Derek Chauvin guilty in death of George Floyd

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

Updated 0406 GMT (1206 HKT) April 21, 2021
9 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
11:33 a.m. ET, April 20, 2021

Here's a reminder of what happened during the final week of testimony

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

Defense attorney Eric Nelson.
Defense attorney Eric Nelson. Court TV/Pool/AP

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 last 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 former 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.

10:29 a.m. ET, April 20, 2021

These are the 4 key things the jury must do when deliberating on the case, according to the judge

Judge Peter Cahill read instructions to the jurors yesterday before they left the courtroom to begin their deliberations. The jury is sequestered and is staying in a hotel at night until they reach a verdict.

"As jurors, you are being asked to make an important decision in this case," the judge said yesterday.

He outlined four key things the jury will need to do as they deliberate:

  • "One, take the time you need to reflect carefully and thoughtfully about the evidence."
  • "Two, think about why you are making the decision you are making and examine it for bias and reconsider your first impressions of the people and the evidence in this case and if the people involved in this case were from different backgrounds, for example, richer or poorer, more or less educated, older or younger or of a different gender, gender identity, race, religion or sexual orientation, would you still view them any evidence the same way? 
  • "Three, listen to one another. You must carefully evaluate the evidence and resist, and help each other resist, any urge to reach a verdict imposed by biased for or against any party or witness. Each of you have different backgrounds and will be viewing this case in light of your own insights, assumptions and biases. Listening to different perspectives may help you to better identify the possible effects these hidden biases may have on decision making."
  • "Four, resist jumping to conclusions based on personal likes or dislikes. Generalizations, gut feelings, prejudices, sympathies, stereotypes or unconscious biases."

The judge noted that "in order for you to return a verdict, whether guilty or not, each juror must agree with that verdict. Your verdict must be unanimous. You should discuss this case with one another and deliberate with a view towards reaching an agreement."

The judge also said that the jurors would select one person to be a foreperson and lead the deliberations.

"The law demands that you make a fair decision based solely on the evidence, your individual evaluation of that evidence, your reason and common sense and these instructions," he told the jury.

9:50 a.m. ET, April 20, 2021

How cities around the nation are bracing for the Chauvin verdict

From CNN's Ray Sanchez, Kay Jones and Eric Fiegel

With jury deliberations in Derek Chauvin's trial in the death of George Floyd underway, it's not just Minneapolis preparing for protests and possible civil unrest — cities around the US are on alert, too.

Here's how some of the biggest cities are preparing:

  • In Los Angeles, police have stepped up community outreach efforts and planned to make additional officers available, according to Capt. Stacy Spell. "We are also strongly encouraging that if those people who want to express themselves see something, that they say something," he said. "We don't want small groups of individuals with malicious intent to hijack what would otherwise be a peaceful demonstration."
  • In San Francisco, police said discretionary days off for officers have been canceled and additional officers will be deployed.
  • The Atlanta Police Department said in a statement that it's coordinating efforts with local, state, and federal law enforcement and have officers prepared to respond quickly.
  • In New York City, police were preparing for protests. "We're in constant, literally daily conversations," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "Obviously, so much will happen based on what the verdict is and how it's expressed." NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the city has averaged 10 to 20 protests a day basically since last year. "It's never really ended," he told 1010 WINS radio.
  • The Philadelphia Police Department said it is prepared "with additional personnel to secure and patrol strategic locations."
  • In Washington, DC, the Metropolitan Police Department will be "fully activated with members on 12-hour shifts starting Monday," according to spokesman Hugh Carew.

Read more about Minneapolis and other cities are preparing here.

9:26 a.m. ET, April 20, 2021

While the jury deliberates, here's a recap of what the defense and prosecution said during closing arguments 

From CNN's Eric Levenson, Aaron Cooper and Amir Vera

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin listens as his defense attorney Eric Nelson gives closing arguments on April 19, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis.
In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin listens as his defense attorney Eric Nelson gives closing arguments on April 19, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Court TV/AP

The jury in the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin have begun the second day of deliberations, according to the Hennepin County Court.

Yesterday, the prosecution and defense delivered closing arguments. The prosecuting attorney said Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd's neck and back for 9 minutes and 29 seconds because of his pride and his ego in the face of concerned bystanders.

