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The clock runs down on Derek Chauvin's murder trial as the jury deliberates his fate

The clock has run down on Derek Chauvin's murder trial.

Dozens of witnesses have been heard and hundreds of items of evidence brought. Across weeks of drama, testimony has been reversed, impeached and refused.

Now all that stands between Chauvin and his fate is the measure of the jury's deliberations.

Today, in Minneapolis, the fear of what might happen when those deliberations end is everywhere.

It is in the boards nailed over the windows of businesses downtown and the concrete blockades, steel fences and bails of barbed wire that embrace the court and government buildings.

It is in the 3,000 National Guard now stationed in Minneapolis, here to bolster the 1,100 public safety officers already in place – their armored vehicles parked in serried rank not only at the government buildings but in store parking lots, intersections and sidewalks across the city.

And it is in Hennepin County Sheriff's readiness to put the entire court campus into lock down as part of the bolstering of Operation Safety Net when a verdict is returned.

Derek Chauvin is pictured in court on Monday as his attorney unsuccessfully lobbied for a mistrial. The jury is now out for deliberation over the death of George Floyd

Chauvin is facing three charges in connection with George Floyd's death on May 25: second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter

Images showed hundreds marching through the city demanding justice for Floyd while waving Black Lives Matter flags

Floyd family members Tiffany Hall, Philonise Floyd and Reverend Al Sharpton are seen walking into the Hennepin County courthouse on Monday morning ahead of closing statements  

The screw turned tighter with last Sunday's shooting of Daunte Wright - the 20-year-old black man killed in a traffic stop by Brooklyn Center police barely ten miles from where Chauvin, 46, stands trial.

Jury's potential verdicts 

Derek Chauvin stands accused on three counts and jurors must consider each charge and verdict separately in any order they please. They have been sent out with 14 pages of instructions on the law and how they must apply it as the 'finders of fact' in this case.

For them to convict Chauvin on any count they must agree that his actions were the substantial cause of George Floyd's death. They don't need to be the only cause if other factors were the natural consequence of them.

But if they find that there was a superseding cause – something that 'alters the natural sequence of events' – they must acquit.

In addition to cause of death they must also agree that Chauvin's use of force was unreasonable and unauthorized in each count. This has to be viewed through the prism of what would seem excessive to 'an objectively reasonable officer' in the same situation.

Second-degree murder

Jurors must agree not only that Chauvin caused Floyd's death but that his actions rose to the level of third-degree assault. There is no requirement on this, or any of the charges, for the jurors to find intent. Simply finding that he committed the act is enough to convict.

Third-Degree Murder

Jurors have to believe that Chauvin committed an act 'eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life' They may view his failure to render medical aid as indicative of that disregard.

Second-degree Manslaughter

Jurors must agree that Chauvin took 'an unreasonable risk,' to Floyd's life and 'consciously took chances of causing death or great bodily harm.'

They can come back to the judge with questions which they will do via Zoom and requests to view evidence which they will do on a court supplied laptop.

Ultimately their verdicts must be unanimous, or it will fall to the judge to declare a mistrial.

Night after night the protests have raged, and curfews have been instituted in an unending echo of the civil unrest that followed Floyd's death last May.

Chauvin stands charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, 46, on May 25, 2020. If convicted of the most serious charge he could face up to 40 years in prison. If found guilty of the least, he could be free within five years.

Much hangs on the outcome of this trial not least the fates of the three other officers charged in connection with that day. Thomas Lane, 38, J Alexander Keung, 27 and Tou Thao, 35, all await trial charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin's crimes.

It is four weeks, and a lifetime ago, since Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd, 39, took a knee alongside Reverend Al Sharpton and attorney Benjamin Crump outside the courthouse ahead of trial's start.

Both the state and the defense told us back then that this case was simple.

Opening for the state, Jerry Blackwell told the jury that Chauvin had betrayed the badge he wore on his heart. He said the former officer had violated police policy and trampled the sanctity of human life.

For Blackwell it all boiled down to the 9 minutes 29 seconds of Floyd's subdual restraint and neck compression. 'You can believe your eyes' he said, 'That it's a homicide, that it's a murder.'

