The jury is in the process of deliberating whether former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is criminally responsible for George Floyd’s May 2020 death.
The jury will be sequestered during deliberations, meaning they will not be allowed to return to their homes until they reach a verdict. It is unclear how long jurors will take to reach a verdict, but Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill previously told them to “plan for long and hope for short.”
Chauvin is charged with third-degree murder, second-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. The 12 jurors must reach a unanimous decision on each count. The two alternate jurors will not participate in deliberations.
Prosecution asks jurors to consider the difference between a threat and a risk: "The act of being large — it's not a crime, it's not a threat, it's merely a risk. Being on something — it's not a threat…Force is not authorized against someone just because they're on something." pic.twitter.com/Od4KTdO3y8
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 19, 2021
During the trial, the state introduced several expert witnesses who testified that Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck killed Floyd, not drug use or an underlying heart condition. One of the most prominent experts was pulmonologist Dr. Martin Tobin, who testified that a healthy person would have died under the conditions Floyd was subjected to.
Conversely, one of the defense’s witnesses, retired medical examiner Dr. David Fowler, suggested that carbon monoxide from the police cruiser’s exhaust may have contributed to Floyd’s death.
In his report to the court, Fowler said Floyd’s blood should be tested for carbon monoxide levels. While the prosecution attempted to submit evidence showing Floyd’s levels were normal, the judge determined they did so too late and barred them from referring to the report.
The defense also introduced bodycam footage from Floyd’s May 2019 arrest, which occurred a year before his death. During the traffic stop, officers reportedly discovered several opioid pills and cocaine in Floyd’s possession, and Floyd was hospitalized after allegedly swallowing several pills.
Nelson said the May 2019 and 2020 videos had striking similarities. He claimed videos proved Floyd had a penchant for acting out during arrests and swallowing pills in hopes of being sent to the hospital instead of jail. He also said the videos support the theory that white residue seen around Floyd’s arrest during his May 2020 arrest was the result of Floyd swallowing at least one opioid pill.
"A criminal case is kind of like baking chocolate chip cookies. You have to have the necessary ingredients…If you're missing any one single ingredient, you can't make chocolate chip cookies…The criminal law works the same way" defense attorney Nelson during closing arguments pic.twitter.com/6ePc1rEM8A
— CBS News (@CBSNews) April 19, 2021
On May 25, Minneapolis police officers were filmed arresting Floyd, 46, on suspicion that he used a counterfeit bill at the Cup Foods supermarket. After police pulled Floyd out of his car and handcuffed him, Chauvin was filmed forcing his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
Floyd was heard gasping for air and saying he could not breathe before he lost consciousness and died.
Hennepin County’s official autopsy report stated that Floyd’s blood had a fentanyl concentration of 11 nanograms per milliliter. While the medical examiner described the concentration as high and potentially fatal, they stressed that it does not mean Floyd died of an overdose.
The report also stated that there was no evidence “to support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation” in Floyd’s death. Conversely, an independent autopsy asserted that sustained forceful pressure on Floyd’s neck and back led to his death.
Both the county’s and the independent report mentioned drugs in Floyd’s system. However, both reports listed his cause of death as a homicide.
The defense has argued that a “speedball” — an opioid and a stimulant combination — along with hypertension led to Floyd dying of cardiac arrhythmia. However, the prosecution said video and forensic evidence disproves Floyd was dying from a drug overdose, and that Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes killed him.
Chauvin is being tried separately from the other three former officers involved in the arrest. Their trial is scheduled to begin this summer.
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[Featured image: Derek Chauvin/Hennepin County jail; George Floyd; Facebook]