Updated Apr 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

"Believe your eyes": Prosecutors make closing arguments in Chauvin trial

Steve Schleicher, an attorney for the prosecution in Derek Chauvin's trial, began closing arguments on Monday by describing in detail George Floyd's last moments — crying out for help and surrounded by strangers, as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

Why it matters: The jury's verdict in Chauvin's murder trial, seen by advocates as one of the most crucial civil rights cases in decades, will reverberate across the country and have major implications in the fight for racial justice.

What they're saying: "His name was George Perry Floyd Jr.," Schleicher began, as he summarized the stories witnesses told about Floyd's family and upbringing.

  • "On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died. Face down on the pavement. Right on 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis. Nine minutes and 29 seconds. Nine minutes and 29 seconds. During this time, George Floyd struggled, desperate to breath, Schleicher said.
  • "There was no superhuman strength that day. There was no superhuman strength because there is no such thing as a superhuman. ... Just a human, just a man lying on the pavement being pressed upon, desperately crying out. A grown man, crying out for his mother."

The big picture: Schleicher summarized the prosecution's case by arguing that a continued use of force against Floyd was excessive and unjustifiable. Floyd was not resisting officers, but unable to comply with officers' orders while he was pinned to the ground, Schleicher argued.

  • He also emphasized that the case "is not a prosecution of the police," addressing the arguments many have made about the wider implications of the case.
  • "Policing is a noble profession. This is not a prosecution of the police. It is a prosecution of the defendant," Schleicher said.
  • "And there is nothing worse for a good police than a bad police. Who doesn't follow the rules. Who doesn't follow procedures. Who doesn't follow training. Who ignores the policies of the department, of the motto of the department to protect with courage, to serve with compassion."

Catch up quick: Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, and third-degree murder for Floyd's death.

  • Per AP, he faces a maximum sentence of 40 years for second-degree intentional murder, 10 years for second-degree manslaughter, and 25 years for third-degree murder.
  • Prosecutors must prove that Chauvin meant to harm Floyd — but not kill him — to reach a verdict of second-degree murder. Finding him guilty of third-degree murder would require proof that Chauvin's actions were "done with indifference to loss of life," AP reports.
  • To prove second-degree manslaughter, jurors would need to find that Floyd died from Chauvin's negligence and "consciously took the chance of causing severe injury or death," per AP.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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