Closing arguments begin in Derek Chauvin's murder trial

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 11:11 a.m. ET, April 20, 2021
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10:15 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

NOW: Judge reads jury instructions ahead of Derek Chauvin trial closing arguments

From CNN's Eric Levenson

Judge Peter Cahill reads instructions to the jurors on April 19 in Minneapolis.
Judge Peter Cahill reads instructions to the jurors on April 19 in Minneapolis. Pool

The court is in session, and closing arguments in former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin's criminal trial will begin soon.

Judge Peter Cahill is reading instructions to the jurors on the law.

Next, prosecutor Steve Schleicher will deliver the state's closing argument, and prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell is expected to handle the rebuttal, according to John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson will deliver the defense's closing argument.

What comes next: The judge will send the jury off to begin deliberations in the Hennepin County Government Center. The jury will remain sequestered for deliberations until a verdict is reached and will stay in a hotel at night.

9:45 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Here's what the prosecution must lay out for jurors during today's closing arguments

From CNN's Ray Sanchez, Eric Levenson and Aaron Cooper

Prosecutor Steve Schleicher speaks on April 14 in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis.
Prosecutor Steve Schleicher speaks on April 14 in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Court TV/Pool/AP

CNN senior legal analyst Laura Coates said the prosecution must connect the evidence with the specific criminal charges the jury will consider during closing arguments.

"They're going to get three charges — the elements are going to be written out for the jurors," she said Friday. "They're going to have to figure out what part and what aspects of the prosecution's case lines up with particular elements.

"That's going to be the onus continuing on the prosecution in this case — to make sure they are clear the jurors are not left to scratch their heads or wonder, 'Did this fact go to this? Did this witness bring this point up? Which proves this?' That will be part of what the closing argument must be about."

The state has maintained that Derek Chauvin used excessive and unreasonable force when he kneeled on Floyd's neck and back for nine minutes and 29 seconds last May. The prosecution relied heavily on multiple videos of Chauvin's actions, analysis by policing experts, and medical testimony determining Floyd died due to the restraint.

9:16 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Closing arguments in the Derek Chauvin trial start soon. Here's what to expect. 

From CNN's Eric Levenson

A general view outside the Hennepin County Government Center is seen on April 14 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
A general view outside the Hennepin County Government Center is seen on April 14 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Prosecutors and the defense will offer competing visions of Derek Chauvin's role in George Floyd's death during closing arguments Monday in the former Minneapolis officer's criminal trial. They are set to begin at 10 a.m. ET.

The closing arguments come after prosecutors called 38 witnesses to testify, including police use-of-force experts who criticized Chauvin and medical experts who explained how Floyd died. The defense called seven witnesses of its own — but not Chauvin himself, as he invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

Here are key things to know about today's events:

  • What both sides will argue: For the prosecution, today means drilling home their concise argument that Floyd's death on May 25, 2020, was exactly what it appeared to be on bystander video. What looked to the naked eye like an uncaring police officer using his knees to suffocate a non-resisting Black man really was just that, they have argued. The defense's goal throughout the trial has been to complicate that story. What looked like excessive force was actually an appropriate restraint; what looked like a suffocation was actually Floyd's drug overdose and underlying heart issues; what looked like an officer's heartlessness was actually concern about a hostile mob of agitators, the defense has argued.
  • How today will play out (and what comes next): Prosecutor Steve Schleicher will deliver the state's closing argument, and prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell is expected to handle the rebuttal, according to John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Defense attorney Eric Nelson will deliver the defense's closing argument. Afterward, Judge Peter Cahill will instruct jurors on the law and then send them off to begin deliberations in the Hennepin County Government Center. The jury will remain sequestered for deliberations and will stay in a hotel at night.
  • The charges Chauvin faces: Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges. If convicted, he could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder, and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter. The charges are to be considered separate, so Chauvin could be convicted of all, some or none of them.
  • Rising tensions ahead of jury verdict: The end of the trial comes 11 months after Floyd's death on a Minneapolis street set off widespread protests about the ways that police devalue and dismiss the lives of Black people. No matter this trial's verdict, the broader issue shows no signs of lessening. Last week, just miles away from the courthouse, a Brooklyn Center police officer was charged with manslaughter after she fatally shot 20-year-old Daunte Wright during a traffic stop. Tensions are high throughout the region, and authorities have ramped up security around Minneapolis.
9:11 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Juror deliberations expected to begin this week

From CNN's Eric Levenson and Aaron Cooper

Juror deliberations are expected to begin this week in the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin.

The jury will be sequestered during deliberations.

"If I were you, I would plan for long and hope for short," Judge Peter Cahill told jurors last week. "Basically, it's up to the jury how long you deliberate, how long you need to come to a unanimous decision on any count."

The deliberations will start as the Minneapolis metropolitan area reels from other police-involved deaths, including the police shooting of Daunte Wright last weekend. Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in the shooting of the Black motorist following nights of protests.

9:02 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Here's what happened during the final week of testimony

From CNN's Ray Sanchez, Eric Levenson and Aaron Cooper

The defense presented its witness and expert testimony last week in the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin.

The defense's turn before the jury came Tuesday when the prosecution rested after calling 38 witnesses over 11 days. Jurors heard testimony from seven witnesses for the defense.

Here are highlights from the final week of testimony:

The defense's three-prong legal strategy: The defense presented seven witnesses to bolster its three-prong strategy for clearing the officer of culpability: Floyd died from drug and health problems; Chauvin's use of force was ugly but appropriate; and a hostile crowd of bystanders distracted the former officer.

