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The homicide trial of Derek Chauvin results in ultimate arguments

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin and his defense attorney Eric Nelson attend the final skirmishes during the Chauvin's trial for second degree, third degree and second degree homicide in the death of George Floyd with his defense attorney Eric Nelson in Minneapolis, Minnesota , part. US April 19, 2021 in a still from video.


Prosecutors and the defense advanced their final arguments to the jury on Monday in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the white ex-police officer accused of killing George Floyd last May.

Clashes over police violence against black men have raged in Minneapolis and elsewhere.

"It was like he was in a truck. It was like he was being crushed in a truck," Prosecutor Steve Schleicher told the Floyd jury.

Schleicher pushed back arguments put forward by the defense that Floyd died as a result of his underlying health conditions and drug use.

"You don't have to believe the amazing coincidence that Floyd chose 'this moment' after this nine-minute, 29-second restriction to die of heart disease," said Schleicher.

Eric Nelson, Chauvin's attorney, began his arguments to get the jury to think deeply about whether Chauvin was acting within the law.

"The standard is not what the officer should have done in the circumstances. It is not what the officer could have done otherwise," Nelson said.

Nelson said the standard was what a sensible officer would do in any circumstance he or she faces.

"All the evidence shows that Mr. Chauvin thought he was following his training," said Nelson. "There is absolutely no evidence that the officer chauvin intentionally and deliberately used unlawful violence."

The case is the best-known litigation involving a white officer accused of killing a black man in recent years.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was briefed on the case during a press conference Monday afternoon. Psaki declined to say whether President Joe Biden would be personally disappointed if Chauvin were found not guilty.

There is no time limit for arguments, although they could be completed as early as Monday. The anonymous, multiracial jury may deliberate until a judgment has been reached that must be unanimous for the conviction.

The final arguments put forward two very different versions of what happened on May 25, the day Floyd died after Chauvin and other Minneapolis police officers tried to arrest him on suspicion of passing a forged bill.

The Floyd family and Reverend Al Sharpton gesticulate as they arrive at the Hennepin County Government Center to finalize testimony on the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA in April 19, 2021.

Nicholas Pfosi | Reuters

Prosecutors and their experts have told the jury that Chauvin killed Floyd by cutting off his airway with the police officer's knee while the black suspect was handcuffed and pegged to the floor for about 9 minutes.

During the trial, they made extensive use of video footage recorded by bystanders showing Floyd pleading for his life and telling officers he could not breathe.

The prosecutor also called Dr. Martin Tobin, a pulmonologist and respiratory science expert, who testified that Floyd had died of a lack of oxygen.

"A healthy person exposed to what Mr. Floyd was exposed to would have died," Tobin told the jury.

Schleicher relied heavily on Tobin's earlier statements in his final arguments.

"It was very clear that George Floyd died of low oxygen levels," he said.

The indictment was led by Matthew Frank, an attorney with the Minnesota Attorney General. Two other prosecutors, Schleicher and Jerry Blackwell, will share the final arguments.

Nelson-led defense has argued that in addition to his underlying medical problems, Floyd died from the effects of the high fentanyl levels he took before his arrest. An autopsy also found methamphetamine in Floyd's system.

Nelson has also tried to portray the crowd of spectators who were there on May 25 as a threat to the arresting officers and to complicate their work. He has argued that Chauvin's knee may not be on Floyd's neck, but rather was on his back.

Nelson also has obvious discrepancies between the prosecution's arguments and Dr. Andrew Baker, Hennepin County's medical examiner who performed Floyd's autopsy.

Baker ruled Floyd's death was murder, but did not establish that the cause of death was asphyxiation or lack of oxygen as prosecutors alleged.

"The sub-dual law enforcement, reluctance, and neck compression were simply more than Mr. Floyd could endure due to this heart condition," Baker said.

Dr. David Fowler, a former Maryland chief medical officer called on by the defense, testified that carbon monoxide fumes from a nearby vehicle may have contributed to his death in addition to his enlarged heart, high blood pressure, and drug use.

Chauvin has been charged with second degree murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter. Each of these allegations requires prosecutors to show that chauvin was a "major contributing factor" to Floyd's death.

Second degree murder is sentenced to a maximum of 40 years in prison. Third degree murder is 25 years or less, and manslaughter charges are up to 10 years. Actual penalties are often below the legal maximums.

Jurors are instructed that if they have reasonable doubts about Chauvin's guilt, they must not vote guilty. A unanimous jury is required to convict any of the cases.

The jury consists of 14 people, including two deputies who can be dismissed before the deliberations. The diverse group consists of two multiracial women, three black men, one black woman, six white women, and two white men.

The trial comes as tensions are high. On April 11, while the clashes were ongoing, police officer Kimberly Potter Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man, fatally shot and killed during a traffic obstruction in nearby Brooklyn Center and sparked protests.

Potter stepped back, claiming she thought she was using a taser. She was charged with second degree manslaughter.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report

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