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Jury Deliberates As Derek Chauvin's Murder Trial Comes To A Close

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In Minneapolis and around the country, it is now waiting time. Jurors in the murder case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin are beginning their first full day of deliberations today. Closing arguments took up most of the day yesterday. NPR's Cheryl Corley was watching, and she joins us now from Minneapolis. Cheryl, good morning.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: This jury has seen an awful lot over the course of this trial - video, medical experts, police officers, testimony from bystanders who actually witnessed the death of George Floyd. How did the prosecution attempt to wrap all this together in its closing argument?

CORLEY: Well, prosecutor Steven Schleicher started it off. He began his closing arguments by first talking about George Floyd - when and where he was born, his relationship to his family. And he told the jury that this was not really a trial about George Floyd, though, and that instead this was a case where police were called in about a $20, and he said what was needed during that encounter was both some compassion and some oxygen for a man on the ground begging for his life. And he said jurors should believe what they saw in the videos, and it was Derek Chauvin's use of force that caused George Floyd's death.

But Schleicher (ph) says the most difficult thing for the jurors may be setting aside any notions or ideas they may have about police officers committing a crime.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVEN SCHLEICHER: Make no mistake - this is not a prosecution of the police. It is a prosecution of the defendant. And there's nothing worse for good police than a bad police who doesn't follow the rules, who doesn't follow procedure, who doesn't follow training.

MARTIN: So that was some of the last message from the prosecution. What about the defense? How did attorney Eric Nelson wrap up his closing argument?

CORLEY: Yeah. Well, Nelson presented closing remarks for about 2 1/2 hours. And he talked about what steps a reasonable officer would have taken as he or she considered the entirety of the incident that occurred with George Floyd.

Now, prosecutors have often said that Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck for nine minutes and 24 - 29 seconds. But Nelson said before that, there was nearly 17 minutes of struggle between Floyd and officers, as police tried to get him into a squad car. And Nelson said a reasonable police officer would take all of that into account and that under those circumstances that Derek Chauvin did follow policy. And he argued, as he has throughout the trial, that it was George Floyd's drug use and heart conditions that were at play.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ERIC NELSON: And the failure of the state's experts to acknowledge any possibility at all that any of these other factors in any way contributed to Mr. Floyd's death defies medical science, and it defies common sense and reason.

CORLEY: Now, during his rebuttal, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell talked about common sense, too, saying that when it came to deciding whether there was excessive use of force by Chauvin and what caused George Floyd's death, that it was simple enough for a child to understand. And he quoted the 9-year-old girl who was a bystander and testified. And she said, get off him, during the Floyd-Chauvin encounter.

MARTIN: Cheryl, we should also note Eric Nelson, the defense attorney, asked for a mistrial yesterday. Can you explain what happened there?

CORLEY: Well, he has said throughout the trial that the jury should have been sequestered from the beginning. He says widespread media coverage and scrutiny of this case could taint the jury. And he pointed to comments made by Congresswoman Maxine Waters this past weekend during a racial justice protest. Waters said she was hopeful for a guilty verdict of murder in Chauvin's case and the prosecutor should stay in the street. Judge Peter Cahill denied that request for a mistrial but said Waters' remarks could be grounds for appealing the verdict.

MARTIN: And now the jury deliberates. NPR's Cheryl Corley in Minneapolis. Thank you.

CORLEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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