At the heart of defense attorney Eric Nelson's case is the argument that medical reasons, not Chauvin's actions, caused Floyd's death that evening. In other words, Floyd's use of methamphetamine and fentanyl, his initial resistance to officers and preexisting heart problems all conspired to kill him.

Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker, who performed Floyd's autopsy last May, had previously testified for the prosecution that Floyd's death was a "homicide." The cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest — Floyd's heart and lungs stopped. That occurred during "law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression," the doctor testified.

Four other medical experts offered similar testimony for the state: Floyd died from cardiopulmonary arrest caused by low oxygen levels from prone restraint and positional asphyxia. A cardiologist testified that Floyd's heart showed no evidence of injury.

Expert testified that Chauvin's actions were justified: Barry Brodd, a former police officer and use-of-force expert called by the defense on Tuesday, testified that Chauvin was justified in kneeling on Floyd for more than nine minutes and did not use deadly force.

Brodd's testimony was at odds with the prosecution's policing experts and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who said Chauvin's actions were "in no way, shape or form" within department policy, training, ethics or values.

Pulmonologist takes the stand a second time: Dr. Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist who testified last week, returned to the stand Thursday for the prosecution in a short rebuttal against a defense medical expert. The state sought to counter the testimony of a forensic pathologist who told the jury Wednesday that Floyd's cause of death was "undetermined." Floyd's underlying heart issues were the main causes, the pathologist said.

Dr. David Fowler, who retired as Maryland's chief medical examiner at the end of 2019, introduced a novel defense argument: Carbon monoxide from the squad car's exhaust may have contributed to Floyd's death. Fowler admitted no data or test results could back up his claim. Tobin, in a short rebuttal, told the jury the carbon monoxide theory is proven wrong by a different blood test that showed Floyd's blood oxygen saturation was 98%. That meant his carbon monoxide level could at most be 2% — within the normal range.

9:17 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

St. Paul mayor says city has "an enormous amount of safety measures" ahead of possible protests 

From CNN’s Carma Hassan

St. Paul, Minnesota, Mayor Melvin Carter speaks during an interview on April 19.
St. Paul, Minnesota, Mayor Melvin Carter speaks during an interview on April 19. CNN via Cisco Webex

St. Paul, Minnesota, Mayor Melvin Carter spoke to CNN about the possible protests following a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. 

The mayor said they have seen many “amazing, powerful, peaceful protests” as well as people coming into the community to do harm.

“We’re putting in place an enormous amount of safety measures. Our St. Paul Police Department is working closely with other law enforcement departments across the metropolitan area and the state,” Carter said, adding that they are also proactively activating the Minnesota National Guard.

Carter said his biggest concern ahead of Chauvin’s verdict is “making sure that everyone in our community knows that there is justice in our justice system for them.”

“We are all eyewitnesses, we all know what we saw and nothing that happened in the trial changed any of that,” Carter said. “And so, when the entire world gets to see it that clearly, at some point, this trial also becomes a trial of our criminal justice system, a trial of our court system. A trial to determine if this legal system that delivered us separate but equal, that has delivered us so many horrific decisions throughout the course of history, if this system is capable yet of valuing Black and Brown lives.”

We don't know exactly when the jury could reach a verdict. Closing arguments will start today, and the jury will begin deliberations after closing arguments.

8:31 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Police agencies across the US prepare for potential unrest with upcoming jury verdict in Chauvin trial 

From CNN’s Hollie Silverman, Christina Carrega, Rob Frehse, and Virginia Langmaid

Police are preparing across the United States ahead of a potential jury verdict in the following weeks in the Derek Chauvin trial.

WASHINGTON, DC

The DC Metropolitan Police Department will be fully activated with members on 12-hour shifts starting next week. On Thursday, DC Metropolitan Police Department told CNN:

"In anticipation of potential First Amendment activities related to the outcomes of the Derek Chauvin trial, the Metropolitan Police Department will be fully activated with members on 12-hour shifts starting Monday, April 19, 2021, until further notice. MPD members will have a visible presence around the city during this time,” DC police spokesperson Hugh Carew.

ATLANTA

Atlanta Police told CNN on Thursday that they are "prepared to respond quickly."

“The City of Atlanta Police Department (APD) continues to coordinate with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to respond should protests or illegal activity occur. If activity begins to occur, APD is prepared to respond quickly. We do not share operational or security plans. However, the safety and security of our city and citizens is our priority,” Atlanta Police Department.

CHICAGO

In Chicago, police have increased their operational posture and released this statement earlier in the week: 

 

NEW YORK CITY

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is preparing and "would be ready for a variety of protests."

“We're in constant, literally daily conversations. Obviously, so much will happen based on what the verdict is and how it's expressed. But we're preparing. We would be ready for a variety of protests and we're going to use the approach that's been working. Which is to put a heavy emphasis on our community affairs officers and being respectful of protest,” de Blasio said.

 

8:17 a.m. ET, April 19, 2021

Closing arguments are set to start today in the Chauvin trial

From CNN's Ray Sanchez, Eric Levenson and Aaron Cooper

When closing arguments are delivered today in the trial of Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, jurors will have sat through the testimony of seven witnesses for the defense and 38 for the prosecution.

But the jury did not hear from the former Minneapolis police officer, who on Thursday removed his face covering to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

After Chauvin invoked the Fifth, the defense rested its case in the closely watched trial. The jury will be sequestered during deliberations this week.

Chauvin, 45, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.

If convicted, Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder, and up to 10 years for second-degree manslaughter. The charges are to be considered separate, so Chauvin could be convicted of all, some or none of them.