Listen

News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV

member station

NPR
Live Updates: Trial Over George Floyd's Killing

'Believe Your Eyes': Prosecution Presents Closing Arguments In Derek Chauvin's Trial

988761176_467742997.jpg

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher gives closing arguments Monday in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Court TV, Pool via AP

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

Updated April 19, 2021 at 12:42 PM ET

The prosecution made its closing arguments Monday in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who is accused of murder in the death of George Floyd.

Chauvin, who held his knee on Floyd's neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds last Memorial Day, is facing counts of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

"George Floyd was surrounded by people he cared about and who cared about him" throughout his life, prosecutor Steve Schleicher told the jurors. But he died "facedown on the payment, right at 38th and Chicago" in Minneapolis.

The police response was for what? Schleicher kept asking. This was a call about a counterfeit $20 bill.

It may be hard for you to imagine any police officer doing this, Schleicher told the jury. Imagining an officer committing a crime may be the most difficult thing you have to set aside as you consider this case, he said.

Schleicher took pains to argue that convicting Chauvin should not be seen as being anti-police.

Support comes from

"The case is called the state of Minnesota vs. Derek Chauvin, not the state of Minnesota vs. the police," Schleicher said.

He said that "there's nothing worse for good police than a bad police" – someone who doesn't follow training.

If you commit a felony-level assault and the person dies while you're committing the assault, you're guilty of murder, Schleicher said, saying that's what happened in this case. "He did what he did on purpose, and it killed George Floyd."

Schleicher asked jurors if they really thought Floyd would have died that day — if not for the defendant's actions. Did he miraculously die of a drug overdose during this time? Was it the tailpipe? Maybe it was his enlarged heart?

"Use your common sense. Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw," Schleicher said, stressing it was Chauvin's actions that killed Floyd.

Schleicher referred to testimony by pulmonologist and critical care physician Dr. Martin Tobin to refute the defense's argument that Floyd died from a cardiac event. Tobin testified Floyd died of a low level of oxygen that caused a brain injury and arrhythmia, which caused his heart to stop.

Floyd was not in perfect health, and he was under stress, Schleicher said. "But none of this caused George Floyd's heart to fail. It did not. His heart failed because the defendant's use of force, the 9:29, that deprived Mr. Floyd of the oxygen that he needed, that humans need, to live."

Schleicher pointed to doctors who had testified Floyd did not die of sudden cardiac arrythmia or a heart attack. And he pointed to testimony that Floyd had not died of a drug overdose: "His breathing didn't slow down, he didn't fall asleep, he didn't go into a coma," Schleicher said.

He described multiple moments on that day when he said Floyd's life could have been saved – if he had been allowed to stay on his side, rather than moved into the prone position, or if officers had administered medical aid, as they are trained to do.

"Make no mistake. [Chauvin's] actions were not policing. These actions were an assault," Schleicher said.

Schleicher noted the state does not have to prove that Chauvin intended to cause Floyd's death for him to be found guilty of second-degree murder.

After defense lawyers and prosecutors present closing arguments in the high-profile trial, the jurors will be sequestered as they deliberate. Judge Peter Cahill offered them some packing advice on Thursday: "Plan for long, hope for short."

On Thursday, Chauvin said he would not testify in his own defense.

NPR's Merrit Kennedy contributed to this report.

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

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for.  If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.

More Stories

In an image taken from video on Monday, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill reads instructions to the jury before closing arguments in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
NPR
Live Updates: Trial Over George Floyd's Killing
Barry Brodd, a use-of-force expert, testifies Tuesday in former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial. Brodd said the position in which George Floyd was restrained — facedown on the ground — was safest for officers and the suspect.
NPR
Live Updates: Trial Over George Floyd's Killing
A protester holds a sign across the street from the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis on April 6 during the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin. The testimony ran for three weeks.
NPR
Live Updates: Trial Over George Floyd's Killing