In response, defense attorney Eric Nelson said Chauvin acted as a "reasonable officer" would in that situation and said there was no evidence he intentionally or purposefully used force that was unlawful. Prosecuting attorney Jerry Blackwell then delivered a rebuttal rejecting the defense's claim that Floyd died because of an enlarged heart.

If you missed the closing arguments, here's a recap of what both sides said:

Prosecution: In his closing argument, prosecuting attorney Steve Schleicher spoke for an hour and 43 minutes as he sought to prove that Chauvin used excessive and unreasonable force and caused Floyd's death.

He contrasted Chauvin's "ego-based pride" with the proper feelings of pride in wearing a police badge and praised policing as a noble profession. He insisted the state was prosecuting Chauvin individually — not policing in general.

"This is not an anti-police prosecution; it is a pro-police prosecution," he said. "There is nothing worse for good police than bad police."

Schleicher's closing argument relied on a series of video clips that showed Chauvin's actions that day, linking them explicitly to the language of each charge.

"George Floyd's final words on May 25, 2020, were, 'Please, I can't breathe,' and he said those words to Derek Chauvin," Schleicher told the jurors. "All that was required was a little compassion, and none was shown on that day."

Schleicher told jurors to reject defense theories and look at what they know happened.

Defense: Defense attorney Eric Nelson's case to acquit Chauvin has been to argue that his use of force was appropriate, that he was distracted by the crowd of hostile bystanders and that Floyd died due to fentanyl and methamphetamine use, his resistance of officers and his underlying health issues.

He said the prosecution's focus on 9 minutes and 29 seconds, rather than Floyd's active resistance in the minutes earlier, was inappropriate.

"It's not the proper analysis because the 9 minutes and 29 seconds ignores the previous 16 minutes and 59 seconds. It completely disregards it," he said. "Human behavior is unpredictable, and nobody knows it better than a police officer."

Nelson argued Chauvin had no intent to use unlawful force and that he followed his training. He also highlighted Floyd's use of fentanyl and methamphetamine and his heart issues, and he expressed incredulity that the prosecution's doctors dismissed those as a cause in his death.

He spoke for about two and a half hours before Judge Cahill forced him to pause so that the jury could have lunch. After the break, Nelson spoke for about 15 minutes more.

Read more about yesterday's closing arguments here.

9:05 a.m. ET, April 20, 2021

Jury begins second day of deliberations in trial of Derek Chauvin

Jurors began deliberating today at 8 a.m. CT (9 a.m. ET), according to the Hennepin County Court.

The jury deliberated for four hours on Monday.

8:45 a.m. ET, April 20, 2021

National Guard deployed in Twin Cities area, agency says

From CNN's Josh Campbell and Dan Przygoda

Members of the National Guard patrol along Hennepin Avenue on April 16 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Members of the National Guard patrol along Hennepin Avenue on April 16 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Joshua Lott/The Washington Post via Getty Images

With the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin now in deliberations, members of the Minnesota National Guard are deployed in the Twin Cities to protect people, property and the First Amendment right of protesters, a National Guard spokesperson tells CNN.

"The MN National Guard’s mission is to protect people, prevent property destruction, and preserving first amendment rights," Lt. Col. Scott Hanks told CNN.

"The Guard will be assigned roles by the Minneapolis Police Department in areas throughout the city to deter acts of violence and free up law enforcement to perform their role where it is needed most. Additionally, we will be ensuring the cities EMS and Fire departments are able to safely get to and conduct their life saving missions throughout the city. This city, these communities are where we live and work, we want to keep them safe," he continued.

Asked if the National Guard was allowed to make arrests, the spokesperson said that their mission places them together or in close proximity with law enforcement at all times, and while operating "under [law enforcement] direction and authority, the [National Guard] has limited ability to detain," Lt. Col. Hanks said.

Hanks added that the National Guard "has not issued and will not use any riot control agents, nor less than lethal munitions. Those capabilities reside with law enforcement." 

As CNN has reported, with the Chauvin trial underway in Minneapolis and consecutive nights of unrest on the streets of nearby Brooklyn Center following the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright, more than 3,000 Minnesota National Guard members have now been activated in the Twin Cities area.