Not so, according to defense attorney Eric Nelson for whom the truth could only be viewed through a far wider lens.

For Nelson this was all about reason, doubt and common sense. Common sense would tell the jury that what they had seen with their own eyes was only one part of a much bigger picture.

He said, 'We have to examine the totality of the evidence. That's what this case is ultimately about, the evidence. It is nothing more than that.'

Yet how to un-pick the emotion from the scenes of Floyd's death and the testimony of a host of eyewitnesses brought by the state at trial's start?

Jurors heard from Donald Williams, the MMA fighter who called Chauvin out for pinning Floyd down in a 'blood' or 'kill choke' and said he had watched Floyd 'fade away like a fish in a bag.'

They heard from Genevieve Hansen, the off-duty fire fighter who was barred from intervening and angrily begged officers to check for a pulse.

Unable to keep her emotions in check under cross-examination Hansen snapped at Nelson, 'I don't know if you've ever seen anybody killed, but it's upsetting.'

Her tone saw her admonished by the judge who told her, 'You will not argue with the court [and] you will not argue with counsel.'

Darnella Frazier the 17-year-old who recorded the now infamous bystander video, posted online and seen by millions testified. It was her post that converted Floyd's pain into a Crie de Coeur heard around the world. But she took the stand and told of her guilt that she had not done more.

Her nine-year-old cousin, Judeah also testified. She had gone with Frazier to Cup Foods that day to buy snacks and candy. She said she was 'sad and mad' at what she had seen. 

Defense attorney Eric Nelson (left)  is seen delivering his closing statement on Monday, where he urged the jury to examine all of the evidence presented over three weeks of testimony and come to the conclusion that the state did not meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Floyd's death was a direct result of Chauvin's actions. Trial attorney Jerry Blackwell (right)  delivered the state's rebuttal

(L-R) Forensic pathologist Dr. Lindsey Thomas, Dr. Martin Tobin and Dr. Andrew Baker testified as prosecution witnesses in the trial of Derek Chauvin 

Genevieve Hansen, an off-duty Minneapolis firefighter and paramedic, testified at Chauvin's murder trial about how her desperate pleas to be allowed to provide George Floyd with life-saving medical assistance were ignored by the officers who pinned him down and blocked by officer Tou Thao

While most testified to Floyd's death two of the state's witnesses testified to his life. Floyd's brother Philonise briefly took the stand to paint Floyd as more than just a victim. To Philonise he was 'Perry' - a brother, son and father.

Girlfriend Courtney Ross wore a necklace bearing Floyd's name and wept as she revealed their shared struggle with opioid addiction.

Ross told the jury that Floyd's friend Morries Hall, 42, the man who had been next to him in the car last May, supplied him with drugs.

But the jury would never hear Hall's account of the day. In an off-screen drama Hall refused to testify. He pleaded the Fifth on the grounds that if it was found that Floyd died of an overdose, he could risk incriminating himself in any future third-degree murder investigation. In Minnesota law a person who has supplied the drugs that another person dies after taking is liable for third-degree murder.

The prosecution brought 38 witnesses in all. In pretrial motions the judge had warned them that he would not tolerate a case in which they sought to bring every officer on the force and ask them what they would have done. At times they seemed intent on doing just that.

Officer after officer took the stand to slam Chauvin's use of force as contrary to training, unreasonable and unnecessary. Some of the most damning of this testimony came from Chauvin's own Chief of Police Medaria Arradondo.

In his opening statement Blackwell had vowed that the chief would not mince his words. And on the sixth day of the trial, he made good that promise.

Arradondo fired all four officers the day after Floyd's death and described what had happened as 'murder.' Dismissing the idea that the officers' lacked training he said of Chauvin, 'He knew what he was doing.' 

Nelson sought to paint witnesses to Floyd's fatal arrest - as seen in the body camera footage above - as 'biased'  

The court was shown these photos of the injuries Floyd sustained as he was pinned to the ground on May 25 

Prosecutors showed this graphic to remind how police officials testified that Chauvin's use of force was unreasonable

Now he took the stand to describe the way that Chauvin pinned Floyd down as 'a violation' of his badge.

He told the court, 'Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting and certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that, that should have stopped.' 

