get to the right thing, they’re going to want to look very closely at the evidence. They’re going to want to look closely at every possible angle.”
It took a jury in Chicago less than eight hours in 2018 to convict Jason Van Dyke, a former Chicago police officer, of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm in the death of Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager who was carrying a knife but heading away from the police.
In the case of Mohamed Noor, the former Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot Justine Ruszczyk in 2017, jurors took 11 hours to reach a verdict, MPR News reported. They found him guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter but not second-degree murder.
After three weeks of testimony from 45 witnesses, the lawyers gave their concluding arguments on Monday in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with murdering George Floyd.
Judge Peter A. Cahill started the day with instructions for the jury, whose task it is to determine whether Mr. Chauvin is guilty of the charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. For second-degree murder, the most serious charge, the state has to prove that Mr. Chauvin assaulted Mr. Floyd and that the assault was a substantial factor in his death.
Prosecutors do not have to prove that he intended to kill Mr. Floyd.
Arguments began with a commanding rebuke of the defense’s case from one of the prosecutors, Steve Schleicher. He called several of the defense’s points “nonsense” and said that Mr. Chauvin betrayed his oath as a police officer.
For his part, Eric J. Nelson, Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, asked jurors to take in the totality of the evidence, and criticized the state for dismissing other possible contributing factors in Mr. Floyd’s death, including heart problems and drug use.
Here are some key takeaways.
Mr. Schleicher began with a chilling description of the arrest, setting the tone for his primary argument: That jurors should “believe their eyes” when they watch the videos of Mr. Floyd being pinned to the ground for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Mr. Schleicher talked about the “unyielding pavement,” and what he believed to be Mr. Floyd’s desperate struggle to lift his chest and fill his lungs with air. He reminded jurors of Mr. Floyd’s last words, “Please, I can’t breathe.”
He reinforced what Mr. Floyd’s brother and former girlfriend told the jury: That Mr. Floyd was loved by many people who knew him, that he loved his mother, that he was more than the symbol he became in death. He died “surrounded by strangers,” Mr. Schleicher said — pinned between the pavement and the knee of Mr. Chauvin. “Not a familiar face to say his final words,” Mr. Schleicher said. “But he did say them to someone — he said them to someone who he did not know by name, but he knew him from the uniform he wore and the badge he wore, and he called him ‘Mr. Officer.'”
A primary focus of the prosecution was dismissing some of the arguments of the defense. “You’re not required to accept nonsense,” Mr. Schleicher told jurors, pointing to the opinion offered by a defense witness that Mr. Chauvin’s restraint of Mr. Floyd did not constitute use of force, and that the exhaust from the tailpipe of a police cruiser might have contributed to Mr. Floyd’s death. “Use your common sense,” Mr. Schleicher said. “Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw.”
Mr. Nelson focused largely on whether Mr. Chauvin acted the way a reasonable police officer would. He reinforced ideas that he had proposed during the three weeks of witness testimony, including that suspects who do not appear to be dangerous can quickly become so. “A reasonable police officer understands the intensity of the struggle,” he said, pointing out how difficult it was for Mr. Chauvin and other officers to put Mr. Floyd into the back of a police cruiser.
He also highlighted the moment that Mr. Floyd took his last breath, showing those few seconds from the vantage point of a security camera. At that moment, Mr. Nelson said, a crowd of angry bystanders, who could also pose a threat to officers, was becoming louder and louder, and that Mr. Chauvin pulled a can of mace from his belt — a sign that he felt he was in danger. “All of the evidence shows that Mr. Chauvin thought he was following his training,” he said.
Mr. Nelson hit on the issue of “intent,” asking jurors to consider whether Mr. Chauvin would have purposefully caused unlawful harm to Mr. Floyd. Noting that several body-worn cameras were recording the incident, along with the cellphones of bystanders, Mr. Nelson asked jurors why a person would purposefully break the rules when they knew they were being filmed and that their actions would be reviewed by their supervisors.
On Mr. Floyd’s cause of death, Mr. Nelson said it was “preposterous” for the state and several of its witnesses to have asked jurors to ignore a host of possible contributing factors, including Mr. Floyd’s pre-existing heart problems and drug use. He insisted that the defense’s focus on Mr. Floyd’s drug use was not an attack on his character, but was prompted by the issue’s medical significance.
Jerry Blackwell, another prosecutor, responded to the defense by continuing to urge jurors to follow “common sense,” saying that even a 9-year-old girl who testified earlier in the trial could see that Mr. Chauvin was hurting Mr. Floyd.
Using a chart that showed a dot for every day that Mr. Floyd was alive, Mr. Blackwell spoke of how unlikely it would be that Mr. Floyd would happen to die on May 25, if not for Mr. Chauvin’s use of force. Jurors must decide whether Mr. Chauvin’s restraint was a “substantial factor” in Mr. Floyd’s death, not whether it was the sole factor.
Mr. Blackwell ended his rebuttal by reminding jurors that some witnesses had said Mr. Floyd died because his heart was too big. “Now, having seen all the evidence, having heard all the evidence, you know the truth,” he said. “The truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small.“
The former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 45, faces three charges in the death of George Floyd: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Second-degree murder, also called unintentional murder or felony murder, is killing someone in the course of committing another felony — in this case, the prosecutors will argue that Mr. Chauvin was assaulting Mr. Floyd. This charge does not require the prosecution to prove that Mr. Chauvin had any intent to kill. It carries a maximum sentence of 40 years, but Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines recommend a sentence of 12.5 years for someone who, like Mr. Chauvin, has no prior convictions.
Third-degree murder is a death that occurs when someone is acting extremely dangerously, without regard to human life and “evincing a depraved mind.” Prosecutors will argue that Mr. Chauvin knew that the restraint he used on Mr. Floyd was potentially lethal and a violation of police procedure and training. Third-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 25 years. The guideline recommendation is 10.5 years.
Second-degree manslaughter is death by “culpable negligence,” in which the perpetrator knowingly risks causing death or serious harm. It’s punishable by up to 10 years, but under the state guidelines a likely sentence would be four years.
In the three weeks of the trial of Derek Chauvin, dozens of witnesses have testified; hours of video of George Floyd’s arrest have been played, paused and replayed; and two sides of the courtroom have presented opposing narratives to a jury tasked with determining the guilt or innocence of a former police officer charged with murder in one of the most watched trials in decades.
Through witness testimony, several distinct themes have emerged as the most crucial points of contention: whether Mr. Chauvin violated policy when he knelt on George Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes; what role, if any, drugs played in Mr. Floyd’s death; and what kind of impact the arrest may have had on the people who witnessed it.
On May 25, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, after a convenience store employee called 911 to report that Mr. Floyd had bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Seventeen minutes after the first squad car arrived at the scene, Mr. Floyd was unconscious and pinned beneath three police officers, showing no signs of life.
By combining videos from bystanders and security cameras, reviewing official documents and consulting experts, The New York Times reconstructed in detail the minutes leading to Mr. Floyd’s death. Our video shows officers taking a series of actions that violated the policies of the Minneapolis Police Department and turned fatal, leaving Mr. Floyd unable to breathe, even as he and onlookers called out for help.