8:30 a.m. ET, April 20, 2021

The case is in the jury's hands. Here's what we know about the group tasked with reaching a verdict.

From CNN’s Aaron Cooper and Eric Levenson

The jury in Derek Chauvin's trial heard from 45 witnesses and were shown bystander and police footage of George Floyd's final moments. 

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.

The prosecution and defense presented closing arguments yesterday, and the jury will begin day two of deliberations today. The jurors will remain sequestered for deliberations and will stay in a hotel at night.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill dismissed the two alternate jurors yesterday.

Fourteen jurors heard evidence in the case for nearly three weeks, but only 12 jurors are needed to decide the case. The last two jurors selected, number 96, a white woman in her 50s and number 118, a white woman in her 20s, were excused by the court.  

While the jurors are unnamed and not seen on camera, we do know basic details about them:

  • Of the remaining jurors, two are in their 20s, three each are in their 30s, 40s and 50s and one juror is in her 60s. 
  • Six are white, four are black and two are multiracial, according to information released by the court.  
  • The jury selection process began March 9 at the Hennepin County Government Center and wrapped up exactly two weeks later. 
  • The jurors all come from Hennepin County, which is demographically about 74% White and 14% Black, according to census data.
  • The prospective jurors previously completed a 16-page questionnaire that asked for their personal thoughts on Black Lives Matter, policing and other topics.
  • In court, each person was sworn in and then questioned one-by-one in a process known as voir dire. The juror's name, address and other information are kept anonymous.
  • Eric Nelson questioned the prospective jurors for the defense, while Steve Schleicher questioned them for the prosecution.

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.

2:30 p.m. ET, April 20, 2021

Key things to know about the charges against Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd

From CNN's Eric Levenson

What was going through Derek Chauvin's mind when he kneeled on a handcuffed, prone George Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds last May?

That key question is at the heart of the three charges against the former Minneapolis Police officer and will be top of mind for jurors when their deliberations begin. To render a verdict, they'll also have to interpret Minneapolis Police policies, Floyd's cause of death, and the specific language of the law.

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

  • The second-degree unintentional murder charge alleges Chauvin caused Floyd's death "without intent" while committing or attempting to commit felony third-degree assault. In turn, third-degree assault is defined as the intentional infliction of substantial bodily harm.
  • The third-degree murder charge alleges Chauvin caused Floyd's death by "perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life."
  • The second-degree manslaughter charge alleges Chauvin caused Floyd's death by "culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm."

Each of the three charges requires prosecutors to prove that Chauvin's actions were not objectively reasonable and that they were a substantial cause of Floyd's death. But the charges differ primarily in how they interpret his intent and mindset during his restraint of Floyd.

Some of the terms in these charges have specific definitions. Others will be left up to the jury to interpret.

As in any criminal case, the prosecution has the burden of proof and must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Any verdict the jury reaches must be unanimous.

Remember: The charges are to be considered separate, so he can be convicted of all, some or none of them. 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 actual sentences would likely be much lower, though, because Chauvin has no prior convictions. Minnesota's sentencing guidelines recommend about 12.5 years in prison for each murder charge and about four years for the manslaughter charge. The judge would ultimately decide the exact length and whether those would be served at the same time or back-to-back.

Read more about the charges against Chauvin here.

8:20 a.m. ET, April 20, 2021

Biden called Floyd family yesterday as White House closely monitors trial

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Biden spoke with Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, on Monday, delivering well wishes as the family and nation awaits a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin.

“He was just calling. He knows how it is to lose a family member. And he knows that the process of what we’re going through so he was just letting us know that he was praying for us, and hoping that everything would come out to be okay,” Floyd told NBC’s Today Show on Tuesday morning.

The call comes as the White House has closely monitored the trial. Aides are considering or drafting statements for Biden to deliver, either in person or in writing, once a verdict is delivered.

Biden is trying to strike a balance between acknowledging racial inequity while also maintaining calm, wanting neither to replicate the heavily militarized response to protests under Trump nor to appear absent in the face of violence or unrest directed at law enforcement, all while acknowledging the systemic racism that pervades the system.