The jury heard from paramedics and they heard from physicians – the people who fought for an hour to save the life they knew was already lost.

They heard from use of force experts and they heard from medical experts and, as much as the state asked the jury to believe their eyes, the truth is their verdict will owe just as much to which expert view they favor.

Because though prosecutors brought several compelling medical experts, they offered different opinions as to what caused Floyd's death.

Most notably the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Andrew Baker, the only man to have actually laid hands on Floyd and examined him at autopsy, did not come to the same conclusions as the state's other medical witness, including their star turn, pulmonologist Dr. Martin Tobin.

Tobin held the jury rapt as he described how Floyd had tried to co-opt his shoulder muscles to ratchet up his chest and draw breath as he slowly asphyxiated beneath Chauvin's knee.

When that failed, Tobin said, Floyd tried to breathe which his fingers and his knuckles – pushing them off the asphalt and into the tire of the squad car by which he lay.

Prosecutors repeatedly referenced this timeline of Floyd's fatal arrest during the trial and showed it once again on Monday

This graphic seeks to refute the suggestion that Floyd's death was caused by his drug use 

But the Medical Examiner disagreed. According to Dr Baker, Floyd died of 'Cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual restraint and neck compression.' He cited Floyd's arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, fentanyl toxication and recent methamphetamine use as contributing factors.


If the jury convicts on any or all counts there will then be a presentencing investigation during which Chauvin’s character and habits – things not touched on in trial – will be taken into consideration.

Ahead of the trial the prosecution lobbied to have eight of Chauvin’s prior arrests in which they argue he used excessive force admitted in court.

Judge Peter Cahill deemed all but two inadmissible on the grounds that the incidents were not similar enough and that the prosecution were improperly trying to show Chauvin’s propensity to resort to unreasonable force.

At the time he made his decision Cahill said that the state was simply trying ‘to depict Chauvin as a “thumper”.’

Ultimately the prosecution decided not to make the arrests part of their case-in-chief but they may be used in any bid to see Chauvin handed down a higher sentence then allowed by sentencing guidelines if convicted.

A second ground on which the prosecution could also ask for this applies to ‘crimes committed in front of children.’ The state called 9-year-old Judeah as a witness possibly with this in mind.

According to the Minnesota sentencing guidelines, the presumptive sentence for a person such as Chauvin with no criminal history is the same for murder in the third and unintentional murder in the second; 12 and a half years. But the judge has discretion to sentence anywhere between ten years and eight months to 15 years.

If the judge rules that aggravating factors are present and departs from the guidelines, the maximum sentence would be 40 years for second-degree murder, 25 years for third-degree murder and 10 years for second-degree manslaughter.

Put bluntly what happened that day was simply more than Floyd's already compromised system could take. 

As each witness took the stand Chauvin sat, scribbling notes on his yellow legal pad. He wrote relentlessly, incessantly, through every day of his trial. He huddled with attorneys during the many sidebars, casting himself perhaps as co-counsel rather than the defendant in his own case.

As hard as the state worked to stitch together a case that left no room for reasonable doubt, Nelson picked and prodded at the seams and offered up another narrative entirely. 

In each cross-examination Nelson pointed at all of the things the prosecution would have the jury disregard; the fentanyl and methamphetamine in Floyd's system, his enlarged and diseased heart, his high blood pressure and his 'modus operandi' of claiming he could not breathe and rapidly ingesting drugs when approached by police.

Nelson opened his case with a video just as the state had done with theirs. But his was not footage of last Memorial Day but from May 6, 2019 and a prior arrest that Nelson had fought to bring into court.

Judge Cahill allowed it for only the limited purposes of showing jurors the effect of acute and prolonged opioid ingestion on Floyd's system.

On that day in 2019 officers approached a car in which Floyd sat, they drew their weapons and, Nelson maintained, Floyd did what he had done on May 25. He claimed he could not breathe though there was no attempt to put him in a squad car that day, he swallowed a handful of pills and he had a medical emergency as a result.

The medic who treated Floyd that day recalled that he told her he had been taking seven to nine Oxycontin or Percocet every twenty minutes all day. His blood pressure was 216 over 160.

Earlier in proceedings the jury had heard how, eight months after the incident, squad 320 was searched on the request of the defense and a half-chewed pill was found on the floor in the back, where Floyd and the officers had tussled.

The pill was a mix of fentanyl and methamphetamine and tested positive for Floyd's DNA and saliva. Other fragments speckled on the back seat appeared to be the same substances.

A demonstrator is seen holding a sign that reads 'Blue Lives Murder'

Protesters gathered in Minneapolis on Monday as the jury started their deliberations toward a verdict in the case against Derek Chauvin, who faces murder and manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd

Nelson brought his own use of force expert who was adamant that Chauvin's actions had been reasonable. But former cop, Barry Brodd, was torn apart under cross-examination.

He tried to maintain that if Floyd had been compliant, he would have been, 'resting comfortably' beneath Chauvin's knee. And he said that keeping him in the prone position didn't even constitute a use of force because, 'it doesn't hurt.'

Judge Cahill's condemnation of Rep. Maxine Waters 

Chauvin's defense attorney Eric Nelson called for a mistrial on Monday afternoon and cited Rep Maxine Waters' remarks over the weekend that Black Lives Matter Protesters should 'get more confrontational' if the ex-cop is found not guilty. 

'I hope we get a verdict that says guilty, guilty, guilty,' Waters said of the Chauvin trial. 'And if we don't, we cannot go away. We've got to stay on the street. We get more active, we've got to get more confrontational. We've got to make sure that they know that we mean business.'

 Judge Peter Cahill replied by saying: 'I grant you Congresswoman Waters may have handed you grounds for appeal and the turning over of this trial.

'I wish elected officials would stop talking about this case. They should respect a co-equal branch of government.'

The judge said that failure to do so was 'abhorrent', but added: 'I don't think it's given additional material with which to prejudice the jury. A congresswoman's opinion really doesn't mean much.'  

The defense's medical expert Dr. David Foster, spent more than six hours on the stand giving the jury a detailed account of all of the factors that he believed had led to Floyd's death from a sudden cardiac arrythmia: Floyd's enlarged heart, possible carbon monoxide poisoning from breathing in the squad car exhaust fumes and the drugs and adrenalin coursing through his system.

Chauvin's knee was not among the myriad causes the former Medical Examiner pointed to in a case that he said was so complicated, he said, he would not have found it to be a homicide at all but would have ruled it, 'undetermined.'

Foster's testimony prompted a last ditch bid by the state to enter new evidence in the form of newly uncovered blood-gas results from Hennepin County Medical Center in an effort to rebut his theory about the role carbon monoxide may have played.

The judge denied the request and said that if Tobin, recalled as the state's rebuttal witness, even 'hinted' at evidence the jury had not heard he would move for a mistrial, 'pure and simple.'

Within minutes of being back on the stand Tobin mentioned the blood work done on Floyd at HCMC. He was shut down by the judge and for one heart-stopping minute it seemed that the whole trial might fall away in that instant.

Instead, it moved quickly towards its conclusion.

And now the final act looms.

At the start Nelson told the jury that there was 'no political or social cause,' in the courtroom.

But both have crowded at the courthouse walls and never more so than now.

Today 'Justice for Daunte Wright' is written in fresh paint on the asphalt outside Cup Foods, right next to the flowers, candles and slogans that mark where Floyd lay, handcuffed and prone, begging beneath Chauvin's knee, 'I can't breathe' almost one year before.

The jury will be sequestered for as long as their deliberations take. Defense bids to have that measure moved up fell on deaf ears with Judge Cahill stating that to sequester the jury any earlier might have only increased any juror anxieties it sought to mitigate, leading them to believe there was a targeted threat to their safety.

In reality they have spent the entire trial in a state of semi-sequestration - shielded from public view.

All public entrances to the courthouse are closed except for one pedestrian entrance at a gated checkpoint. Every morning for the past three weeks the jury has arrived as a group, escorted into the courthouse by members of Hennepin County Sheriff's office, through a private entrance, guarded by the National Guard.

And each day they have taken a separate, private route which takes them straight to the court on the eighteenth floor.

Now they will make that journey only one more time, when they return to the court with their verdict.

Until then, there is nothing left to do but wait.

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